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In the Mood at Angeli Caffe

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One of LAist's most awkward/memorable moments in recent history was when we attended a pretty cool food event last spring, and had the chance to meet restaurateur, chef, author, and radio personality Evan Kleiman. Of course we got a little foodie star-struck and, with our mouth was full of tasty bits and bites set out for our enjoyment, we managed to sort of choke out some words of appreciation to the lady who has been an important name in LA food for a couple of decades now. But we didn't rush out to grab a table at her Angeli Caffe until one recent night, when a craving for Italian eats compelled us to pick up the phone and see if we could wrangle ourselves a very last-minute reservation.

Angeli sits on that very restaurant-dense section of Melrose near La Brea and Fairfax, and instantly reminded us of urban dining environs we'd enjoyed in metropoli like Toronto and New York; the front is almost entirely windows, and it sits right on the sidewalk, with nary a decorative shrub nor patio area as buffer. (Needless to say, with a window-facing seat, the passerby people watching is priceless.) Inside the Caffe there's a hectic but convivial mood, and friendly staffers to usher patrons to tables and to get the meal started. We warded off hunger pangs with bites of their fresh, warm bread, and got to work on our carafe of Pinot Noir. We opted to start with an appetizer to share, the Frittura di Verdura plate, which is comprised of three of the items from the "fritti" (fried) section of the starters: Suppli (rice croquettes stuffed with mozzarella), Croquette di Patate (potato croquettes with salame and smoked mozzarella), and Polpette di Melanzane (croquettes made of roasted eggplant puree, herbs, garlic, breadcrumbs, parmesan). Admittedly it was on the heftier side, but the accompanying marina sauce was a chunky, garlicky, tangy balance to the weight of the fried bites. And since we don't tend to carbo-load too often, it was an indulgence we want to pursue half-heartedly. Which is why for our entree we ordered up some of Kleiman and Angeli's signature special gnocchi. That evening the gnocchi was beet-ricotta, and our darling little butter-and-parmesan decorated gems were a rosy red-pink, bursting with the smooth and delicate sweetness of ricotta.

The snag in the evening was all about the lag. Lag time, that is. There was about a 40 minute gap between when our appetizer plate was whisked away and when our server's eyes widened and he said "wait, you don't have your entrees yet?" Oddly enough this hadn't wound us up to the point of outrage, since we were busy digesting all things fritti, sipping our vino, and watching the world go by. But that's not to say we weren't aware of the fact that we'd gotten stuck in that canyon of time between courses. Our server was sincerely apologetic, and ensured our entrees go there on wings. Of course, we were pretty full by this point, so we soon had to ask for boxes, just to be sure the tasty pasta dishes wouldn't be going to waste. Because of the lag, our server offered up dessert, which he kindly boxed up and added to our to-go tote. It was tiramisu--our personal favorite--and when we cracked it open the next morning with a cup of coffee we thought we'd died and gone to espresso-ladyfingers-mascarpone heaven, it was that good. So good thoughts about Angeli linger on.

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Angeli Caffe
7274 Melrose Avenue
(323) 936-9086