It’s rarely a good sign when a takeout/delivery joint offers everything from crab legs to linguini with clam sauce, plus grilled cheese, Italian beef, fried chicken, barbecued ribs, and pizza. But for decades that’s exactly what Angelo’s did from a dreary storefront in Albany Park. The harsh lighting did little to sell the cardboard slices moldering on display in the front window, but the place had its devotees. Then earlier this year things suddenly went dark and Angelo’s Wine Bar rose up behind the papered windows. Now it’s got a spiffy dinning room with reclaimed-wood walls interrupted by a solid line of flatscreens playing classic Italian cinema, a glassed-in wine cave, and an honest-to-god sommelier roaming around. It joins Breakroom Brewery and Ixcateco Grill in the upscaling trend taking over this once working-class neighborhood full of taquerias and South American chicken joints.
Frankly, I’m surprised the neighborhood is ready to embrace $108 bottles of Barolo, $12 old-fashioneds, and fennel and grape pizza, but it’s been busy. And besides, if you still want your cheesy Italian meatball sub, the old fast-food menu is still available for pick up and delivery.
The old pizzas are available too. Well, the crust is. Angelo’s has always trafficked in an undistinguished, dry, brittle crust that never weathered the display case or the delivery box very well. And it appears that hasn’t changed. But now there’s a whole lineup of fancy-pants custom toppings like butternut squash with truffled arugula, pesto asparagus, and shrimp with garlic cream. When presented with an overembellished roster such as this I always go for the minimal. But even something as simple at a margherita resembles nothing like the classic. It has a thick, sweet red sauce topped with halved grape tomatoes and fresh mozz, and then table side your server will smoosh a great gob of burrata in the middle of the pie, perhaps neglecting to explain what to do with it. It’s purported to be burrata, but it performs more like fresh ricotta. Either way this pizza is overwhelmed, and even though the crust tends to be stiff, it really can’t handle this top load. I miss Ciao Bella.
As I mentioned, the wine list has some very pricey bottles, but I did well with a $39 bottle of Sicilian red Centzone Frappato 2013. As you might imagine, Italy dominates this sizable list, but it’s global in scope, with more than 40 wines available by the glass.
The other bright side is that the auxiliary sections of Angelo’s food menu seem to perform a bit better than the pizzas: a grape tomato caprese salad with good balsamic vinegar and burrata that behaved the way it’s supposed to; a mound of sausage in a rich, thick tomato gravy with banana peppers and crispy new potatoes; and a simple plate of roasted vegetables all bode well for a new neighborhood hangout (if you can avoid the TV overload) that’s not like anything else in the area.
Angelo’s Wine Bar, 3026 W. Montrose, 773-539-0111, angeloswinebar.com