I’ve been thinking for a while why I don’t care about most Best Restaurant Lists.
I think it’s because my criteria for a great restaurant just aren’t covered in the traditional Best Of lists. Food matters, and preparation, and atmosphere, but you know what else matters? Haimish. Haimish, the Yiddish word that means homey, humane, comfortable, human. Hard to define, but, like mensch, you know it when you see it. (Okay, the Supreme Court says the same thing about pornography, but so be it.)
A haimish restaurant can cost $200 per person or $2—it’s all about how the place and the people make you feel while you’re there.
That said, I don’t have a list of Foodaism’s Top Restauants—give me a week—but I discovered a local place that I know will be on it: All’Angolo.
All’Angolo is a place that shouldn’t exist: a small, neighborhood Italian restaurant wedged into a strip mall between a liquor store and a Baskin-Robbins. It’s at Third and Ardmore, a block where you expect to see Jonathan Gold stumbling out of a Koreatown dive stuffed with raw crab panchan and ideas of ‘80s punk hits to compare them to. The last thing this neighborhood deserves is a vigorous Italian chef in dress whites whipping up an espresso zabaglione with a fresh strawberry garnish. But thank God Giuseppe Musso doesn’t know that.
I’ve now eaten lunch at All-Angolo five times. Each time I drive slowly up to the corner—that’s English for all’angolo—I fully expect the microscopic storefront to have vanished, as if the owner, Musso, finally realized he had missed his geographic landfall by five miles east.
But I was there again twice this week, and so was he.
Signore Musso explained to me that he also owns the infinitely more chic 40-seat Amarone on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood. His brother-in-law found the new location and signed a lease, and it wasn’t clear that Polastri was 100 percent in favor.
“How long is the lease?” I asked.
“Ten years,” he said, a deep sense of “Mamma mia” in his reply.
But The Jewish Journal isn’t going anywhere, so this is actually great news for me.
All’Angolo doesn’t have 40 seats. It doesn’t have 20. It has, if you squeeze, 12. Three tables. The Baskin-Robbins is bigger. The first time I ate there, I was alone. Now, I have to wait, or, as I did last Thursday, sit with a very sweet Filipino family. Like I said, haimish.
The food is worth it. Cozy counts for something, but you go to eat. Polastri is in the kitchen along with another chef. They make their own pasta. The pesto Genovese is bright and fresh and flavorful, studded with perfectly cooked potatoes. A selection of pizzas with hand-thrown dough emerge thin and perfectly crisp. The cannelloni stuffed with fresh ricotta are light, almost fluffy. The sauce is homemade too, bubbling away on the stove above two feet from me. To start I usually get the arugula salad, tiled with thin slices of nutty parmesan, or the homemade minestrone. Perfect. If your standard is Mozza pizza, Sotto appetizers, Locanda or Vicenzo secondi—you won’t be at all disappointed.
But you will wonder if the bill is wrong. Because nothing on the menu costs more than $10. Lunch for two might be $30, if you worked out that morning. There is no wine or coffee (you can BYOB), but you can wash down the homemade zabaglione with Pelligrino.
But value is not the main point, nor is flavor, nor, even, is the warm welcome Polastri offers all his guests. What makes All’Angolo special is the gratitude you feel for knowing that in your own big city, there’s a little corner like this.
All’Angolo is located at
4050 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90020
In case you’re confused, no, it’s not kosher certified.