L’Angolo Blue
Remarkable Italian cuisine abounds at this charismatic Blue Bell ristorante
by Bill Donahue

If, for some reason, I were forced to choose one style of cuisine—from one country or one part of the world, that is—to consume for the rest of my life, I would likely opt for Indian. There are so many reasons why: the variety, the distinctive flavors and, naturally, the mouth-searing heat that comes from a spicy curry or a proper vindaloo. My second option: Mediterranean, particularly the cuisine of Italy. After all, few things are more satisfying than a well-orchestrated Italian meal, especially when paired with a fine bottle of Chianti, Valpolicella or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

From the preamble (crusty loaves of just-baked bread and sharp Italian cheeses), to the main course (well-crafted pasta dishes and oven-crisped pizzas), to the encore (artfully crafted desserts and espressos), every good Italian meal boasts one essential ingredient: the caring, meticulous touch of its creator. I considered this as I walked through the door of L’Angolo Blue, a neighborhood gem since opening its doors in April 2012 at the intersection of Skippack and Penllyn Blue Bell pikes. I admit I’ve become something of a regular here over the past year or so, meeting friends for post-deadline drinks at the restaurant’s gorgeously lit bar. At happy hour, the vibe is enthusiastic, the crowd friendly, the specials (including free appetizers) generous. My interest, however, has typically been in the assortment of red wines rather than the food on the wide-ranging menu. This time, however, I (along with two companions) came to eat.

After enjoying apéritifs at the bar, we proceeded to a booth in the main dining room and started eyeing the menu. The mozzarella Caprese seemed like the perfect place to start. This simple yet masterful presentation—fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, all blessed with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil—took us by surprise, merely whetting our appetites for more. We quickly moved on to the antipasto Italiano. Whether you choose the combination of meats, cheeses and vegetables yourself or ask your server to make the selections for you, the presentation is flawless, the flavors fantastic. You have an abundance of options—from the piquancy of the spicy mushrooms and fiery long hot peppers, to the medley of hard and soft cheeses and imported Italian meats. This is an experience you will want to savor.

Although we could have filled up on the antipasto, we were well aware of the kitchen’s reputation for its delicate hand with Italian specialties of every kind, so we pressed on. The restaurant’s owners are from Gallipoli, a city in the heel of the boot along the Ionian Sea, so it’s no surprise that seafood is a specialty; the menu abounds with pasta dishes graced with lobster, crab, shrimp and clams, while “signature” dishes include capellini al Granchio, veal Gamberi and rigatoni Bolognese.

One of my dining companions chose the jumbo lump crabmeat risotto as her entrée, and she described it as “perfectly cooked, with a balanced mix of crabmeat and asparagus.” My other companion ordered a peppercorn-encrusted filet mignon. An 8-ouncer topped with gorgonzola, the filet looked and smelled (and, based on what she told me, tasted) like a stunner. I, meanwhile, chose the capellini alla Puttanesca, a flavorful bowlful of pasta, mixed with black olives, capers, onions and tomatoes. Mine was good, without a doubt, though the boldness of those capers carried the dish. Although satisfied, I kept eyeing my companions’ meals, wondering if I should have mulled my order more carefully.  

By the time our entrées had disappeared, our server—knowledgeable, confident and attentive, with excellent recommendations along the way—stopped by to inquire about dessert. Most of the desserts are made in house, and although every option seemed like a good idea, we convinced each other to split one: the housemade panna cotta. This slightly sweet and incredibly smooth dessert was the highlight of our meal, each lovingly layered bite balanced with raspberry coulis—“a spoonful of heaven,” as one of my companions described it. In truth, I wouldn’t have minded having the whole thing to myself.

Besides the food and the service, the atmosphere is worth a mention. I’ve always appreciated the bar area, and my companions and I found the dining room welcoming and relaxing, made better by the presence of a saxophone player whose melodies provided a fitting backdrop for our dinner. Such live entertainment, a member of L’Angolo Blue’s management tells me, can be enjoyed here as many as four nights per week.

On the drive home, I considered the notion that my ritual of going to L’Angolo Blue primarily as a happy-hour hangout had been a mistake on my part, because the kitchen here is turning out some truly excellent dishes. Although Indian food remains my cuisine of choice, exceptional Italian restaurants such as L’Angolo Blue are making it a much closer race.

L’Angolo Blue
602 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell
215-641-6789 | angoloblue.com

Photography by Rob Hall