Somewhere in my dreams, there is a little neighborhood Italian cafe, like the ones in Bologna (or New York, for that matter), with butcher paper on the tables and a jovial chef who can make his mother’s specialty pastas and will charge you a fraction of what they’re worth.
The cheese tastes fresher, the bread is crustier, and words like “local” and “homemade” are a given, not a selling point.
In Los Angeles, this place is All’ Angolo (“the Corner”), a 16-seat authentic Italian cafe disguised as Koreatown’s favorite place for takeout pizza. Since it quietly opened in 2011, most of All’ Angolo’s sales have been done over the phone — with locals calling in an order, then patiently waiting for the bubbly pies to come out of the oven, some of them topped with the standard veggies or Italian sausage, others more interestingly with clams, palm-sized slivers of fresh Parmesan cheese or drizzles of balsamic vinegar.
But those who take the time to sit inside for a meal are rewarded with the realization that All’ Angolo is still — surprisingly and secretly — one of the best and most affordable places for handmade pasta in L.A.
“The food tastes better if you eat it here,” my server said recently, after selling me and my friend on an order of the $9 strozzapreti alla trentina (corkscrews in a cream sauce with prosciutto and Italian cabbage) and the daily special, a $22 plate of al dente pomodoro linguine served with a full half-lobster in the shell. “It’s best when it’s hot, right out of the kitchen.”
Behind All’ Angolo’s menu, though not always manning its kitchen, is chef Giuseppe Musso, who along with restaurateur Alessandro Polastri first opened Amarone Kitchen and Wine next to the Viper Room in 2007. Both hail from the northern Italian state of Emilia-Romagna, a food lover’s paradise that’s the birthplace of Parmigiano-Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto di Parma, Bolognese sauce, tortellini and more.
Unlike Amarone’s white tablecloths and deep wine list, All’ Angolo is so casual that there are only two wine options: house red and house white, at $5.50 a glass each.
The prices seem almost too humble for a city where similar Italian experiences can cost three times as much. Pastas — all of which (besides the angel hair) are made on-site — use many of the family recipes Polastri and Musso brought to Amarone, including the $9 lasagna alla Bolognese (Polastri grew up in Bologna) and the $11 mussel-and-clam-stocked linguine alla riviera (Musso is from the coast). Rotating specials include ravioli, seasonal seafood antipasti and platters of braised short rib with mashed potatoes. Portions are Italian-style, which is to say generous, and come with customer service to match.
I still fantasize about traveling back to Europe for a dinner at one of those cozy little butcher-papered neighborhood cafes, but for now, stuck in L.A., I'm dreaming of an All’ Angolo on every corner.
4050 W. Third St., Koreatown; (213) 368-7888, allangolopizza.com.