Of all the nights to take my camera out of my purse and leave it home, it had to be last night (Please don't hate me!). One of my many intentions for the new year is to try restaurants that have been piling up in a Word document under the heading, "Restaurants to Try". The first one to be crossed off said list is Angeli Caffe, located at 7274 Melrose Ave. (a few blocks west of La Brea). 2010 marks Angeli Caffe's 25th birthday and to celebrate, owner Evan Kleiman is treating patrons to a 3 course fixed price menu for only $25. Kleiman is well respected and loved in Los Angeles, not only for her Italian cafe, but she also leads the pack on KCRW's radio program, Good Food, which airs at 11am on Saturdays (go to iTunes and sign up for the podcast, most food geeks are devoted followers).
So my willing foodie co-hort Jo Marie tagged along with me on this culinary adventure last night and boy was she glad she did. The cafe is intimate, appeals to the modernist, with clean lines, attention to detail, and friendly staff. We decided to split a carafe of Prima Voce, a Tuscan wine, which perfumes your palette with bold raspberries and vanilla notes that dance along your tongue.
Angeli Caffe serves individual boules of hearty bread that has literally just come out of a wood-fired oven, speckled with black smoke and pockets of light, airy dough, this bread is perfect for ripping off and dipping in some fruity, green olive oil. If I can even come to close to an inkling of this bread's crumb in my own kitchen, I would be proud.
We split an order of the calamari fritti, served with a slice of lemon (for squeezing) and a pot of gold, excuse me, a pot of warm, simple, tomato sauce. Lightly seasoned, this plate of calamari has to be some of the most tender calamari I have ever eaten. I kept repeating myself at the table, I couldn't get over how tender they were (Jo Marie seems to think its because it was super fresh and I think it also has to do with the fact that it was not over-cooked).
We also shared a beautiful Insalate Forte, made up of locally grown mixed greens, endive, fennel, olives and tossed with a garlicky parmesan dressing. Our server recommended a splash of balsamic vinegar over the salad to enhance the parmesan, and obligingly, we listened. It was a good call, it definitely brought out the intensity of the cheese and yet it didn't overplay all of the other elements of this light and delicious salad. Of course, I would have preferred a few extra olives on the plate.
And for the main course, we shared the "gnocchi" of the day, homemade ricotta gnocchi with spinach in a butter sage sauce. The first description that came to my "foodie" mind last night was, pillows of pleasure. They literally melted in my mouth, they were so delicate and flavorful. I've never had gnocchi this good, makes me want to go back every day to try the "gnocchi of the day". These broads were pleasantly stuffed and passed on the dessert menu, I know, shame on us, but trust me, it's not like I won't ever be returning to Angeli Caffe. I most definitely will return to sample more tasty dishes and rub shoulders with a few angels.