Angeli Caffe popped up Monday night with the same kitchen crew, the same servers, the same food and Evan Kleiman in charge, just as if it had never closed. Kleiman shuttered her Melrose Avenue restaurant in January after 27 years of service.
The pop-up happened at the Charleston in Santa Monica, where managing partner Jet Tila had asked longtime friend Kleiman to stage the gastrolounge's first pop-up dinner,
"It's so nice, we were all crying in the kitchen," said Kleiman, as she circulated in the dining room.
Servers were happy, too. "It feels great," said David Avanes, wearing his black Angeli T-shirt with angel wings on the back. The nights that Avanes didn't work at Angeli, he ate there. "It was like my kitchen," he said.
Customers still mourning the closure of the Caffe in January jammed into the Charleston. They happily sipped Angeli negronis, dipped the famous pizza bread in olive oil and nibbled on deep-fried rice balls stuffed with cheese. Then came platters of food to share, re-creating Angeli's family style dinners.
Antipasti plates held spicy carrots, grilled eggplant slices, borlotti beans and cheese. On the side were Caesar salad and mixed greens with shaved fennel and Parmesan.
Pink ricotta gnocchetti (roasted beets supplied the color) appeared next, and then servers brought steaming bowls of linguine with clams, seasoned with "tons of garlic," as the old menu used to say.
The main course was pollo arrosto, or roast chicken that had been marinated with garlic, fresh rosemary and lemon, accompanied by garlic lemon broccoli (this was a very garlicky dinner). Another platter held creamy lasagne Angeli with caramelized onions and spinach.
Two more staples from the old menu showed up for dessert, tiramisu and chocolate chunk bread pudding.
Evaluating the dinner, a Westside chef/customer said, "It's like home-cooked food, by someone who can really cook."
Both dinner seatings were sold out. If you didn't get in, don't grieve. You'll have another chance. "Jet and I are talking about making this a monthly thing," Kleiman announced.