Talk to Jon and Vinny long enough and you’ll get the sense that they lead with the heart. When the chefs talk about their mentors, collaborators, peers and friends, it can seem like a nice disposition counts for as much as shrewd taste or business savvy. It’s probably that deep-seated goodness that has kept the two on brotherly terms for so many years—and what’s made their restaurants, including the eight-year-old flagship Animal, such fun places to hang out.
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Jon and Vinny have worked hard to cultivate their own deep relationships with California farmers. Homegrown ingredients make dishes like this one shine: pan-seared octopus with Italian vegetables.
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Even when working with relatively austere ingredients, Jon and Vinny tend towards high-voltage flavors. Sliced hamachi anchors this raw fish tostada at Animal, but it is piled high with avocado, crispy shallots and an herb-packed slaw dressed in tart fish-sauce vinaigrette.
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This kale and sunchoke hash would be as welcome on a crisp fall day in the Northeast as it is on any table in Southern California.
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Jon & Vinny’s is a take on the kind of Italian-American family spots the two grew up with in their native Florida. There are shells and cheese for the kids, and linguini and clams or chicken parm for red sauce loyalists, but the menu also makes the most of soCal ingredients. You might find delicate nasturtium buds topping a “Flower Child” pizza, locally-made burrata paired with peaches during stone fruit season or an avocado toast cheekily listed among the bruschetta.