Photography by Alissa Dragun
Angelo Elia is the chef at the helm of a burgeoning restaurant empire. He is the proprietor of Casa D’Angelo in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton, as well as a casual wine bar and pizza eatery in Oakland Park—all of which have earned critical acclaim for Elia’s ability to source the best ingredients and present them with care and precision.
|Roasted milk-fed piglet.|
His D’Angelo Trattoria is tucked away in a residential section of East Delray, located in a converted house that retains all the charm of similar establishments in Rome. The floors are wood, and butcher paper lines the tabletops; the ceiling is low, the kitchen is open and the tables are crammed close enough together that you’re likely to become fast friends with your neighbors or at least hear the intimate details of their conversations. The interior is graced with a glassed-in wine cellar, and the terrace is a fine place to dine in good weather.
|Marinated and grilled cornish hen.|
For a starter, don’t miss the stuffed zucchini flowers ($13). Feather-light and encased in a crunchy batter that resembles the most artful Japanese tempura, they are filled with fontina cheese and accompanied by a zesty sauce of fresh tomato. Placed on a bed of spicy arugula, they will awaken the most jaded of appetites.
A dozen pasta dishes are available as either half or full orders, and most are perfectly executed. There is a classic and beautiful rendition of linguine with clams ($11/19), featuring al dente pasta, toasted garlic, pristine and oceanic baby clams, and the natural juices from those bivalves as they open. Risotto mare ($12/19) is equally impressive, with the firm grains of rice bathed in an intense seafood reduction, studded with tender calamari and shrimp.
Among the main courses, there are hits and misses. The pork chop Milanese ($26) is lightly breaded, flavorful and artfully cooked; it arrives with a small mountain of arugula and tomato salad topped with slices of Parmigiano Reggiano. The snapper Livornese ($29) is less successful. The fresh, high-quality fish is smothered with a sauce of tomatoes, onions, capers and olives, which is slightly greasy and appears to be pre-cooked. A delightful side dish of sautéed spinach ($8), fresh and tender, saves the day. If you’re out for a casual evening of gourmet pleasure, begin with a salad and choose from the comprehensive list of pizzas and calzones; you won’t be disappointed.
The wine list is short but well-chosen. The 100 or so selections are a mix of Italy and California, with emphasis on small, noncommercial producers. A bottle of Jankara Vermentino ($42) was crisp and lively, with a rich texture offset by good acidity.
|Wood oven-baked pizza.|
Service is friendly and well-intentioned but spotty. On the night of our visit, dishes did not emerge from the kitchen as ordered, despite the restaurant being less than half full. One of them was forgotten, even though we made a point of reminding the waiter of it. The manager did nothing to remedy the problems, though he was aware they existed.
D’Angelo Trattoria is an engaging neighborhood restaurant with good food and an intimate, rustic atmosphere. The space is small and reservations are advisable, particularly in the season. With a bit more attention to detail, it can take its place next to Angelo Elia’s other award-winning eateries.
|Burrata over roasted fava beans.|
WHERE: 9 SE 7th Ave., Delray Beach (561-330-1237; dangelotrattoria.com)
OPEN: Dinner Sunday through Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday through Saturday, 5-11 p.m.
FOOD: Rustic Italian
ATMOSPHERE: Casual and comfortable
SERVICE: Well-intentioned but spotty
DRESS: Come as you are
The dining terrace at D’Angelo Trattoria.