Fresh from success at the recent English Italian Awards and Angelo’s was packed.
Tuesday isn’t usually a busy night for Sunderland restaurants, but many diners here seemed keen to find out why this one had picked up the gleaming gong on the mantelpiece for Best Chef.
That top honour went to man-in-whites Nello Russo, while the venue itself was voted in the top ten of Italian restaurants in England at the inaugural national awards.
It’s easy to forget about Angelo’s due to its location in Sunniside. It was one of the first wave of restaurants to open after the regeneration and it’s a great example of the area’s potential to be a thriving corner of the city.
The restaurant takes over the ground floor of one of Sunniside’s period former homes. It’s a sympathetic use of the space, which makes a feature of the property’s sash windows, traditional panelling and cast iron fireplaces, while making a mark of its own with quirky wallpaper on the chimney breasts. It’s a more tasteful take on decor than some of the more gaudy Italians you come across. Though there isn’t a picture of Pavarotti or melted candle in a wine bottle in sight, the atmosphere is still informal and friendly.
We were seated in the bar while we deliberated over the menu, and were presented with an entree while we waited. The piping hot pizza dough parcels certainly smelled amazing as they wafted towards us and they tasted even better, like a pizza-cum-doughnut with a sweet edge. If Nello was trying to whet our appetites, he certainly succeeded.
Menu-wise, the Happy Hour version, which runs Monday to Saturday lunchtimes and evenings, is perfect if you’re counting the pennies at starters from £3.95 and pizza and pastas for £5.95.
We arrived after 6.45pm, however, so went for the a la carte menu which offers the classic dishes you’d expect from any Italian menu worth its salt, with most mains coming in around the £8/£9 mark.
To start, we chose the Tagliere di Salumi e Formaggi (£14.95) to share. We were presented with a chunky board which was practically buckling under the weight of sliver upon sliver of cured meats, olives, breadsticks and a selection of Italian cheeses. There was plenty to keep two mouths happy, but for those who want a starter of their own there’s choices such as chicken liver pâté (£6.50) and mussels (£8.95).
Steak seems to be a speciality here with versions such as gorgonzola, and port sauce and pâté toppings on the regular menu.
I chose a version from the specials menu, fillet steak with truffle and winter vegetables. (£22.95)
It proved to be a perfect winter warmer, a buttery soft plump steak, flanked by caramalised vegetables, which were given a dense layer of flavour by the richer black truffle – which the cheery waiter informed us had been imported from Italy, no less. They really don’t cut corners when it comes to old country authenticity here. I can see exactly why the judges from the English Italian awards were wowed.