Though his smooth Italian name may sound like it, Angelo Elia is not an Italian popstar, nor is he a rockstar or a red carpet celebrity. Angelo is, in fact, a chef. But his behind the scenes career has earned him no less than a cult following, eager to leave warm and sunny Florida (where Elia's most esteemed restaurant Casa de Angelo is located) for a painfully chilly night in New York City just to eat his annual Northern Italian winter feast at the James Beard House.
After enjoying hors d’oeuvres including duck prosciutto with wild cherry–Barolo marmalade and Sicilian pistachios on crostini and crispy Maine lobster with chickpea–mint tempura and arugula–lemon oil pesto, tables buzzed with excitement as Floridians just fresh from LaGuardia Airport alongside New Yorkers eagery for a hearty meal, flipped through Chef Angelo's elegant menus, shiny and layered with light opaque paper that gave even the list of the evening's dish an air of romantic mystery.
The dinner opened with a majestic seafood trio, a chilled jumbo red prawn sprawled out on the plate with an accusatory claw: are you ready for this? The most tender and precisely cooked scallops were served alongside a chilled tomato coulis and lavendar microgreens and thin slices of Branzino with flavored with orange oil and olive pesto completed the trio triumphantly.
The next course featured Tomino cheese wrapped in culatello prosciutto atop crispy black winter truffle polenta and drizzled with aged truffle–balsamic Sauce and shaved truffles. The room fell practically silent as diners indulged in this savory, rich, and potentially deadly "I wish this was my last meal" indulgence. If Chef Angelo didn't have any new cult members in the room by then, the rest of the diners drank the metaphisical Kool Aid (disguised as impossibly melty cheese decorated with crispy prosciutto)
Chef Angelo's chestnut fettuccine with sautéed fennel, guanciale, and Taleggio–butternut squash fondue was rich and hearty, a pasta dish with a seasonal flare perfect to ignite holiday spirit.
And upon the brink of diners' fullness, a roasted petite veal chop with black truffle–potato gatto drizzled with porcini–veal demi-glace roused appetites once again.
Dessert featured a blood orange risotto gelato with Bourbon, caramel, and vanilla sauce, bringing a sweet citrusy taste of Florida with a uniquely rich, crisp, and decadent texture, a frozen Italian rice pudding, a perfect finale to a flawless meal.