Occasionally, a restaurant surprises me. Angelo’s Wine Bar at 3026 W. Montrose Ave. in Albany Park is a true neighborhood gem and one of the finest casual Italian restaurants I have sampled anywhere in the Chicagoland area. The food and cocktails are superb and the price points are quite reasonable. If you are accustomed to dining in downtown areas with a high concentration of restaurants, you will find the journey to Albany Park well worth the time and effort. Angelo’s provides a hip vibe, great food, and a relaxing casual atmosphere that is hard to beat anywhere else in the city.
Although Angelo’s began as a modest pizza restaurant way back in the 1960s, by 2015 it had been totally transformed by owner Ramez Fakhoury into a chic, comfortable and modern wine bistro with a hip attitude, live jazz, and weekend brunch. The contemporary Italian-inspired menu features antipasti, shared plates, pastas and entrées, a robust wine selection, house-made vermouth, and elegant cocktails. The final piece of the transformation, a spacious outdoor patio, was completed this past June.
On a recent visit, my guest and I sampled a number of signature items on the Angelo’s menu. For starters, you must experience their barrel-aged cocktails. Angelo’s specializes in house-made vermouth, but also has crafted two barrel-aged cocktails that will only be available for as long as this particular batch lasts. The Manhattan was absolutely one of the best I have tasted in a long while. Ditto to the Negroni. For a nice post-prandial moment, try sipping on the house-made vermouth (and thank me afterwards).
The dinner menu is divided into Antipasti (appetizers), Per La Tavola (portions that are shareable in a ‘tapas’ style), Pasta, and Pizza. We sampled one from each section of the menu:
- Antipasti: Burrata Mostarda (Burrata Mozzarella, Fruit Mostarda, Candied Cashew, Toasted Olive Oil Bread). The combination of flavors here is marvelous – the creamy cheese, sweet fruit, savory/sweet cashew, and olive oil on the bread. Any one item could stand alone, but together this is a perfectly balanced appetizer.
- Per La Tavola: Shrimp Scampi (Butter, Garlic, Lemon, Italian Herb, White Truffle, Parmesan, Grilled Bread Trio). If I had to pick one item to award a “best of the evening” it would be this one. The shrimp are served in a small cruet, swimming in the decadent sauce. The addition of the truffles elevates this up several notches, and the grilled bread (perfect alone) becomes something unbelievable when dipped into the sauce. My guest and I fought over the last drops of sauce in the bowl.
- Pasta: Drunken Bucatini (Meat Sauce, Red Wine, Beef Stock, Shaved Parmesan). All of the pastas are made in-house with the exception of this bucatini. Nevertheless, this is one of their signature dishes and comes highly recommended. The pasta is cooked in red wine (hence the “drunken” in the name) and then served with a delectable meat sauce. The red wine gives the pasta a subtle hint of flavor that completely transforms this from a traditional Bolognese to something quite unique and delicious.
- Pizza: BBQ Pork (Braised Pork Shoulder, Carolina BBQ Sauce, Caramelized Onion, Jalapeno, Cilantro) My guest and I are both native Southerners (one from SC, one from NC) so the idea of that central SC-inspired mustard-based BBQ sauce was intriguing to us. I love the idea of non-traditional pizza, and this was both unique and delicious. Gluten free dough is available for a small upcharge.
If you are lucky enough to live nearby, you may already think of Angelo’s Wine Bar as “your neighborhood spot.” If you haven’t checked it out yet, it is well worth a short trip to Albany Park.