Jody Maroni’s bids farewell to the Venice Boardwalk after 40 years
By Kellie Chudzinski
For 40 years Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom served artisanal links and hot dogs to locals and tourists alike along Ocean Front Walk, making the colorful food stand a staple of the Venice Boardwalk scene and one of Venice’s oldest restaurants.
The family-owned business rolled down its shutters for the final time on Sunday night, following an afternoon spent saying goodbye. Family, friends and regulars flowed in and out of the restaurant’s small dining area for hours, with owner Jordan “Jody” Monkarsh making his rounds among the groups, always a smile on his face. He also treated visitors to free hot dogs, sausages, sandwiches, fries and drinks handed out straight from the kitchen door.
Monkarsh’s family has owned the building since the 1960s, and he opened Jody Maroni’s in 1979 after operating his sausage business from a food cart. Over the years his business expanded to multiple locations and a wholesale sausage company, which will continue to operate.
“It’s nice to make your place and people know it and recognize it — that’s good for me,” Monkarsh said. “I started on a cart cooking Italian sausage and peppers, which is a traditional street food all over the world, but in L.A.
[at the time] we had a non-street food culture.”
Monkarsh credited his father, who was a butcher in the Valley, for the hot Italian sausage recipe that got him started: “I had a super-duper recipe that my dad made me make when I was a kid,” he said, “and it was astounding.”
Though that recipe helped him start his business, Monkarsh also enjoyed innovating in the kitchen to create new varieties of “fancy” sausage. He spent nearly four decades perfecting his chicken andouille recipe, which he wanted to be eaten in a sandwich, and one of his favorites was a mixture of chicken, duck and cilantro. And as his business grew, so did his royal persona.
“I became Jody Maroni,” Monkarsh said. “Before, I wasn’t like that. … And it took only about 30 or 40 years to get back to who I was and who I am.”
For Jody, the entire day was an “intense moment.” He expressed gratitude for the friends who made their way over, but was sad as he reflected on employees who have been with him for 30 or 40 years and the memories of having all of his children working here over the years.
“It’s gonna be weird, I can only imagine what’s going to happen, what could possibly replace this place,” Jody’s eldest son Alex Monkarsh, who was born just four years after the restaurant opened, said. “I worked here my whole life. I learned to swim in front of this place. It’s always been home.”
The Monkarsh family blurred the line between personal and professional with those who started as friends becoming coworkers and coworkers becoming family. Restaurant manager Roberto Diaz, for example, spent 36 years at various Jody Maroni’s locations as Monkarsh grew the business and his family.
“I’ve known these people my whole life. They’re family,” Alex Monkarsh said. Frequent patrons Brad Green and his son Justin didn’t know the iconic spot was shutting its doors, but stopped in on Sunday, by chance, to enjoy two final hotdogs at their go-to spot. “I’ve been coming here since I was 12,” Green said, shocked that his favorite spot on the Venice Boardwalk wasn’t going to be there tomorrow. “It’s not gonna be the same without Jody Maroni’s.”
As Brad put it, “Jody’s hotdogs are the best.”
In 2020, you won’t find Monkarsh behind a grill. He’s planning to travel to key election battleground states with Swing Left, a progressive organization that works to elect Democrats across swing districts.
As for the future of Jody Maroni’s original home, “It’d be nice if the boardwalk had a little investment from others and was brighter, sharper and smarter,” Monkarsh said.