The summer was winding down and the Air and Water Show was in town, so we decided to stay close to our hood and try a place that we have been recommended to by many friends and acquaintances – Angelina Ristorante. What they failed to mention was the importance of timing for our visit.
Setting the Scene
Angelina is a quaint neighborhood-oriented, Northern Italian inspired restaurant. The Air and Water show AND a Cubs home game brought everyone out to enjoy summer’s waning days. We walked in at around 1-1:15pm and almost immediately walked out. With no clear host stand or available servers to seat us, and every table filled with Wrigley-bound party people, we had no idea what to do. It was overwhelming and required more energy than our casual-brunching sweatpants had in them. We retired to our mainstay, Bistro 750 to reassess.
Sunday at 11:30am proved to be a luckier hour for us, as we had our choice of tables at the full attention of the staff. While slow at first, we were well taken care of by Dalton and his compatriots.
Amenities and Accessibility
While a little narrow, the sidewalk patio does allow for some spectacular people watching, both for the workaday locals trying to get to the grocery store and the out-of-towners on a leisurely stroll.
A small lip at the entrance and two doors between sidewalk and restaurant may prove tricksome for some brunch goers.
The single-seat bathrooms are roomy, but the narrow passages by the bar and the kitchen may require thoughtful negotiation.
The tables are snugly situated, but the staff seemed willing to rearrange so long as capacity allowed. Larger parties or those with mobility considerations may ask to sit in the larger dining area.
Food and Drink
Angelina’s famous champagne brunch deal includes your choice of any brunch item and champagne for $23. If we were to have just read this as the menu states (4 drinks per entrée), we wouldn’t have thought this was a bottomless deal. We weren’t counting, but we might have gotten more than that, in spite of our short stay. Those J. Roget bubbles do go to the head quickly.
The menu is relatively small, however it includes brunch favorites like French toast, benedicts, and bagels and lox, as well as salads, sandwiches, and pasta. There is something for everyone on this menu.
Based on reports from many fronts, including trusted bartender Maura from Hutch, Jodie was determined to try the Rigatoni Bolognese. While not a traditional brunch choice, she was more than satisfied with her choice. Good lord.
The tomato cream sauce covered perfectly al dente rigatoni and hearty chunks of beef and veal. According to Dalton, the meat is marinated overnight in the sauce, thoroughly infusing it with flavor and rendering it fall-apart tender. Luscious. The roasted tomato cream sauce had a hint of spice we couldn’t pin down, but Dalton solved the mystery for us: cinnamon. Jodie has the leftovers and she cannot wait to eat them. The meat was so tempting that our beloved pescatarian Becky even tried a nibble. Such wonders! In her words, the essence of the dish is the sauce and the vehicle is the meat.
Becky decided on the Breakfast Croissant after careful deliberation between several items. While not a huge fan of croissants in general, it came highly recommended by Dalton, so she went for it minus the candied bacon and an addition of caramelized onions.
Before even trying the croissant, she dug into the perfectly roast-y, toast-y looking potatoes on the side. They were tender but crispy and accompanied by a healthy amount of pan-seared onion. It was a great portion size as well, and not overwhelming to the palate.
Onto the sandwich. All she could say is smoked mozzarella. That was the highlight and essence of this breakfast croissant. The other notes in the sandwich of buttery croissant, sweet and tangy onions, and the herby omelette-like eggs served to harmonize the beautiful symphony of flavors put forth by this dish. Truly delightful for the palate.
Cubs game day traffic. We mean the people. Walking by. After a game. It doesn’t matter if it was a win or a loss, there is always something to see. We’re certain there’s the makings of a drinking game in there somewhere.
The baby at the table next to us. Very well-behaved and cute as a button. No one walked by without stopping to say hi to her. We hope she runs for mayor.
Joe’s on Broadway. Easy to miss, but worth a visit, especially if veteran bartender Jack is on duty. Great drink specials, lots of history, and prime people watching. This is a Chicago Institution that everyone should visit. You know it’s a good dive bar because they don’t even have a website. Classic.
Summery playful decor. Angelina’s has both chandeliers and Dolce and Gabana party pictures AND beach toys. Festive and fancy!
Sexy slow jams brunch music. Whew.
Mondays at Angelina offers 1/2 price wine and Wednesdays are neighborhood night, with 20% off the bill for Lakeview residents. We cannot wait to come back for this as their dinner menu looks overwhelmingly indulgent.
While Angelina has a festive seasonal décor (we’d like to see what their Christmas look is going to give us), the lack of true bar, J. Roget, and the confusion in seating holds us back from a higher rating. That being said, the brunch at Angelina gets a sincere 7.5 out of 10. We had to go there twice to get one experience of their magnificent food, and that might put off some new patrons. Angelina is a place for regulars, but every new guest should be treated like a new regular. We’re willing to wait for good service (especially on a busy weekend), but some initial eye contact or greeting is truly needed here.
Pro Tips – Optimize Your Experience
- Sundays at Angelina are cash only. We were unaware of this when we returned for our second attempt, as this is not prominently advertised on their Facebook page or website. There is an ATM across the street as well as at the Jewel down the street.
- As with any brunch where you are drinking, use public transportation or car/taxi service. However, if you have friends who are not drinking, it is still wise to avoid driving as there is very little parking and it is a highly trafficked area, especially during Cubs season.
- Speaking of Cubs season and events (Pride, Market Days, Air and Water Show, concerts, etc.), for the love of god…make a reservation. Seating is tight and standing room is occupied by the staff.