Monday, October 20, 2008

casa d'angelo

Walking into Casa d’Angelo is like walking into another world. A fabulous one you never want to leave, I might add.
Praised as one of the best Italian restaurants in South Florida - and possibly the whole country - this is a place to check out.
It was a birthday outing with the ladies and we happened to get a quaint little table in the wine room. A cozy room with wine bottles filled to the top, kept at the perfect temperature. Walking through Casa d’Angelo, Italian filled the air. Chef Angelo Elia was walking around ensuring that everybody was pleased. The tables had crisp, clean white tablecloths and there was a perfect view into the woodburning ovens.

Our waiter came by in no time and explained all of the specials for the evening from the soup of the day to the beef carpaccio and lobster tail appetizers to the chilean sea bass and braised short ribs with polenta; the risotto of the day and the gnocchi of the day to the veal special of the day and the lamb special of the day - and all in his sexy accent.
Of course, we were four women out to eat and after that fabulous greeting, there was no way we’d be deciding our entrees anytime soon. He was incredibly patient.
The wine list is extensive. Extensive and dizzying, especially if you’re not a wine afficionado. I was leaning towards a meat dish and asked for a recommendation on a light red, possibly sweet. He brought out a glass of pinot noir, possibly house, and it was just what I wanted. He asked how I liked it and even offered to get me a new wine if I didn’t like it.
Oh, the service.
A plate of bruschetta and rosemary flatbread came to the table and we munched while deciding. While leaning towards the wonderful veal chop special, my heart was calling out for the porcini mushroom risotto with shaved white truffle. I couldn’t resist. It is just so hard to get good risotto these days!
The great thing is you can order any pasta dish as a half order and so we opted for the rigatoni alla norcina - with homemade sausage, san marzano tomato sauce, and mushrooms with fresh ricotta. We also spoiled and got the eggplant appetizer, melanzane ripiene, which is like an eggplant lasagna: layered with cheese and prosciutto and a side of warm cannelini beans with olive oil.
At first bite the rigatoni seemed slightly underdone, but continuing to eat it, you realize it is cooked perfectly. With that perfect bite. The sauce was sweet and the sausage had such a delicate flavor. It was divine. The eggplant was a simple, perfect bite.
The entrees came around after. The risotto was placed in front of me and the smell that came up was like heaven. A man came behind with a hunk of white truffle kept in a little container of arborio rice. He let me smell the truffle and all its earthiness, and then it was delicately shaved over the risotto. The ladies ordered the beef short ribs with polenta, the gnocchi of the day with spinach and a four cheese cream sauce, and the snapper - another fish special.
The beef short ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender, the gnocchi were pillowy puffs of goodness swimming in the sauce and the snapper had fabulous presentation, but nothing came close to the risotto. The absolutely divine risotto.
This is what risotto should be. Not the gummy, tasteless mess served at -ahem- Casablanca Café. This was love on a plate. You could taste the love that went into it. The constant stirring and watching and adding and getting that perfect creamy consistency. It was the perfect consistency. You could taste a hint of white wine and the mushroom flavor permeated throughout. It was a taste of perfection.

The desserts came later - a happy birthday plate. We were served a warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, a warm apple tart with cinnamon ice cream, and the tiramisu.
The chocolate cake is what you should expect from chocolate cake, but very rarely get. It was the perfect little bite of chocolate. Not terribly rich, not dry, not terribly dense. It was just good. And the vanilla ice cream? For something so simple, it is very hard to find good vanilla ice cream. When you do, it’s a real treat. This was good vanilla ice cream. The apple tart was flaky and crisp and the cinnamon ice cream had a nice warmth to it. The tiramisu - a staple of course - was subtle and smooth in flavor. Everything is almost muted and then little by little the flavors seem to pop in your mouth and you get the tastes of mascarpone and coffee and rum.
The great thing is menu items range from $10 to $30. There are a few items that are around the $38 - $40 range and the specials are priced accordingly, of course (like that fabulous porcini-white truffle risotto? be prepared for its nice little price tag of $62), but it’s just a real treat.
So what can you say? All in all a fantastic meal. Well worth every penny and well worth all of the praise.