As a family we like to go out for lunch or dinner on Sundays and try out various Los Angeles restaurants. Two kids in their late 30’s and two parents in their late 70’s looking for a good time. We’re always trying to find places all four of us agree on and enjoy equally, which can be tough. On a Sunday night we ventured out to Angeli Caffe on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
Owner chef Evan Kleinman is a Los Angeles legend, our own younger version of Alice Waters who has led the local slow food movement while also releasing a series of books and maintaining a high media profile. She continues to calm Los Angeleno’s nerves each Saturday morning at 11 AM with her “Good Food” show on local NPR station KRCW.
Evan opened Angeli Caffe on trendy Melrose Avenue in 1984 and its been a Los Angeles institution ever since. As the restaurant’s website says, she created it to serve simple rustic food in a modern environment and over 25 years later it still lives up to that original.
We arrived about ten minutes late for a Sunday night dinner reservation. The restaurant has two rooms, the main room was full and the secondary room had a row of empty tables. We were a party of six and for some reason they had us sit and wait til another party finished and paid their check in the main room, which was about 15 minutes. All this while there was a row of empty table they could have easily pushed together to accommodate us. That was a bit annoying especially as two of our party are elderly, one with a cane.
We were welcomed into the next room and given menus by a female server. She brought water but never returned to ask about drinks. The waiter arrived, this was also the host who seated us, and who we later learned was the manager. He arrived to take our food order but then realized we had not even ordered drinks yet. He read us the specials and then returned with the drinks. It was not handled smoothly and after the delay in being seated it was starting to get to us. The drinks arrived, we ordered our food and waited. The food arrived in a reasonable time, not too fast, not too slow. We loved the fresh bread, its like a puff of pizza dough, baked in the pizza oven. Its hot and delightful.
I had the Petto di Pollo alla Griglia which is a breast of chicken, pounded thin and marinated with herbs and extra virgin olive oil topped with chopped tomato and arugula. It was good, but not amazing. It was fresh and tasty, but the chicken was a bit overcooked and dry. The mashed potatoes were perfect. and the broccoli I ordered was also wonderfully seasoned.
I should also note they were out of alot of items. He apologized but said on the good side it had been a good week for them and they had sold out of many things. Many fresh commercial markets for fish, produce, etc. are closed on Sundays so if a restaurant runs out, they can’t restock until Monday. They were also out of cookies and brownies. I know they had a good week, but make alternate arrangements, don’t make diners who come out on a Sunday night suffer!
Next we had a Linguine alle Vongole fresh clams, tons of garlic, a touch of chile pepper,white wine, herbs, all served in white sauce. This was good but my parents commented they preferred the version we get at Maggiano’s Little Italy, another one of our family favorites. We had a Caesar salad that was fresh and solid, nothing special but good. We also had Tonno Verde in Insalata, which had grilled fresh Ahi tuna literally swimming in a parsley vinaigrette served on baby greens, with green beans, boiled potatoes and black olives its was good but a little too exotic for our tastes.
The menu is a classic Italian menu, with a full range of antipasti and fritti (fritters) appetizers. Salads and big salads and even panini served for lunch. Main courses of basic chicken, steak, a complete range of pastas and a complete range of pizzas. This is true rustic, home-style Italian cooking. Basic food, fresh food. The wine was good and they do have an extensive wine list. Desert was an apple tart with creme fraiche. It was executed well, but lacked excitement. A boring desert.
Although the food was good, service was adequate, in these days you want to feel special in a restaurant. We’ve spent the last few weeks having a Sunday meal together at Maggiano’s Little Italy at The Grove and although this is a corporate establishment, owned by the same company that runs Chili’s, we feel more welcomed there, like our business is appreciated. We felt we were almost bothering the staff at Angeli, just by coming in, then asking for these things they had run out of. Maybe they were just tired and spent from a busy week. We’ll probably give it one more try to see how things go, the food will make it worth the second trip.
7274 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046-7667