Angelo Caruso knows Italian food. After emigrating from Italy to the United States with his parents in 1972, he began serving up Napoletana-style pizza at the age of six in his uncle’s Melrose pizzeria along with his cousins. “My father is from Naples and my mother is from Sardinia; I grew up cooking with my family,” Caruso says. Today he goes back to Italy every few years to visit extended family—and to cook.
Although Caruso has had formal culinary instruction at Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island, he received much of his training on the job as a sous chef at an Italian restaurant in Marblehead owned by chef John Carlos. “John was my mentor,” Caruso explains. “I learned so much about cooking from him.”
When Caruso’s father, Salvatore, opened a pizzeria in Stoneham on Main Street, Caruso saw the perfect opportunity to open a fine dining restaurant next door. In 1986, he opened Angelo’s Ristorante, and he has not looked back. Sitting next to the classic Italian pizza and sub shop is one of the finest Italian dining experiences on the North Shore—a true hidden gem. The handsome dining room is dressed in warm earth tones, and tables are topped with crisp white linens. The chairs are comfortable and cushioned, encouraging the diner to sit and savor every morsel of the impressive meal being served by an attentive waitstaff.
Many of the dishes Caruso creates are from Northern Italy—you’ll find classics such as Lombatina Ripiena, a stuffed veal loin chop, and Tortelloni Piemontese, a ricotta-filled pasta served in a crème sauce. Using the best available ingredients and locally grown herbs and vegetables, the menu changes seasonally and features generations of family recipes. The pastas, sauces, and mozzarella are all made in-house—making Angelo’s the epitome of authentic Italian.
Chef Angelo Caruso and his father Salvatore
Caruso sources most of his fish from Captain Marden’s, a premier seafood monger servicing the New England Area. “I get a shipment every day and serve it until it runs out,” Caruso says. “This way the fish is always fresh.” When they are in season, he imports his clams from Italy. “I’ll import sardines and anchovies when I can get them,” he explains. “I just got in some beautiful shrimp from Hawaii.” Caruso’s excitement is palpable. This is a man who knows and loves food.
I start my dining tour de force with roasted figs and gorgonzola wrapped in prosciutto di Parma. The sweet figs and tangy cheese swaddled in the crispy, salty prosciutto are paired nicely with a Marramiero Pecorino Superiore wine from Abruzzo, Italy. Angelo personally selects all the wines for the wine list, which boasts more than 450 selections from around the world. The wine tasting menu is set up in 2-, 3-, and 6-ounce pours, so you can have a small taste of several or just sip your favorite.
Next Caruso serves a heavenly risotto from a recipe created by famed chef Massimo Bottura of the legendary Osteria Francescana, a Michelin three-star restaurant in Modena, Italy. “In 2012, the Emilia Romagna region suffered two earthquakes, causing hundreds of thousands of Parmesan wheels to come crashing to the ground; millions of dollars of this revered cheese was lost,” says Caruso. “In support of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese industry, more than 40,000 restaurants around the world prepared a signature risotto dish with Parmesan on their menus.” Angelo has replicated that dish—the creamy sauce over an al dente textured rice is divine.
A ziti pasta tossed in fresh plum tomato sauce, basil, and garlic comes out of the kitchen next, and it can only be described as simple and outstanding. The entrée special that evening is the bone-in swordfish collar. Caruso roasts the fish facedown and then turns it in the pan and adds two sliced garlic cloves, capers, olives, and anchovies and continues roasting. When the garlic turns golden, he adds white wine and plum tomatoes and continues roasting the fish for another 25 minutes. Caruso balances the ingredients without overpowering the flavor of the swordfish. Another win.
Bistecca Con Cartoccio—sirloin steak with gorgonzola—also makes an appearance on the dining table. The sirloin is grilled and then topped with gorgonzola and placed in the oven to melt the cheese. A roasted shallot, red wine, and port sauce is drizzled on top. Sensational.
For dessert, Lavazza coffee is served along with two dishes: Torta Della Nonna, a lemon cream-filled pastry with pignoli nuts, and roasted figs in a balsamic reduction over vanilla gelato. As the evening winds down, Caruso, still in his white chef’s coat, comes and sits at the table for a brief chat. He talks proudly of his children and passionately about the dishes he has just prepared—and Italian cooking in general. He simply states, “I cook from the heart.” And it shows.
Wine Bar – Lounge
237 Main St., Stoneham,