Don’t let the name fool you—Angelina Pizza Bar offers more then just pizza. This family-friendly restaurant near West 105th Street not only has extensive Italian fare and a decent wine list but Chef Giancarlo Delanzo cooks his crazy creations in a brick oven with a rotating floor. As pies like the Bella Angelina (with zucchini flowers, smoked salmon and goat cheese, $18 or $24) or the Bianco Forte (with garlic, ricotta, mozzarella, spicy sausage and hot peppers, $16 or $22) circle the fire, Delanzo dishes up small bowls with various meats, cheese and vegetables. Within minutes, the pizzas have cooked and the chef has completed an antipasti plate ($6 to $14). A bright-eyed waiter picks it up and the process starts again.
Not bad for the first week. While it’s obvious the restaurant still has kinks to work out and more staff to train (Angelina only opened in early July), so far they appear to have things together. By 7 p.m. on a Friday, most of the 20-odd tables, inside and out, were full of families and neighborhood people chowing down on large, steaming bowls of penne primavera ($12), spaghetti con polpettine (tiny meatballs) ($12), pizzas and hearty bowls of soup ($6).
My companion and I opted to start out with an antipasti plate laden with prosciutto, sopressata, artichoke, vidalia onions, tomato salad, portabella mushrooms, parmigianino and gorgonzola. Yes, there are even more options from which to choose. The presentation of the dish was superb and the portions more then generous. We both enjoyed the meats and cheese immensely, especially slathering the placid gorgonzola over the warm, toasted bread sticks. Where the meat prevailed, though, the vegetables tasted bland. In between bites, we sipped a mildly spicy Monte Degli Angeli Pinot Noir ($7.50 a glass, $26 for a bottle).
For two people, the medio antipasti proved quite satisfying. Too satisfying, perhaps, since already we felt full and still had pizza coming. On recommendation from our waiter, we ordered the Verde ($14 or $20) and the meatball ($14 or $20) pizzas. Both are made on a super thin crust (you can also get a thicker, “old fashioned” crust). From the carefully cultivated wine list created by Joseph Sangiovanni, we paired our meal with a glass of the rustic and fruity Primitivo di Salento ($8 for a glass or $30 for a bottle).
When the meatball pizza came out, I was surprised at how little of the handmade meatballs actually graced our pie. I imagine meatballs to be big, hunking things, so I was disappointed to see tiny piles of ground beef scattered superfluously on the pizza instead. After the first bite, though, any reservations I had were diminished. The flavorful meat combined well with the sharp pecorino and thin tomato slices. While I savored its flavor, next time I would get the old fashioned crust since the oil from the cheese soaked right through, making it slightly soggy.
The next pie came out and where the meatballs seemed scant, this pizza had raw arugula piled high. It looked like a salad had been built on our pizza. We took our waiters advice and awkwardly drizzled balsamic on the leaves. It had a decent flavor, but raw greens on a hot pie just felt wrong. Underneath the foliage, we found a nice layer of baby spinach encased in melted mozzarella. Now that was good. I ended up shucking the arugula and finishing the pie sans salad.
After eating most of the pizzas, my companion and I swore we would never gorge again. But then dessert came. Forgoing the “build your own sundae” bar, we decided to try the tiramisu. A good call, as it was one of the best tiramisus I have ever had the pleasure of devouring. Dense and rich, each layer played a distinct flavor on my tongue, and even though I didn’t think it possible to eat any more, we finished the entire thing and were on the verge of licking the plate. In the end, although Angelina’s specialty is pizza, wine, appetizers and dessert can make a perfectly satisfying meal.
Angelina Pizza Bar
Entrees: $12 to $22
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