ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
I vividly remember a dinner I had there a few years ago. Mr. Tony came to the table with the hug he’s famous for. Dale, the dining room manager, came out too. “You want some tripe? We have some pasta puttanesca tonight. No, wait–pasta Milanese. Too bad you didn’t come in last week, because we had the last of the home-grown cucuzzas.” On and on. This is Tony Angello’s.
And then comes the food. Pasta in a shape I’d never seen before (like little horns), with chunks of beef and a spicy sauce of tomatoes and cream. Oysters Bienville, always good here. The artichoke soup. Last time I ate this was in early 1977, while working up a review. It tasted tonight exactly as it did then.
The pasta Milanese (note: second pasta in this dinner) was extraordinarily good, with a thick tomato sauce well tinged with fennel. It came from somebody’s back yard, Dale said. Then tripe in a tomato sauce with potatoes. Tender and spicy. I learned that Mr. Tony doesn’t eat tripe, he just cooks it.
In the spare moments among all this largesse, I noticed something I always do here, but forget until I see it again. The dining room is always dressed up with the presence of at least three or four beautiful young women and their husbands or boyfriends. Also here every night: at least two tables with people you know from the news.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Few local restaurants enjoy as enthusiastic a group of regular customers than does Tony Angello’s. Although the clientele is tilting to the older side (so what?), people of all ages and from all neighborhoods are here. The draw is an assortment of complete dinners at very attractive prices, with enough unique items to make dining her seem special. The ultimate menu, ordered by three out of four diners, is the “Feed Me, Mr. Tony,” with a dozen or so specials of the evening in four or five courses.
The menu has always been a mix of Creole and Italian cooking. Tony’s range is much wider than you might imagine, and if you become a friend of the restaurant (easier to do now than in the restaurant’s heyday, when you could barely get past the door if you weren’t a regular) and express an interest, you’ll find yourself eating dishes not often seen anywhere else. New shapes of pasta with new sauces. Tripe. Cucuzzas from somebody’s back yard. It’s always interesting.
Tony Angello’s history is dominated by hurricane Katrina. The restaurant was inundated ten feet deep by the levee break a few blocks away. Nevertheless, Mr. Tony, on the verge of his eighties, decided he had to repair and reopen. The restaurant was so popular in its early years in Gentilly (it was called the Black Orchid then) that when it moved to Lakeview in the early 1970s, for many years its phone number was unlisted.
The large main dining room has low lighting and a conviviality that’s not ruined by loudness. (How they accomplish that with such a low ceiling is a mystery.) It’s more comfortable than elegant, with an antique quality, even though the entire interior needed to be rebuilt from the floor up after the storm. The wait staff is young but in the thrall of their boss. Mr. Tony is usually on hand, hanging in the bar to greet his customers. But longtime manager Dale Messina and Tony’s daughter run the day-to-day these days.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Lobster cup (a small casserole)
Angel hair with crab gravy or crawfish sauce
Pasta vaca (meat sauce) for two
Pasta ascuitta (light red sauce)
Pasta with pesto
Veal, chicken or eggplant parmigiana
Braciolone with eggplant Tina
Eggplant Tina (like lasagna, with eggplant instead of pasta)
Grilled rosemary chicken
Braised rabbit with tomatoes
Grilled sausage & peppers
FOR BEST RESULTS
Even though the days when there was always a long wait for a table are gone, it’s a good idea to reserve here, and show up a little early.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
In the Feed, there will always be at least two mediocre items. It’s also a mystery as to why this place often serves pasta twice in a single meal.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness -2
- Local Color +1
- Good for business meetings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations recommended