Fort Lauderdale chef Angelo Elia hit New York City in a big way last week, cooking a six-course Christmas in the Italian Countryside dinner at the prestigious James Beard House and making an appearance on Martha Stewarts Sirius XM show. But once he returned to Fort Lauderdale, the talented toque was back doing what he loves: cooking at Casa DAngelo.
Nearly 15 years after opening his celebrated venue and five other restaurants Elia is still in the kitchen just about every night, preparing heavenly dishes like baby Italian eggplant with prosciutto di parma and bufala mozzarella, house-made fettuccine and his personal favorite, veal chop with Gorgonzola.
Never one to rest on his reputation, Elia recently renovated and updated the Fort Lauderdale restaurant, adding a more contemporary look, an elegant wine room and a full liquor license. Given his growing empire Casa DAngelos in Boca Raton, Delray Beach and the Bahamas plus casual concepts in Oakland Park, Delray and, soon, Weston we wondered if Elias cooking would still dazzle us the way it did when we first dined at his flagship restaurant. It did.
He is as passionate as ever about the simple, exquisite flavors of his homeland. While he grew up in Salerno and prepares some dishes from Southern Italy, his focus is on the north and the recipes he learned from his Florentine-born mother.
Available through mid-January, prized (and pricey) white truffles from Alba turn risotto into an intensely earthy and memorable $68 treat. Or try the to-die-for truffle-laden beef carpaccio.
Snack on complimentary bruschetta, herb-and-onion topped pizza, green olives and Parmigiano cheese while you peruse the 40-page wine list. The restaurant, which earned its 12th consecutive Wine Spectator excellence award this year, offers 1,000 selections from Italy and California, with 10 by the glass. More than 18,000 bottles are stored in two wine cellars.
Go for staple starters like lightly breaded fried calamari and zucchini or a long list of specials the seasoned servers recite like poetry. The ultra creamy burrata cheese is delightful, set atop nicely charred eggplant, roasted peppers and field greens.
Who can resist a big, homey meatball? We shared Elias classic version made with beef, pork and veal, served with Italian pork sausage and slices of eggplant and roasted peppers in a bold tomato sauce
Pasta choices include wonderfully light handmade ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta and served with a sunny tomato sauce.
Fresh fish, like the snapper Livornese, is skillfully done, though the flavorful shrimp was just a bit chewy. A friends oak-grilled New York strip was perfectly cooked, even at his requested medium-well, emerging tender and flavorful, plated with Vidalia onions, wild mushrooms and arugula.
Desserts include flourless chocolate cake, tiramisu, tartufos and a new option we loved, house-made gelato. You get three large scoops in a choice of a dozen flavors, from vanilla and chocolate to cinnamon and banana.
Elia may be expanding his reach, but his masterful touch still makes for an outstanding dining experience in Fort Lauderdale.