While it often differs significantly from dishes in Tuscany, it can’t be denied that Italian food is a central part of American culture. From pizza to pasta Bolognese, our incarnation of this popular culinary tradition is often laden with marina sauce, olive oil and plenty of spices. However, some chefs and restaurants still adhere to the fresh produce and ingredients that Tuscan and Italian kitchens are famous for. One local example of this is Jon and Vinny’s, a new restaurant on Fairfax Avenue that combines the best of American and Italian cooking.
Jon and Vinny’s is the brainchild of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, the team behind Animal, a meat-centric restaurant also positioned amid the kosher markets and prominent landmarks on Fairfax Avenue. Animal has become something of a principal attraction for foodies ever since it opened in 2008. Now, their newest venture seems poised to continue this success: formerly the home of the late-night pizzeria Damiano’s Mr. Pizza, Jon and Vinny’s offers 45 seats and a number of classic dishes. The menu features comforting favorites like meatballs with marinara, tagliatelle Bolognese, and artisanal pizza.
However, Shook and Dotolo have taken pains to ensure that their project is more than a typical Italian restaurant. While they purchased the building in 2011, they took several years to install white oak walls and banquettes, skylights, drop-leaf tables, a long counter, and an open kitchen. They also installed a temperature-controlled tasting room, which currently holds more than 1,000 wines, in the back. Meanwhile, their classic menu takes care to include fresh local produce, including tangerines, avocado, spring onions, watermelon radish, and fennel pollen, becoming one of the latest restaurants to keep pollen in the pantry. Now a favorite ingredient of world-class chefs, fennel pollen was commonly used in Tuscan dishes to flavor bread, pesto and more.
Jon and Vinny’s is the duo’s third restaurant: during construction, they also opened the seafood concept Son of a Gun on nearby West Third Street. Over the course of the last few years, they also turned Animal into a catering business, which has become a popular option on the art, fashion and entertainment circuit.
However, the Italian restaurant is their first to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, with the kitchen opening at 8 a.m. to serve eggs fried in olive oil, grilled Tuscan kale and potato hash, baked bucatini pie and fresh-baked goods. It’s also a return to Shook and Dotalo’s roots: the two once lived together in the Fairfax District and have since settled in the area with their families.
The restaurant only opened on April 20, but the business has already seen a steady stream of customers interested in Shook and Dotalo’s fare and reputation. With all menu items and wines available for takeout and delivery, Jon and Vinny’s is sure to become a prominent addition to the Fairfax culinary scene.