Casa D’Angelo Ristorante, Ft. Lauderdale
Coming to South Florida this week, I had a list of restaurants I wanted to hit and definitely not enough meals to fit them all in. I’m a gal that usually knows what I want, especially when it comes to food and dining ….“one of everything” is normally a good description. But last night, I sat down at a table in a restaurant I had never heard of with people I met just a few hours before and shared an incredible dining experience.
I must admit, first impressions are big. So when we drove up to a strip mall a few blocks off the beach in Ft. Lauderdale, I held my breath. Individually lit white letters along the roof read “Casa D’Angelo Ristorante”. Luckily I didn’t have to hold my breath for long. My first respite came immediately as I walked into a sleek, contemporary, yet warm and comfortable setting. Not what you expect for strip-mall Italian…this place was well-done. And I would soon learn the service, the wine and, oh yes, the food were too!
Our party of 10 sat in the middle of the restaurant at a large round table (the best kind for conversation in a group that size) with a view of both the cook’s line and the gorgeous glass encased wine room, stocked high with tagged bottles.
Chunks of Reggiano alongside beautiful green, round olives were placed on the table. Then came the warm foccacia flatbread with thinly sliced red onions and drizzled in olive oil – yumm. Shortly the chef was at our table discussing with our host a collection of appetizers he suggested for the table. In fact, the whole night I never saw a menu. That was a completely new experience for me, and one I hope to repeat.
Our first course of pancetta wrapped jumbo prawns (and I mean HUGE) was served over sautéed broccoli rabe with whole garlic cloves. Then around came the house-made burrata cheese, roasted red peppers and an eggplant salad. Finally, our plates were complete with a skinny, curved sausage over seasoned cannellini beans. Every appetizer was delicately plated in front of each guest by a team of flawless servers. The first course looked like it could be a full meal! Each dish was great, my favorite being the prawn in pancetta. It was perfectly cooked, which doesn’t always happen with shrimp that size, and the pancetta was soft and rich, not overly salty or chewey. What a treat!
For our second course, Chef Angelo Elia presented, side-by-side, mushroom risotto and a fettucine. As each plate came to the table, the chef himself sliced fresh, white Alba truffles over the top! After the whole table had been served and I was dying to dig in, the bonus round began. The chef leaned in toward our host and we watched as more fragrantly thin truffle flakes came dancing down like snow. The chef continued slicing those precious Albas, waltzing from plate to plate slicing even more truffles on top of each dish.
So knowing I was about to indulge in one of my favorite luxuries, my expectations were high. And often-times such high expectations can be the downfall of a darn good dinner. But when it came to that fettucine, I found I had actually underestimated its enchantment. It was absolutely amazing. I’m really not a past-lover, and seeing little in means of a sauce, I didn’t expect the lavish flavor and perfect texture that came from this handmade treasure. Wow! That fettucine was one of the top two pasta preparations I have ever tasted (the other was Jennifer Jasinksi’s artichoke tortelloni at her restaurant Rioja in Denver).
I stopped the passing server and asked what was on it. Of course, just simple Parmesan-Reggiano with a little truffle oil then the fresh truffles. So simple, but so perfect!!! And it was easy to find lots of perfect bites in that dish: just a fork-swirl of fettucine, a touch of cheese and a slice of truffle – HEAVEN!
The main course did not disappoint. Each guest was offered fish or meat and from there provided three enticing choices. I opted for the house specialty grilled veal chop even though the lamb was more in line with my tastes. But I couldn’t pass up the signature dish. It was served with sautéed mushrooms, rosemary and topped with white truffles. It was great and makes me more open to ordering veal chops at great Italian restaurants.
We requested Chef Elia come back to our table at the end so we could tell him how much we enjoyed his creations. I later learned Casa D’Angela can also be found in Boca Raton and at Atlantis in the Bahamas. An award-winning chef, doing amazing work in an opulent restaurant tucked into a strip mall. You just never know where you’ll have your next improbable, incredible meal.