The new Frank Gehry Building. Photos: Jeff Hall.

By Jeff Hall 

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I live within walking distance of San Vicente, so I’m often on that street doing errands, going out for lunch – and sometimes just walking.

The south side of San Vicente, across from Souplantation, CVS and the old Duttons Bookstore, is really coming to life these days.

Jon & Vinny’s Pizza just opened, where Early World used to be. The place has been packed since the moment it opened a few days ago, but I was able to find a seat today mid-afternoon.

I wanted to try the pizza before writing about the place. For many years now, it has practically been a Brentwood cliché that Brentwood couldn’t possibly absorb another pizza place.

But clichés are meant to be broken, I guess. Jon & Vinny’s has drawn quite a crowd – with zero advertising that I am aware of.

The place is more upscale than I expected. “Jon & Vinny’s” sounds like a street-corner pizzeria from the Bronx, but the pizzas are quite fancy, really. And the place is very, very clean – brand, spanking new. So it’s much more than just a pizza joint.

For years I’ve been bemoaning the fact that Brentwood has been losing its casual, “hang out”-type places like Early World and Regular Jons (for those of you go that far back).

The march of history — in recent years, anyway – has definitely been in the direction of upscale. But something seems to be clicking these days.

Both Joe & The Juice and Alfred’s (“But First, Coffee”) on the southwest corner of Montana and San Vicente invite a chatty crowd that likes to take in the sun. Alfred’s Tea Room, newly opened a few doors to the west, seems quite busy.

Across the street, Mendocino Farms, a relatively new soup, salad and sandwich place, is also drawing a good crowd. I don’t think Souplantation has been hurt in any way; every time I poke my head inside, it looks as popular as ever.

A block to the east, on the south side of San Vicente, a new place called Kreation just opened. My wife and I went there for breakfast the other day and really liked it.

Outside Kreation.

Kreation is part food and part show – everything about the place is oh-so-very-organic and healthy and the helpers like to tell you all about every item on the menu.

While talking, the server will ask if you want a few drops of something dark and earthy-tasting put into your drinking water – good for your skin and hair. Why not?

I will always miss breakfast at Early World, but at least now we have substitutes. Jon & Vinny’s serves breakfast, too (though I haven’t tried it yet).

We should never forget the tried-and-true; if you’ve never tried Pizzicotto – another Italian place (but one that arrived long ago) – you really should.

Inside Jon & Vinny’s.

Then there’s the new Frank Gehry building that’s almost done, at the northeast corner of San Vicente Blvd. and Montana. It will house Tom Safran & Associates, a developer of affordable housing.

I don’t think anyone would have predicted a Frank Gehry building in Brentwood 10 years ago.

It looks like the area out front of this new glassed-in building would make an ideal place for outdoor sippers of coffee or tea (or water of some sort).

One thing’s for sure: There’s a lot more “humanity” in this two-block area of San Vicente than I ever recall. In such an anonymous town, it’s nice to see people getting together, face-to-face. It feels very European.

If only we could see a bookstore come back. Fingers crossed.

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