I have eaten at Casa D’Angelo a number of times over the years, and it has been a long time favourite of mine. I decided to check up on this Ft. Lauderdale institution once more. Don’t be put off by the unassuming strip mall location at 1201 North Federal Highway. You can self-park free of charge or valet, both options are very convenient. The restaurant is upscale, with a relaxed atmosphere. On a Saturday night the place is packed. Although they have expanded over the years, the last time I went every nook and cranny in every room was filled, as well as the outdoor patio in front. The crowd was chic and stylish but on the older side. It’s nice to see tablecloths and a more formal type of service. The noise level is high, the place was buzzing.
The menu is quite large with unique takes on Tuscan-style cuisine, plus the waiters ramble off a number of nightly specials. The servers are polite, knowledgeable and provide great recommendations based on your preferences. Chef Angelo Elia still cooks in the kitchen and occasionally greets familiar guests.
It’s a nice touch to receive complimentary antipasti consisting of cheese, olives, bruschetta and onion flatbread when seated. This gives you time to peruse the menu at a leisurely pace and not starve. For me, the best thing about the restaurant is its superb wine list. It is a book of over 60 pages of carefully chosen wines and is one of the best lists anywhere. There is also a nice selection of half bottles, large format and wines by the glass. They also offer upper-end wines by the glass as they utilize the Corvina system that takes out the oxygen and replaces it with argon. This keeps the wine tasting fresh for up to 60 days. We opted to do this. I would rather spend $40 on a great glass of wine than $50-100 on a so-so bottle.
We started with the meatballs and Italian sausage and it was a nice hearty dish. We also had some burrata with roasted peppers and eggplant. The vegetables were the best part of that dish, but I have had better burrata on many occasions. One thing not mentioned on the menu is you can get most of the pasta dishes as half portions. This way you can enjoy them as an appetizer or do as we did and try three as a main course to share. The gnocchi alla mama with fresh tomatoes, basil, and fresh buffalo mozzarella was not very good. The pasta was heavy, not light and fluffy as it should be. I like my gnocchi to melt in the mouth and be more pillow-like. The pappardelle con porcini with fresh tomatoes in a white wine sauce was another disappointment. I remember this being an outstanding dish in the past, but on this night I found it dry, lacking in flavour, and the porcini’s were waterlogged, plus I didn’t see any fresh tomatoes. The best of all the pastas was the lasagne with ragu meat, mozzarella and parmigiana reggiano. But was it my favourite lasagne ever, not by a long shot. This one was on the dry side, didn’t ooze with cheese, oil and sauce, but, it was still good. The seafood pastas all looked good with large shrimp or lobster. But why serve a frozen lobster from South Africa when you can get superior Maine lobster right in your own country??
For dessert, the ricotta cheesecake was absolutely awful and dry. Why call it cheesecake when you can’t detect any cheese? The warm apple tart was a better choice, baked in a phyllo crust and served with a good quality cinnamon ice cream.
I am not sure if my tastes have changed over the years or if the restaurant just isn’t as consistent as it once was, and thus doesn’t merit my high recommendations anymore. I hope it returns to its former glory and even sets new standards showcasing its once culinary magic.