A husband-and-wife duo brings a taste of Spanish and French coastal cuisine to Redondo Beach’s Riviera Village
Feast on this Spanish revival.
- CategoryEat & Drink
- Written byJennie Nunn
Husband-and-wife team Sara Gabriele and Adam Aro, owners of newly opened Redondo Beach eatery Gabi James, are familiar faces in the South Bay culinary scene. Thanks to Sara’s father, Guy Gabriele, who opened Zazou in 1996 and Café Pierre in Manhattan Beach in 1977 (now Love & Salt), the family restaurant genes run strong.
Their latest venture, Gabi James (a combination of Sara’s family nickname, “Gabi,” and Adam’s middle name, “James”)—housed in the former Zazou space in Riviera Village, is a thoughtful blend of Spanish and coastal French influences. The cuisine includes family recipes passed down through generations and a menu inspired by executive chef Chris Feldmeier’s travels throughout Spain and France.
“It has really been a labor of love. Everywhere we look, there is something that makes us smile.”
“When we were creating the space, we really wanted to combine the area’s breezy, beachy feel with a fun and unique vibe that we felt really expressed us as a restaurant,” explains Sara, who worked with interior designer Ana Henton and Palos Verdes–based architect Erik Blanchard of Blanchard Fuentes Design to create the clean-lined space. The interior is fashioned with sculptural glass sconces by Tom Dixon, beechwood tables, steel tile in different finishes behind the bar area and soft, green leather banquettes.
“Redondo Beach—the Riviera Village in specific—is really similar to the coast of France and the areas in Spain that we hold so dear,” Sara continues. “It is a hidden gem in L.A. There is a constant ocean breeze, and it’s almost always bright and sunny. The Riviera has great walking traffic and is full of local businesses. It is full of singles and families who love to go out and enjoy great food and drinks but tend to head up to Manhattan or Hermosa to do so. We are happy to bring a place like ours to this specific neighborhood, especially because our family has such deep roots here.”
Chef Chris (of Osteria Mozza and Moruno) has created a menu that spans small plates, including gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic, lemon, olive oil and bread); tortilla Española (egg, onion, potato and aioli; and anchovy matrimonio (caperberry, shallot, chili, butter and grilled bread.)
“This is one of chef’s favorite dishes,” says Sara of the matrimonio. “This dish ‘marries’ white anchovies and salted, brown anchovies. The white anchovies are more acidic with almost a citrusy flavor, and the salted, brown anchovies are more earthy with great umami. The butter really balances the two so nicely.”
Other standout dishes include fideuá, Chef Chris’s inventive twist on paella using pasta instead of rice and a squid ink aioli; tuna escabéche—rare tuna seared a la plancha, marinated peppers and olives; and merguez, a Gabriele family recipe comprised of lamb and spice in a homemade sausage pinwheel topped with herb salad and roasted pepper salsa. For dessert, options range from state fair churros to cremé Catalana—a reinterpretation of crème brûlée.
Equal emphasis was also placed on creating the cocktail program, designed by Vincenzo Marianella (of Copa d’Oro and Providence), with a variety of beer, wine and gin offerings. “Gin is delicious, and it is also huge in Spain and much of Europe right now,” adds Sara. “There is nothing more refreshing than a good gin and tonic on a warm day. Vincenzo created a list that plays with the flavors of Spain and France, while also using more familiar ingredients like IPA. He created a menu that has a wide array of flavors and textures.”
After opening doors a few months ago, the couple reveals they are proud of their new restaurant and settling right in. “It has really been a labor of love,” says Sara. “Everywhere we look, there is something that makes us smile. I think the thing that we can be most proud of is our team. From the front of the house to the back of the house, we are extremely lucky to have people who are passionate about what they are doing and who really help exude the feel and mentality that Gabi James is: a place to come and enjoy the people you are with and the food and drinks on the table.
It’s not just a place to come and grab a bite.”
Open for dinner nightly; brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
1810 S. Catalina Avenue in Redondo Beach