It’s a good sign when you hear Italian conversation at an Italian restaurant. Even better when the server chimes in, too. On a chilly weekday during the lunch rush at Angelo’s Italian Market & Restaurant, two older men are chattering away (“America è il posto più bello nel mondo”) and quizzing their waitress about the menu. She answers back in Italian with no hesitation. I relax; I’m in good hands.
Angelo’s occupies a medium-sized corner spot in an east Venice shopping center, with a dozen or so tables inside and maybe 10 more laid along a patio that hugs the restaurant’s exterior. Roman native Angelo Marchionni opened Angelo’s in Connecticut in the 1970s and shortly thereafter hired the Sicilian-born Emilio Rossitto to help out. Rossitto and his wife, Loredana, opened an Angelo’s in Venice after moving to the city in 1991. A photo of the couple and their family hangs high on the wall, right near a dessert menu offering cakes, tiramisù, biscotti and more.
A tall rack loaded with reds such as Montepulciano, Barolo and Amarone separates the dining area from the series of counters that line the restaurant’s edges. Up front, you’ll find plastic trays bearing pastries such as sfogliatella, chocolate and almond tarts and every shade of cookie, from sprinkled to Nutella-topped. Walk a little farther and you’ll find prepared pastas and meat dishes, fresh bread, blocks of cheese ready to be sliced and cured meats that can fill your fridge or top your pizza.
That pizza is a calling card here. Nearly every table is full, and nearly everyone is snacking on slices pulled from one of Angelo’s worn metal trays. The toppings hew to Italian-American tradition, with pepperoni, sausage and the like well represented. I can understand why so many people are ordering these things.
A “Parma” pizza ($16.98-$18.98) is served straight out of the oven, with both mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano, a simple tomato sauce, sheets of prosciutto di Parma and handfuls of arugula. But what stands out is the olive oil. The pie comes drizzled with fragrant oil, applied with such a generous hand that it spills over and stains the bottom of your take-home box. The crust isn’t going to win converts (it’s stodgy rather than stretchy), but the sky-high-quality ingredients compensate.
The pizza may be popular, but it’s hardly the only thing going at Angelo’s. The pasta menu includes both American-Italian dishes like fettuccine Alfredo ($11.98) and baked ziti ($12.98) as well as more traditional recipes like pesto-drenched gnocchi ($13.98) and cavatelli with sausage and broccoli rabe ($15.98). The cavatelli are served on a plate the size of the Guernica canvas, with drips and smears of balsamic surrounding a mound of pasta, crumbled pork flecked with fennel seeds, small nibs of bright green rapini and a delicate branch of basil leaves. The pasta is right at al dente, and the olive oil-based sauce marries the fatty sausage and verdant vegetables. It could use a bit of something acidic, or something spicy or sharp, to cut the flavor, but the main attraction remains gooey and satisfying.
Another favorite here: sandwiches, quasi-legendary constructions championed by Venice boys and girls far and wide. The “Godfather” ($10.98) explains the fame. The sandwich is as big as a Star Wars TIE Fighter, outlined with crusty bread and filled with three types of cured pork, provolone and all the fresh stuff you expect. It’s filling enough to put you to sleep back at your desk.
My Italian-speaking neighbors are still hard at it, even after their food arrives. The mellifluous sing-song makes for a better soundtrack than the schmaltzy junk on the stereo, but they’re talking so quickly my formerly sharp Italian skills can’t keep up. Could they be saying they don’t like the food here? I’d doubt it. They seem like regulars, and their presence is a sign that Angelo’s is doing something right.