Casa D'Angelo is consistently one of the top rated restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, and this was my first visit. Why? I'm not sure; I guess that I'm rarely in the mood for fancy-schmancy Italian food. It's rarely as good as advertised, and for some reason people are willing to pay almost any price to eat at a highly "acclaimed" restaurant.
As always, I went in with complete skeptical optimism. Could this place be as good as the sea of online raves? Their web site menu is adorned with a glowing review from Judith Stocks, the local Newspaper critic who regularly makes pizzerias sound like special occasion venues. So you can't learn much from that.
Last minute plans left me without a reservation at 6pm; open table claimed that they were booked until 9pm; a bit too late for my student companion who had an early class the next jump-->day. But calling the restaurant landed me an 8:30 reservation. Good enough. I'd missed lunch and I was ready to chow down.
We arrived a tad late but our table was available immediately; The hostess led us on a seemingly endless journey to a back room; a smallish room near the "wine cellar", where you can get a table among the bottles and order ridiculously expensive wine. The place was packed with groups of middle-aged folks; many of the tables were large groups. This is a special occasion place; too expensive for the YOLO crowd. No dogs here.
The dining room is elegant if not a bit cramped; its a long, narrow place with tables placed just far enough apart to be comfortable. There's a bar up front with a TV but you wouldn't want to eat there. It seems more like a fancy service bar. You don't come here alone or to watch a game.
As we sat down, our server asked if we wanted water for the table; I ordered Pellegrino. Their phone book sized wine list is somewhat intimidating; digging into it we found some good wines by the glass. Don't pay any attention to their web site; the wines available are completely different. They had a Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico for $20; not even a Riserva. Steep but good stuff. You gotta pay to play at places like this.
Within a few minutes a plate with olives, cheese and bruschetta was dropped on the table.
Casa D'Angelo Complimentary Plate
The Bruschetta was very garlicky and flavorful; much better than the Bruschetta I'd had at Elias' Tapas restaurant.
I'd done my research on the place and knew that they always had an extensive list of specials, but after 10 minutes our server still hadn't filled us in. Another 5 minutes passed and he finally stopped by and recited a virtual laundry list of specials. From my research I surmised that most of the "specials" are really regular items; most likely a ploy to charge a bit extra by taking them off-menu; no prices are mentioned with the specials. While it's nice to have authentic "Italian" servers; his accent made it difficult to understand some of offerings.
When he finished he quickly slipped away; still not asking us if we wanted drinks. We'd decided on our wines quite a while before; I had to flag him down to get him to take our wine order.
We chatted a bit more having chosen our entrees; and eventually our server offered to take our order.
I started with a Tomato-Mozzarella Salad, which is served dry with baby arugula instead of the preferred Basil. It was a few minutes before someone brought by the olive oil and balsamic; which left me taking the first few bites without. The cheese was pretty good but nothing I'd pay extra for normally; the tomatoes weren't ripe at all; 2 of the 3 required surgery to cut out inedible green sections. I really expected to get ripe tomatoes at a place like this; the tomato served to me should have been discarded or left on a sill for another day or 2. They did a nice job of covering the bad sections with the presentation; did they think I wouldn't notice?
A special of mussels in red sauce with cherry tomatoes looked beautiful upon delivery.
Casa D'Angelo Mussels
My date asked me to try them; "A bit bland", I said, as she nodded in agreement. "I've had better", she said.
My veal chop came just as I finished my appetizer; they have the food preparation down here. I'd ordered the one off of the regular menu; @$46. I didn't need to pay extra for a different recipe. The regular menu item is served with a "rosemary" sauce with mushrooms and grilled eggplant. It's a low-carber's dream meal.
Casa D'Angelo Veal Chop
Veal chops are the prime item at a high end restaurant; usually the highest priced item and a signature dish. Another beautiful presentation, The chop was nicely seared but a bit underdone; it was borderline raw by the bone. The sauce wasn't as biting as I'd hoped; in fact I couldn't really taste any rosemary at all. There was also a lot of waste; I was still hungry when I was done; never a good sign after $60. worth of food. I suddenly realized why I'd never been here before; for this price I could have a prime, bone-in fillet which would be infinitely more satisfying.
It was already 10:30 and we decided to skip dessert. The air had been let out of the balloon. When I got the check I noticed that they had given me a house Chianti for $10; I only noticed the one on the menu and didn't specify. I didn't even notice; their house Chianti is pretty good.
I was one of the few critics who didn't rave about D'Angelo's other Fort Lauderdale Haunt, D'Angelo's Pizza and Tapas. I can't rave about the food here either; in fact it's fairly similar here at a much higher price. Casa D'Angelo is another example of people getting pulled in by hype. It's a nice place but you can get food at least as good for a much lower price elsewhere.