South Philly Neighborhood Gem Shines
by Kelley Galloway
South Philly is known for three things: cheesesteaks, sports stadiums, and Italian food.
Located well beyond the glowing neon corner of Pat’s and Geno’s that South Philly is so well known for, L’Angolo Ristorante is living up to the reputation that precedes the region below Washington Avenue. L’Angolo made its home just off of Broad and Porter Streets in 2000, and has been delivering authentic Italian dishes ever since.
Owners Kathryn and Davide Faenza focus on the flavors of Puglia, the southern region of Italy—where Davide grew up—that borders the Adriatic Sea and makes the high-heel on the infamous “boot” of Italy. A two-time Best of Philly award-winner, L’Angolo is a hidden gem in the heart of Philly’s pasta district.
Making Italia proud, L’Angolo features classic comfort foods your little Italian grandmother would go nuts for. The food is priced modestly and served up with taste in mind rather than presentation. It’s far from fancy, but the ambiance is warm and inviting, and you find yourself feeling right at home. With limited seating, it can get cramped—but the crowds only further speak to the reputation of this charming little Italian restaurant. Reservations, even on weeknights, are highly recommended.
The menu boasts traditional dishes like spaghetti Bolognese, ricotta gnocchi, and lobster ravioli, but the regulars know the grilled calamari with herbed olive oil is an essential order. Other favorites among L’Angolo’s loyal customers aren’t always found on the menu—the veal chop and burrata are both frequently run specials.
Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. It looks like your run-of-the-mill hunk of mozzarella from the outside, but the inside is soft and creamy. L’Angolo makes their burrata in-house and it is spoken highly of amongst both modern foodies and old-school Italians. Topped with a fig-balsamic glaze and served with cherry tomatoes, faro, roasted peppers and onions, this special is not to be missed.
The veal chop special, served atop garlicky broccoli rabe and velvety Parmesan mashed potatoes, was cooked to perfection—buttery soft, mild in taste, and resting in a warm puddle of mushroom gravy.
And while the mussels are prepared so beautifully that they almost melt in your mouth, the white sauce they’re served in (which was missing some sort of acidity) was nothing special.
The orecchiette pasta was served with shredded duck, thyme, and shaved grana. While the thyme only merely served as a garnish instead of offering any real flavor, the sauce that pooled on the bottom of the plate was heavy, oily, and seemed misplaced. The tiny ear-shaped pasta was dry, despite the large puddle of sauce on the plate, and clumped together. But it was the duck, so tender and torn into tiny, thin threads, which served as a reminder of why L’Angolo is so wonderful.
The food isn’t completely perfect, but Kathryn and Davide put their heart into every dish. And while the pasta needs work, L’Angolo shines through its veal and seafood dishes—exhibiting careful execution and perfectly paired flavors.
On the night I visited, around 8pm on a Wednesday, the tiny restaurant was packed—granted, the place only holds 35 people. Still, during the two hours I was there, patrons trickled in and out and I never saw a table empty longer than it took for the waiter to clean it and set it for the next customers.
The attentive waiters hustled around the restaurant, whizzing through the maze of tiny tables and a narrow hallway. And just as the last bite of tiramisu was taken—light and cool, dusted with a generous amount of cocoa—the lights dimmed and the waiters (along with almost every other onlooker) began to softly sing “Happy Birthday” to an older gentleman in the back of the dining room… a testament to L’Angolo’s warm atmosphere and the welcoming staff.
And if this cozy trattoria didn’t already win you over, their BYO policy surely will. So grab a loved one, pick up your favorite bottle of vino, and order the special.
L’Angolo is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Friday, and dinner only on Saturday and Sunday.
For more information visit their website http://www.langolo-restaurant.com/.