Casa D’ Angelo Boca Raton
Italian Excellence at Angelo’s House
By Kenny Spahn
For over two decades, Casa D’ Angelo in Ft. Lauderdale has stood amongst the elite echelon of top restaurants (and arguably THE best Italian restaurant) in Broward County, under Chef / Owner Angelo Elia. Chef Angelo grew up in Salerno, Italy, where he learned authentic Italian cooking the real way – in his mother’s kitchen. Here, along with his father (a local butcher), Angelo learned to use fresh, locally-sourced meats, fish, and garden-fresh vegetables & herbs. “Farm-to-table” was not just a hip trend for Angelo – it was his way of life. So when the award-wining chef brought his eponymous ristorante to Boca Raton in 2008, I was thrilled — but cautiously skeptical if the master chef’s Tuscan-inspired magic might get a bit lost in the translation, as so often happens. Well rest assured, Casa D’ Angelo Boca Raton more than lives up to the legend, as Executive Chef Ricky Piper delivers the culinary prowess to rival even his mentor. Chef Rickie also developed a love for cooking in family’s Italian cucina, which lead him to pursue Culinary school in Rome, and then to fine dining establishments in Europe before making his way to south Florida. Chef Rickie was the original opening chef of the new Boca location back in ’08, and has maintained the Casa D’ Angelo standard of excellence ever since.
The contemporary neo-classical setting exudes refined elegance, tempered with a relaxed ease. Comfortable seating, subdued lighting, and soft background music a allow for quiet conversation, even with the steady buzz of activity, especially at the lively front bar and outdoor patio. Yet despite the crowd, the friendly waiters deliver exemplary service and expert menu knowledge, under the watchful guidance of veteran General Manager Armando Naclerio. No face-pierced, green haired, over-tattooed school kids here who can barely look up from their phones – these waiters are true professionals.
You can just taste the passion in the Chef’s cuisine, from old-school classics to creative nightly specials (usually around 15 specials each night). Chef Rickie (and Chef Angelo) insist upon absolute quality, which means using only the best and freshest ingredients available. So, as Chef Rickie told me, “if we don’t have the best ingredients possible for any dish on the menu, we just won’t serve it that night.” The entire team is also very accommodating to dietary restrictions and special requests. “Even if it’s not on the menu,” GM Armando explains, “if we have it, we’ll make it for you!”
Fior Di Zucca is a delightful way to start your Italian adventure. Crispy stuffed Zucchini Flowers are cooked to golden crispy perfection, revealing a luscious ricotta & prosciutto filling that seems to melt in your mouth. Burrata (devine fresh mozzarella encompassing a semi-soft, creamy interior) accompanied with authentic Prosciutto di Parma and eggplant caponata is another all-star starter; as is the Polipo (grilled fresh octopus) served with baby kale, gigante beans, and a zesty tomato confit. Other notable Antipasti (most $12 – $18) include Tonno (Sicilian-style tuna tartar), Melanzane (“a personal eggplant parmigiana”), Gamberi Mamma (grilled pancetta-wrapped tiger prawns with broccoli rabe), Beef Carpaccio, and a towering chopped salad dubbed Insalata Angelo.
Pasta dishes are, of course, outstanding. Many are made fresh in house, including Strozzapreti (like an elongated cavatelli) with a hearty Tuscan wild boar ragout; Chitarra (like square spaghetti) in tomato ragout with Burrata, and Cavatelli (small “hot dog bun” shells) with mushrooms and sausage in a tomato cream sauce. Risotto with Porcini mushrooms, Alba truffle oil, and Reggiano cream is as richly satisfying and delicious as it sounds. On a lighter note, homemade Gnocchi are melt-in-your-mouth puffs of delight, especially when prepared in their zesty tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella, basil, and eggplant. Other pastalicious choices range from classic Spaghetti in tomato-basil sauce, to the ultra-comforting Pappardelle with porcini mushrooms and truffle crema. Less adventurous palettes can opt for more familiar Italian American standards like Lasagna and Penne Vodka.
Then move to the entrees, and see why Casa D’ Angelo continues to garner such a loyal following of devoted regulars. The authentic brick oven bestows its rustic earthy character upon all its inhabitants, like a roasted boneless free range chicken with Broccoli Rabe, Garlic, and Lemon; house-made focaccia, and even the oven-roasted potatoes accompanying certain entrees on our night. Meat lovers will find their dream come true with the Fiorentina, a 14-oz. USDA Prime Creekstone New York strip with caramelized onions, wild mushrooms, and arugula (yum!); as well as the Agnello (Grilled Colorado Rack of Lamb Chops) in a luscious Amarone Reduction. Meanwhile, the prodigious 16-ounce Veal Chop is a true masterpiece, and made even better with the accompanying grilled vegetables and Wild Mushroom Marsala sauce — and, of course, a nice glass of Italian vino.
Seafood fans will be equally entranced with the many fresh aquatic offerings, like fresh Branzino (Mediterranean sea bass) in a light Picatta treatment with artichokes, lemons, capers, and parsley; and Tonno, a sultry 8-oz. seared Tuna Steak. Gamberi (sautéed jumbo prawns) swim lovingly in a lemon-garlic sauce with Taggiasche olives, broccoli rabe, and oven-roasted potatoes. Also check out the nightly specials, which are always a good bet. On our night, a thundering Zuppa di Pesce (Italian seafood “stew”) in a flavorful seafood brodo was outstanding, especially with its blank ink linguine, lending a perfect ever-so-slight hint of the ocean to the fresh shellfish.
The expansive wine list boasts over 200 international labels (most around $50-$125), with an obvious tilt toward the Boot. A gutsy Tolaini Valdisanti Super Tuscan ‘14 ($18/$75) bursts with complex layers of fruit, earth, and spice, proving a perfect match for my sensuous veal chop.
Desserts are also homemade and, of course, delicious Tortino Mele (apple tart) is a delectable Apple Tart, comprising cinnamon-infused apples baked atop crisp layers of delicate pastry, topped with cinnamon ice cream (Yum!); while Angelo’s famous Tiramisu is like eating an Italian cloud. Then finish with a rich Italian cappuccino or traditional Sambuca, and savor your Italian adventure – Casa d’ Angelo style.
Casa d’ Angelo is located at 171 E. Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton, FL. Serving dinner nightly until 10:00 pm weekday, 11:00 pm Fri & Sat. Call (561) 996-1234. Other locations include the original Ft. Lauderdale (954.564.1234), a brand new location in Aventura (305.699.5500); and at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Bahama (1+242.363.2000, Ext. 66504).
Also visit Angelo Elia Pizza, Bar & Tapas (Delray Beach and other locations) and Angelo Elia The Bakery Bar in Ft. Lauderdale. For complete information, visit www.casa-d-angelo.com
About the Author: Kenny Spahn is a renowned food critic, culinary columnist, and restaurant authority, and has published over 800 culinary articles. The Boca Raton Tribune is proud to have Mr. Spahn as a contributor. Mr. Spahn is also the CEO of Restaurant Placement Group, an exclusive recruiting, placement, and consulting firm for the restaurant and hospitality industry. Visit: https://www.restaurantplacement.com