One doesn't typically think of fine dining when strolling the Venice boardwalk. I'm not going to knock grabbing some fresh fish to-go at Poke-Poke or hoisting a pint of beer and pulling at a giant pretzel at On The Waterfront Cafe, but fine dining, not so much. The finest Venice Beach dining was at Piccolo, just steps off the boardwalk, but sadly, that recently closed. Luckily just a few steps east of 5 Dudley, you'll find a new cafe, marketplace and restaurant called Dudley Market that will have you happily braving the tattoo parlors and two dollar sunglass stands to try.
I had two Paris friends in town last weekend who are always game to try a new restaurant. They humored me while living in Paris as I dragged them to new neighborhoods across town to try duck hearts and organ meat. Eating with me isn't always easy. There's careful ordering to try everything. "Uh, you want the chicken too? What about the spiced gizzards? I hear they taste just like chicken." Then plates and drinks arrive and no one is allowed to touch anything until I snap photos, which usually requires someone getting their phone out to give me more light. Yeah, it's kind of a production, but these friends got so used to it that after I moved back, one said it took her a while to learn to start eating right when the food arrived.
So with foodie friends in tow, we ventured out to try Dudley Market. As the name suggest, this spot is part market where you can find some of the ingredients use in the dishes for sale, as well as a few prepared items. You can pop in for breakfast and lunch before or after enjoying the nearby beach. The chef is Jess Barber who was executive chef at Barnyard Venice during this iteration, luckily not this one. He's all about working with local farmers, wine makers and artisans to bring the best to the community. To that extent, you won't likely find the same menu twice.
You'll likely find a crudo of the day that could feature albacore with a fresh summer salad of baby corn and tomatoes, and if you do, I suggest starting there with a crisp white wine. I love that all the wines are natural and offered by the glass, carafe and bottle. Viva la carafe! The carafe was perfect for the three of us, allowing us to try different wines with each course. The sommelier was very helpful and friendly, giving us a few different samples to try before we committed, so I guess you could add "by the sip" to the line of wine tasting options as well.
From there you could move to the gnocco fritto, which is not in fact one big gnocchi. They're fried dough puffs made even more luscious by the Apricot Lane house cured pancetta. And don't blame my friends for the less than stellar pictures. I left my big camera at home, which still didn't let them off the hook for lighting, but it did make me give my Android a run for its photo taking money.
There is a line up of $4 snacks that make for nice sides or starters for any dish. Beets and burrata are simple and sublime. Melon and cured pork is always a winning combination - sweet, juicy and salty gets my vote every time.
There were a few kinds of fish on the menu as well as quail and chicken. I used to have a no chicken ordering policy in restaurants because it can be so boring or dry, but that changed several years back during a life changing meal at Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc where I learned to love chicken all over again. Good chefs are now so adept at making chicken shine and Barber is no exception. His chicken was moist and juicy, served with mushrooms, eggplant puree, leeks and fromage blanc. It was everything I wanted on a plate.
Then there was the pasta special. Orechiette was cooked with the perfect bite, and then seasoned with a spicy sausage and seasoned greens. It was so good, we had to order a second dish, and a new carafe to match. The second plate of pasta ended up being our dessert. While the bouche noir, peach bread pudding and creamsicle tart did look good, this pasta was great.
Of course the essential ingredient to any good dinner is great company to share unique dishes, shed some light, and get a third carafe to go with your pasta dessert. A great meal and a great time.
9 Dudley Avenue, Venice