A is for acclaimed. A is for affable. A is for accomplished. Finally, A is for Angelo, as in Angelo Elia, the Italian-born chef/restaurateur, whose impressive roster of dining establishments includes three Casa D’Angelo restaurants (Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Paradise Island/Bahamas), as well as a growing chain of wildly-popular casual-chic Italian eateries – Angelo Elia Pizza, Bar, Tapas (Fort Lauderdale, Weston, Delray Beach and Coral Springs) and the Angelo Elia Bakery Bar.
Relocating to the U.S. as a teenager from Salerno, Italy, Elia worked his way through some of New York’s most prestigious kitchens. After moving to South Florida with his wife Denise, Elia served at the helm of a variety of establishments before opening his first restaurant, Casa D’Angelo, in 1998.
After expanding to the Bahamas and Boca Raton, he rolled out an all new concept Angelo Elia Pizza, Bar, Tapas in 2010. The casual eatery was such a success that it spawned branches in Weston, Delray Beach and Coral Springs. Last year, Angelo Elia opened his eponymous Bakery Bar on Oakland Park Blvd., specializing in authentic Italian pastries, breads, sandwiches, gelatos and coffees.
Elia’s culinary acumen and inviting attitude has earned him tremendous praise and recognition from local and national media and has garnered him numerous awards including Zagat’s America’s Top Restaurants; Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for the past 15 consecutive years, as well as being crowned one of 100 Best Wine Restaurants in 2012.
Casa D’Angelo has received a four-star review in the Sun-Sentinel, the Golden Spoon Award from Florida Trend magazine (13 consecutive years) and the Washington Times cited it as, “‘The Place to Eat’ when you visit Ft. Lauderdale.”
Casa D’Angelo, Elia’s flagship restaurant, is always packed, despite the hefty prices. You certainly get what you pay for; attentive service and elegant surroundings complement the upscale menu, which focuses on fresh, seasonable ingredients, many imported from Italy. To call the wine list extensive is an understatement. In addition to regular offerings, there are nightly appetizer, entrée and dessert menu specials. In addition to standard antipasti, soups and salads, there are a trio of crudi (carpaccio); the standard beef as well as tuna and salmon. Pasta dishes are hearty and filling, entrees range from traditional favorites such as chicken Milanese to a 14 oz. grilled strip steak. First courses (antipasti, salads and soups) are in the $8-$14 range, pastas average $18 and entrees run $22-$38.
If the tab at Casa D’Angelo is a bit steep for you, the same attention, service and flavors can be had at the decidedly more casual, Angelo Elia’s Pizza, Bar and Tapas. It is an elegant, hip dining destination where crowds line up every night to enjoy fine traditional Italian-style pizzas, tapas, panini and a notable wine list, either in the modern dining room or on one of the two patio cafes. Tapas range in price from $12-$18, which may seem high, but the servings are much larger than you usually get in a tapas spot. Many, such as the fritto misto, a mound of fried calamari, shrimp and vegetables served atop an arugula salad; could serve as an entrée. Entrée sized salads are $14 and could also easily serve two as a first course, while sandwiches and calzone are priced from $14-$16. Generous portions of pasta run $18-$24. The Neapolitan style pizzas average about $12. We sampled the “Capricciosa”, a delightful blend of artichokes, olives and mushrooms atop a traditional red sauce and blanketed by mozzarella. Desserts are scrumptious and decadent. The made-to-order cannoli is sheer perfection.
To make the place even more affordable, Mondays through Fridays all drinks are two for one, that accompanies a specialty tapas menu, served from 4 – 7 p.m., but only at the bar and high top tables. On Wednesdays, fresh blue point oysters are a buck each. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 to 3:30.
Angelo Elia Bakery Bar offers an even lower-priced alternative. While it primarily focuses on coffee, tea, soft drinks and incredible pastries, it does offer a few panini, folded flatbreads and salads (priced $6-$10). The best kept secret here is the incredibly reasonable wine list. Wine is available by the glass, quart-sized carafe or bottle. The prices are phenomenal, many as low as $6 a glass or $24 a bottle. Imported beers are also available. While the pastries are my downfall, I’ve also been tempted to buy a loaf of bread and tear into it right in the dining area of the storefront café.
Angelo Elia Pizza and Tapas
4215 N. Federal, Ft. Lauderdale (additional locations in Doral, Coral Springs & Weston)
Casa D'Angelo Ristorante
1201 N. Federal, Fort Lauderdale
Angelo Elia Bakery Bar
2104 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale