He’ll greet you at the door with a hug and peck on the cheek (well, he might save the kiss for the ladies). And he’ll do it again as you’re leaving. He sings. Does little dances. Talks in a thick, Italian accent. He woos his guests at tableside with flaming pizzazz that only Angelo could pull off.
Angelo is one of those seasoned chefs that offers not only jaw-dropping, pallet- pleasing food selections, but delivers it in a very personal way. Normally, chefs are in the background implementing their creative cuisine. Not at Angelo’s. He likes to be front and center with his amazing tableside preparations that he whips up as fast as the flames ignite. He’s an entertainer personified.
“I love what I do! This is my life,” Angelo says. “I don’t care about the food costs or the numbers…I just want the people. I want these people to be my friends. I was miserable for over a month before I open my restaurant because I wasn’t with people.”
He was born to a ‘poor’ family in Italy. He says “I was a mess” as a young boy. “I was the one who everyone came to for what to do. I plan the parties.” That hasn’t changed as far as I can tell.
When he came to the states, he was working day and night doing banquets at hotels and cheffing in restaurants. He was a personal chef for movie stars, senators, governors, and loved the private parties.
“Once I was doing a party and it was so boring and quiet…I took a fork and glass, bling, bling, bling, and before you know I had them all singing ‘Volare,’” Angelo says, his infectious personality almost toddler-like.
“I called Mama and told her how much money I was making that week. She said, ‘Angelo, I tell you not to sell drugs!’” he laughed.
Before opening his restaurant, he was a chef at Chianti and Casantica in Sarasota. “People kept pushing me to open my own restaurant, so I did,” he said.
This Italian eatery is warm and dimly lit with elaborate sparkling chandeliers, linen table cloths and fresh roses. The upscale, intimate environment has approximately 20 tables, and there’s constant entertainment as Angelo is cooking tableside, chatting with his guests who more often than not erupt in laughter…even if sometimes they can’t understand his English.
I had to try the homemade pasta, which he tosses in a wheel of parmesan and cooks up tableside. It was unbelievably delicious and rich. I asked for just a small sample of something made with his red sauce, and the server returned with a humungous plate of split chicken breast parmesan generously covered in mozzarella served with a side of yet more pasta bathed in olive oil with cherry tomatoes.
“But I asked for just a little bit,” I said. The server replied, “There’s no little bit here.” Typical Italian.
The homemade pasta dish is one of Angelo’s specialties, served with a choice of alfredo, cerbonara, or with sausage and mushrooms. It’s a meal in and of itself. Just add a salad and you might have room for a flaming bananas foster for dessert cooked tableside.
Angelo’s menu features a nice selection of salads and starters, from Insalata Caprese (sliced tomato topped with mozzerrella and basil) to fried calamari. Portions can be ordered for one or two in some cases. There are daily specials and tonight’s featured Ahi Tuna as an app. Lollipop lamb chops pan seared with orange segments and baby arugula. As well as salmon.
Two pages of pasta dishes from traditional lasagna to spaghetti with shrimp and another page of main courses feature a nice assortment of fish, eggplant, veal and chicken dishes all served up Angelo style. Desserts are also deliciouso and include a to-die-for chocolate mousse cake and Angelo’s flaming bananas foster.
“He’s adorable,” an elderly woman who was literally blushing whispered to me after he’d given her a big hug and a kiss as she was leaving. Her husband got a handshake that turned into a hug.
“Thees will be the number-one restaurant in Sarasota…I have never been wrong with a business prediction,” Angelo said confidently. Judging by the fact that both weekday evenings I was there it was almost a full house, and this is a restaurant that just opened in the summer, I’d say the word is spreading like Angelo’s wild fire.
He also gives credit to his two chefs (a lot for a small restaurant) – Roberto Spinozzi and Scott Klein, and his servers. “I am strict with my staff. I cut them no slack,” Angelo says.
Don’t take if from me. Check out Yelp for his rave reviews. As one customer put it:
“There are good restaurants and then there are extraordinary experiences. Tonight was definitely the latter. From the kiss on the cheek from the chef as I walked in the door…to the handmade pasta cooked in a massive wheel of parmesan…to the complimentary limoncello…to the chef insisting he cook us an amazing bananas foster while hushing the restaurant so he could sing along to “this girl is on fire” as the flames jumped…to the fresh rose and another kiss as I left.. SIMPLY AMAZING. Sarasota locals and visitors – this is a MUST DO!”
Angelo’s is located just north of Clark Rd. at 6116 S. Tamiami Trail. Call (941) 312-4747 or visit www.angelosofsarasota.com to book a table.
Photos by Patti Pearson