When Gino and Elizabeth Angelini opened their restaurant in West Hollywood 20 years ago, it was just a few weeks after the September 11th attacks. Tourism shut down, Angelenos stayed home out of fear and the tables of their investment sat empty. Catering suffered as business meetings and events were abruptly cancelled.
Even though that date changed our country’s landscape forever, the Angelinis recovered and breathed a sigh of relief, never imagining they’d ever experience something close to that again.
Married 17 years, the couple went on to develop the Angelini Restaurant Group which includes the casual Angelini Osteria and its loyal following, Angelini Alimentari, a catering arm and Gino Angelini Authentic Artisanal sauces.
Some of the city’s most celebrated Los Angeles chefs have blazed their own trails through Gino’s kitchen, including Ori Menashe of Bestia/Bavel and Ezio Pucconi of Amici. Nicola Mastronardi from Vincenti was his sous chef in Italy.
“We were scared but still felt lucky when we opened,” Gino, who first came to Los Angeles in 1995 to open the formal Rex Ristorante, tells L.A. Weekly. “We were so much luckier than the people in those buildings in New York.”
At age 68, Gino was scared once again when the pandemic threatened both his life and his livelihood.
“After 9/11, it was so uncomfortable for anyone to celebrate, you couldn’t even think along those lines,” says Elizabeth in the now reopened and buzzing dining room. “Being a neighborhood spot, people felt comfortable coming in and I think that’s what helped us as well as being casual, which was a newer concept at the time in Los Angeles. Our model was to bring down the atmosphere but keep up the quality. Regulars called and swore they wouldn’t allow anyone to destroy one more thing. And now with the pandemic, the Los Angeles community has gone the extra mile to support restaurants. We are getting so much love and support from our regulars.”
Some of the signature items those dedicated regulars have to come to love are the grilled Colorado lamb chops, fried burrata with chopped tomato “Checca,” and balsamic vinegar as well as the cavatelli pasta with lobster, peas saffron and tomatoes. Another draw is the charm and supreme knowledge of wine pairings that maitre’d Girolamo “Ginetto” Rindone brings to the table while managing the dining room and its guests. That and of course, the pizzas, which helped keep the ship afloat during the pandemic as well as the bottled pasta sauces and other projects.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” says Elizabeth. “After Osteria, we started another business five years ago that focused on casual and takeout, so we were fortunate to have those platforms in place which makes us blessed under these circumstances.”
Another pivot was creating celebration pods which were individually packaged full meals. A pod could be seven or six dinners that could feed socially distanced clusters.
“People had weddings on tennis courts with one family sitting at one table and another spaced safely,” says Elizabeth. “Each family would receive their pod package with only their seven dinners and utensils. We’re still continuing that today. It worked great for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
So how does a couple manage to stay married after working and living together all day every day?
“It’s much easier when you have this big love,” says Gino, who grew up in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother in San Clemente, a small town in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy. “You’re never free when you’re a chef, so that’s how we stay together.”
Elizabeth concurs. Gino has 100 percent autonomy in the kitchen, Ginetto manages the dining room and guests, and Elizabeth is in the back of the house office. “Aside from husband and wife disagreements, we have never had a business disagreement,” she says. “We stay out of each other’s way.”
With indoor dining back and cozy outdoor tables that line Beverly Blvd, the Angelinis keep moving forward and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. On Thursday, April 29, the osteria will contribute meals to the LA Family Housing Home Together virtual fundraiser.
“Our team has been so brave and our clients so supportive,” says Elizabeth. “Now there’s a kind of renaissance going on. We’re busier than ever, it’s like the roaring ‘20s. Surviving has only made us stronger and we will keep evolving.”