Hidden Gem Neighborhoods: Tujunga Village

Photo courtesy of Sharon, Flickr

Located near bustling Ventura Blvd. and seemingly a world away, Tujunga Village is nestled between the Colfax Meadows neighborhood and Woodbridge Park. A block-long stretch of Tujunga Avenue between Moorpark and Woodbridge is the heart of the Village, a charming street of mom-and-pop shops that recalls a simpler time. Take a closer look, and beneath the quaint surface are sophisticated boutiques and gourmet offerings that will please even the pickiest palate.

Getting Started
Start the day at Aroma Coffee and Tea Company, Tujunga Village’s main gathering spot. Owner Mark Gunsky transformed a bungalow from a coffee counter to a full service restaurant serving home cooked dishes prepared with the finest local ingredients. The queue can stretch out the door, but the all-day breakfasts are well worth the short wait.

Two giant plastic ice cream cones tell you that you’ve arrived at Gelato Bar and Espresso Caffè, a neighborhood favorite known for its artisanal Italian-styled gelato and premium coffee bar. Step inside, and the brightly striped walls, terracotta tiles and trickling indoor fountain will transport you to a miniature Italian piazza. The first thing you’ll notice is the showcase of 24 daily selections of gelato and sorbetto flavors, which are hand-decorated with garnishes of fresh fruits, nuts and spices. You can pull up a chair, sip some coffee and read the paper, or play chess with a neighbor.

Now that you’re properly fueled up, you’re ready to start browsing the eclectic shops along Tujunga Avenue. Elizabeth’s Place opened in 1976, well before Tujunga Village became the trendy destination it is today. Originally a family home built in the 1940s, every room is filled with antique furniture and accessories. You can call ahead for an appointment, or drop in during the shop’s limited hours. A relative youngster by comparison, the five-year-old Swag offers a unique, shabby chic selection of furniture, housewares, jewelry and much more.

Despite the name of her store, Hoity Doity owner Ann Booth is actually really down-to-earth. Her clothing line reflects her artistic sensibilities, mixing high fashion and loungewear. In addition to fashion, Booth also designs lampshades in the shape of a woman's mannequin torso (wearing Ann Booth, natch).

Gallery 8 is a fine art gallery offering original oils and watercolors, sculpture, glass and photography by mid-career and emerging artists. Dan and Lauren Nixon opened Gallery 8 in October 2010, and among their exhibiting artists are celebrities such as Angela Cartwright (The Sound of Music), Academy Award winner George Chakiris (West Side Story) and former Steely Dan vocalist David Palmer.

You wouldn’t expect to see a supermarket in Tujunga Village, but what you do expect is something like the Village Gourmet, a gourmet shop that specializes in wines of the world and domestic and imported cheese. Village Gourmet also offers sandwiches and salads, gift baskets and party platters. Foodies will be delighted to find essentials for their pantries amongst shelves stocked with gourmet items and exotic spices.

Since moving from its original location in Laurel Canyon, Caioti Pizza Cafe has become a Tujunga Village fixture. Continuing the legacy of the late Ed LaDou, Caioti is perhaps best known for “The Salad,” made with a balsamic vinaigrette that, according to local legend, is said to induce labor in expectant or overdue mothers. But there’s much more to Caioti than the mythic greens. LaDou was a true gourmet pizza innovator: he was the first pizza chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, and developed the first menu for California Pizza Kitchen, including the signature BBQ Chicken Pizza. At Caioti, guests can choose from New York, new-world and old-world style pizzas. Breakfast and kids’ menus are also offered.

Located across the street from Caioti, Vitello’s serves classic Italian fare, from saucy favorites and fresh seafood dishes to tasty appetizers and homemade desserts. Stargazers already know that Vitello's is a favorite restaurant for local celebrity residents. And even if there isn’t a famous face dining in the next booth, you’ll find plenty on Vitello's Wall of Fame. Besides the cuisine, Vitello’s offers entertainment, including jazz and cabaret performances, in the popular Upstairs at Vitello's.

Aroma Coffee & Tea Co‎mpany
4360 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818.508.7377
aromacoffeeandtea.com

Caioti Pizza Cafe
4346 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818.761.3588
www.caiotipizzacafe.com

Elizabeth’s Place
4354 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818.762.2060

Gallery 8
4330 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818.752.7511
www.thegallery8.com

Gelato Bar & Espresso Caffè
4342 1/2 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818.487.1717
gelatobar-la.com

Hoity Toity
4381 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818.766.2503
www.hoitytoity.net

Swag
4332 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818.508.9400

Village Gourmet
4357 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818.487.3807,
www.villagegourmetcheeseandwines.com

Vitello’s
4349 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818.769.0905
www.vitellosrestaurant.com