Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By N.L. ENGLISH
OGUNQUIT - Angelina's Ristorante and Wine Bar sets a fast pace for fine Italian meals in Maine. We raised our glasses for a toast and set to appetizers with delight, then encountered entrees replete with vibrant lemon and capers and utterly fresh swordfish.
Najib El Karmach, left, Huba Mozes and Atanas Dinkov set the tables on the terrace, one of the dining areas at Angelina’s Ristorante and Wine Bar in Ogunquit, in anticipation of a bustling dinner hour.
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
ANGELINA'S RISTORANTE AND WINE BAR, 655 Main St., Route 1, Ogunquit. 646-0445; Angelinasristorante.com
HOURS: Open at 4:30 almost every night year-round
CREDIT CARDS: Visa and Mastercard
PRICE RANGE: $15 to $27
VEGETARIAN DISHES: Yes
GLUTEN-FREE: Risotto and pasta, by request
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
BOTTOM LINE: The owner of Angelina's Ristorante promises excellent pork chop Parmesan, and I can vouch for zuppa di pesce you will love. Clearly, this restaurant's long menu is a worthwhile work in progress for lucky repeat customers.
Rating based on a five-star scale. It is the policy of the Maine Sunday Telegram to visit an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory.
Would dessert maintain the quality we'd enjoyed and repeat those pure flavors?
Indeed it would, rounding up a trifecta of winners one evening and giving every indication the rest of the menu could do the same.
Of course, it isn't luck. Witness the servers in a race with the kitchen and the kitchen under siege on a busy August Friday night. Experience and knowledge graced the pretty plates of food and the assured way the server spoke of items on the menu and wine list. Experience even informed the graceful apology we received for a misplaced order that caused a delay in dinner.
Supplied with an extra plate, we shared one entree before the other was ready, and enjoyed ourselves very much.
Nine Stones Barossa Shiraz 2007 ($8.75) from southeastern Australia proved a full-bodied, dark-red wine tasting of blackberries and black cherries, with a velvety texture. Villa Pozzi Nero d'Avola 2008 ($8.25) from Sicily shared that inky dark-red color but enjoyed more acidity and structure to balance its abundant fruit.
In any event, there are 27 wines to enjoy by the glass and 90 by the bottle.
The restaurant, which opened in 2005, has engulfed a small building. Parking spaces are wedged into every bit of available asphalt. Plants spill out around the front and under the sign, and flank the entry path that borders a garden terrace under a tent, perfect for dining on a summer night and with heaters for the fall.
A round hydrangea blossom in a square glass vase decorated our black granite table in the lounge, a table equipped with a square bottle of olive oil to moisten chewy white Borealis bread.
An extravagant flower arrangement at the end of the bar showed off some of the restaurant's high spirits.
Chef/owner David Giarusso Jr. named the business after his grandmother, Angelina Peluso, who clearly passed down her cooking skills as well as her recipes. Giarusso himself came up with the zuppa di pesce ($12 as an appetizer, $23 as an entree).
"I love bouillabaisse -- we only got that on Christmas Eve. I added a little twist with fresh basil and basil-infused oil," Giarusso said, adding that each serving is done to order.
The mussels, one huge utterly tender sea scallop, chunks of salmon and a large, resilient Gulf shrimp were all worthy of appreciation, but garlicky, concentrated broth transformed the group picture into a masterpiece made of celery, tomatoes, herbs and spices.
Goat cheese salad ($9) was a more modest combination, with three fried, crunchy balls of hot, delicious goat cheese perfectly matched by a mustardy dressing on fresh mesclun.
Angelina's has a long menu of Italian classics, including an antipasto plate of Italian cold cuts and cheese with roasted peppers and eggplant, fried calamari, fried ravioli, gnocchi in gorgonzola cream sauce and much more. Among many pasta dishes are lobster ravioli, both meat and vegetarian lasagna and a variety of Parmesan dishes.
"I go the extra mile with the breading," Giarusso said. "I pay extra to use the Progresso bread crumbs."
Risottos, including one with lobster and another with shellfish, are a specialty.
Unable to order all we might have wished to taste, my friend and I were drawn to the meat and fish entrees. Swordfish piccata ($25) set on toothsome capellini showcased more of the restaurant's fresh seafood, the meaty fish moist and juicy. Grilled with lemon, the swordfish made a persuasive argument for complete simplicity.
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