A few weeks ago, I had one of those boring domestic accidents that account for 90pc of fractures and ended up in hospital with a badly broken ankle requiring surgery, plates and all that malarkey. Thankfully, I had a few reviews in the bag, but then I ran out and had to summon up my courage and venture out on my crutches and knee scooter, a handy little vehicle that doesn't do much for my dignity but did allow me to leave the house for the first time. Until I became - temporarily - someone with mobility issues, I had given scant thought to the issue as it relates to restaurants. Now I am aware of every pavement and step, I need to know what the loo situation is, and the choice of restaurants open to me has shrunk dramatically.
I hadn't visited Angelina's before, but I reckoned from driving past that it looked a promising option: a large space at ground floor level, seemingly without the steps and level changes that could cause me to come a cropper. A pre-visit enquiry confirmed that Angelina's is fully wheelchair accessible.
We went for an early family dinner on a Saturday, and it was made clear at the time of booking that the table would be ours from 6.30pm until 9pm, which seemed fair enough. Gerry Crossan (you'd recognise him from Sophie's, San Lorenzo and Town Bar & Grill) is now running front of house, and the ship is tight, with a team of young wait staff who are on the ball and friendly without over-doing it.
We were allocated a spacious semi-circular booth with room to elevate the offending leg and from where there was a fine view of three Richard Gorman artworks on the wall by the entrance.
The dinner menu is commendably short, and pitched to have mass appeal. The sensibility is Cal-Ital, without any hangups about authenticity. That's not meant as a criticism, rather that the kitchen is aiming for great flavour combinations and general deliciousness, rather than agonising about whether the Neapolitans would ever come up with a pizza topped with barbecue beef, jalapenos, caramelised onion and fontina cheese, as they do at Angelina's.
A platter of charred, pizza-style bread gets us off to a good start, and four starters between five of us is plenty; the portions are generous. Our favourites are the burrata - oozily, creamily lush - with bacon onion jam and rosemary focaccia, and the slow-cooked pork belly with a green bean, shallot, kale and apple salad, a full-flavoured dish with plenty going on in terms of texture and contrast.
We like the 'Grand Pandano Parmesan' [sic - not a cheese that exists as far as I know] bon bons, although they are overwhelmed by the aubergine caponata that accompanies them, but the grilled octopus salad with scallions, celery leaf, baby potatoes and black aioli (made with squid ink) lacks oomph. The star main course is an enormous rose veal chop, served with lemon parsley butter, a concentrated jus, and a silky pomme purée that I'd guess is made with equal parts butter and potato. Yes, it costs €39, and yes, it's worth it.
The fillet is its almost-equal: tender, flavoursome meat served with foie gras peas and a balsamic pepper sauce that's the right side of retro. Pizzas - a simple pepperoni, and a more complex version with veal meatballs, oregano, spinach and hot sauce - are perfectly thin and crisp with a fine char from the wood-burning oven.
The only dud is tagliolini with Dublin Bay prawn and smoked bacon - there's too much heavy, eggy pasta, and the over-sweet tomato sauce overwhelms both the crustaceans and the bacon. Parmesan fries are served in a cute little copper dish and are as good as they sound, but a gratin of broccoli, leek and bacon is clumsy.
For dessert, we share a terrific vanilla sundae made with honeycomb that's teetering deliciously on the edge of burnt, toasted pecans and a salted caramel sauce, and zabaglione - light, eggy custard - with strawberries, sorbet and strawberry popcorn. Both are old-fashioned desserts in the best sense of the word - throwing it all to the winds in their to-hell-with-the- sugar-police defiance.
Our bill for five, including two bottles of wine (Telmo Rodriguez Rueda from Spain and Caranto Pinot Noir from Italy) at €35 each, water, tea and coffees, comes to €286 before service, which is neither cheap nor over the top.
As we get ready to leave, the bar is filling up with well-dressed thirty-somethings waiting for the tables to come free for the second dinner sitting. Angelina's has a full bar and I hear that the cocktails merit exploration, but I'll wait until I'm back on my feet before I embark on that particular journey.
ON A BUDGET
To experience Angelina’s without breaking the bank, drop in for one of their excellent pizzas. The margherita is €13. At lunchtime, Tuscan soup with crumbled goat’s cheese is €7.50.
ON A BLOW OUT
Start with a cocktail, follow with the grilled octopus salad, veal rib and a couple of sides, and finish with a shared dessert and cheese, accompanied by water and a bottle of San Biagio Barolo (€96) and your bill for two will be over €250 before service.
THE HIGH POINT
Relaxed glamour, generous, confident food, and great service.
THE LOW POINT
That we didn’t try the cocktails.
8/10 value for money
Loam, Enda McEvoy’s Michelin-starred restaurant in Galway, has been awarded a Three Star Food Made Good award — the highest possible — by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Among the features of the restaurant that the judges noted were the in-house grow boxes for herbs and flowers, a menu that’s kept deliberately short to minimise food waste, and a reliance on preserving through pickling and fermentation. Loam is also involved in food education with local schools. Oh, and the food is pretty tasty too.