Angelo elia pizza, bar and tapas

By Angela Caraway-Carlton

Like everything restaurateur Angelo Elia does, the Fort Lauderdale location of Angelo Elia Pizza, Bar and Tapas is now bigger and better. The award-winning chef recently expanded the restaurant, adding 80-100 seats and a beautiful new patio space that can be used for special events and extending the inside bar. Even with the extra room, you can expect the restaurant to be packed almost every night of the week. We dined there on a Thursday night; by 6:45, almost every table inside and outside was taken. Many nights you’ll see Elia’s son, Paolo, making sure customers are settled and making jokes with regulars.

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If you’ve never eaten here, Angelo Elia Pizza, Bar and Tapas is a more casual restaurant than Elia’s upscale Casa D’Angelo, but the focus is still on keeping ingredients fresh and simple, and many of the recipes are from Elia’s family in Italy. The menu is designed for sharing, and regulars will notice new items on the already extensive menu of tapas, gourmet salads, pizzas, panini and calzones. The caprese with mozzarella, arugula and beefsteak tomatoes is a must — the large dots of pesto lined around the plate give this traditional Italian starter a unique and extra kick, while meat lovers will enjoy the Italian sausage with broccoli rapini. For something lighter, try the grilled octopus with arugula, roasted tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes. The octopus was tender with just the right amount of char.

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The delicious pizzas are the main attraction here: 16 different varieties are cranked out of the wood-fired oven (along with bread, calzones and some pasta specials). We wanted to be adventurous and try something different, so we went for a new pizza, the Cremona, which is made with mozzarella, sliced pears, pancetta, Gorgonzola and figs. Don’t mistake this for a “dessert pizza” — it’s the perfect mix of sweet and savory, thanks to the sweet figs and the salty pancetta. There are also several new pasta dishes, like the rich, homemade spinach gnocchi with four cheeses and pine nuts, while traditionalists will find comfort in the classic rigatoni Bolognese.

Be sure to top off your night of indulgence with dessert: The warm Nutella stromboli makes for a sweet ending!

Can’t make it to Fort Lauderdale? Elia has three other locations in Delray, Coral Springs and Weston.