My Angelo’s Wine Bar dining experience: I went to Rome and back!

The Angelo’s pizza: a slice of Chicago history!

I watched La Dolce Vita a few nights after dining at Angelo’s Wine Bar. I’d felt like in a dream at Angelo’s, and now I wanted to go back, to be in Rome again, following in the footsteps of Marcello and Sylvia as they wandered through a city that was as mysterious as it was opulent. Being a guest at Angelo’s truly felt like being in Rome. Far from the skyscrapers of the city, in a neighborhood where style and comfort meet, here I was, savoring every moment of one of the most beautiful nights I’d ever experienced. Why face the crowds, the impossible parking and the stress downtown when you can enjoy quality food in your own neighborhood? Oh, what a gorgeous night – and what a gorgeous restaurant 🙂

My high expectations were surpassed the minute I set foot in Angelo’s Wine Bar in Albany Park. Once you get past the newly added 700-sq ft outdoor patio and into the restaurant, you enter a tastefully decorated sharp and sleek interior, which puts you in a good mood. You expect excellent dishes to match such interior design – and the eclectic menu created by executive chef Julia Helton is the perfect match.

Angelo’s Wine Bar was originally an Italian pizzeria founded by Jimmy Angelo in 1962. The business was sold to Manny Fakhoury in 1983, who passed it along to his brother in 1999. Manny’s nephew Ramez Fakhoury started helping in 2004, and turned this Albany Park legendary spot into a sophisticated sit-down restaurant.
                                                            

As expected, the menu features an elaborate wine selection, along with craft beers, house-made barrel-aged vermouth and classic cocktails. You can sample top shelf Old World, New World and Italian wines to your heart’s content: from exuberant champagnes to delicate rosés and full-bodied reds, wines are available by the glass and by the bottle, and sky is the limit when it comes to flavors, aromas and appellations.

The interior of the restaurant strikes you as welcoming and comfortable thanks to the clever use of warm colors and lighting. At the same time, the place feels modern and hip as a result of the ingenious incorporation of technology. I instantly felt at home at Angelo’s Wine Bar:

Ensuring the perfect dining experience is essential to owner Ramez Fakhoury, who wants to stay true to Angelo’s Italian heritage. As a result, classic Italian movies are played on the big TV screens most of the time.

Can this still image from the 1961 movie La Notte get any more beautiful? 🙂

Angelo’s contemporary Italian-inspired menu features antipasti, shared plates, pizzas and pastas, and I couldn’t wait to see how it fared. My first pick was the roasted portobello salad with tomato confit, red onion, gorgonzola, toasted almonds and balsamic vinaigrette over arugula.

The roasted mushrooms were meaty and wholesome, and they sang beautiful songs in my mouth in combination with the arugula. I’m not a fan of gorgonzola, but it was the perfect choice to complement these veggies and the vibrant and playful citrus supreme, with added prosecco (a fitting salad ingredient for a wine bar). The balsamic vinaigrette ensured the coherence and cohesiveness of the dish, rendered deliciously crunchy by the addition of the almonds. Angelo’s definitely knows it best!

The pizza section of Angelo’s menu includes classic favorites along with some new crowd pleasers. Since I had already tried “the new” (as epitomized by the roasted portobello salad), for my main course I decided to do things differently and to go back in time, to a pizza that spoke volumes about Angelo’s history. I picked The Angelo’s variety, with Italian sausage, pepperoni, caramelized onion, mushrooms, green pepper and San Marzano tomatoes. A veritable blast from the past, the recipe for this pizza has been the same since 1962!

The pizza crust had a nice crunchiness, which according to owner Ramez Fakhoury comes from the addition of beer to the pizza dough. I was also impressed with the flavor of the Italian sausage, made in-house with a unique blend of spices. The peppers provided freshness to this classic dish, while the mozzarella made each bite decadent and delicious.

Oodles of mozzarella on pizza served at candlelight: perfection!

The night came as I was eating my pizza, and the lights went on at Angelo’s, providing myriads of colors and a sensory experience to behold. On-screen now was Fellini’s classic La Dolce Vita:

A live jazz concert rounded up my dining experience and made the evening even more special (live jazz is performed in the restaurant every Wednesday and Saturday night). Sound after sound filled up the space, high after low, low after high, with piercing warmth and sepia-steeped beauty, for a truly outstanding experience:

I left Angelo’s Wine Bar walking on clouds, happy and relaxed, like under a magic spell. I had traveled to Rome and back in the space of a couple of hours, and my journey through food and drinks, movies and music, had been nothing short of wonderful. As I delved into the night, it was clear to me that this was not the end, and that I would go back to Angelo’s for more enchanting experiences. No need to fly to Rome, no need to drive downtown: glorious dining awaits in Albany Park, as the day gives way to night.

*Disclaimer: While I received a complimentary tasting to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.


Leave a Reply