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Angelina’s Serves Up a Little Slice of Naples

A little slice of authentic Naples has found a home, of all places, in the middle of Irvine. Indeed, Angelina’s Pizzeria in the Los Olivos Marketplace across the freeway from the Irvine Spectrum has gone out of its way to provide genuine and delicious Italian fare beyond just pizzas.

Photo by Bob Hodson

Angelina’s first location opened in Dana Point in 2012 as more of a traditional pizzeria. Four years later, in 2016, the Irvine location opened its doors, becoming the restaurant’s bigger and fancier flagship location. “The Dana Point location is smaller pizza, pasta and salads. The Irvine location’s focus is more of a showcase,” says Angelina’s Executive Chef Jonah Amodt. “When you come in, [there is a wow factor]. When you think of pizzeria, a lot of people think small, [but] when you walk in, the focus is really the ambiance. It’s a beautiful location.”

That ambiance can be best described as trendy yet approachable. The ceiling of the dining room looks like water, a huge wall displays the restaurant’s impressive wine collection and a nice-sized bar directly faces the entrance. The restaurant definitely gives off a modern, loungey vibe, but not too modern that it alienates. All types of guests seemed to be enjoying their dinner on a Saturday night including couples on dates, groups of friends and families.

Perhaps the most noticeable feature in the restaurant is the two Stefano Ferrara ovens that are featured in plain sight behind the bar. The ovens, which were imported by Angelina’s from Italy, are used to cook everything from pizza to steak and fish. It’s also how the restaurant is able to offer authentic Napoletana pizza, which is best described as more doughy than crunchy due to the way it’s cooked. “Our philosophy [is to bring the] Italian experience to the American palate,” says Amodt. “[Pizzas are] cooked in the oven set at 900 degrees for 90 seconds. So we are a VPN certified, which means that we are following the strict standards of the VPN.”

Lobster Tortellini – Photo by Bob Hodson

VPN stands for Vera Pizza Napoletana (which translates to Traditional Naples Pizza), and is a certification that the pizza has met a set of standards. “We went through a long process to get the restaurant certified, showing them that we are using the right ingredients. So we have a good amount of our ingredients [such as] the flour, the tomatoes, the oil, the Buffalo Mozzarella imported from Italy,” says Amodt.

The other piece to a VPN certification is the process by which the dough is made. “We have our certification hanging in the restaurant, we have the VPN insignia on our menu and that’s something to really be proud of and something that we like to showcase,” Amodt explains.

The strict set of standards and authentic way that these pizzas are made can be tasted with each bite. It also makes the pizzas at Angelina’s quite unique and different from most pizza you can get elsewhere. The Vegetariana, for example, is a white pizza where the dough and cheese melt in your mouth. Complete with roasted bell peppers, eggplant, onion, mushrooms and basil, it’s the Buffalo Mozzarella cooked Napoletana-style combined with the soft crust that really makes this pizza stand out.

Chef Jonah – Photo by Bob Hodson

Similarly, the Diavola is a red-sauced pizza made with San Marzano DOP pomodoro sauce (DOP stands for Denominazione d’ Origine Protetta, or protected designation of origin). The pizza also features Napoletana-style salame (both mild and spicy are available, although the spicy one isn’t too zesty). Once again, the authenticity of the sauce and salame really gives the pizza a unique, delicious taste that you can’t get at just any pizzeria. “You can eat a whole pizza and not feel very heavy because of the process and the fermentation of the dough,” says Amodt. That’s definitely the case.

However, it’s not only the pizzas that make Angelina’s a great dining destination. “We’re trying to redefine what a pizzeria is [by] not just serving pizza,” says Amodt. “We do have several pizzas on the menu, but we’re [also] doing handmade pasta and we’ve got chicken and steak or this beautiful whole butterflied Branzino that’s on the menu.” Speaking of that Branzino (aka striped bass), words can’t properly describe how tasty it is. It manages to have a crunchy exterior and a soft, delicate interior at the same time, which is perhaps because it’s cooked in the Stefano Ferrara oven. It’s perfectly salted and doesn’t have that fishy aftertaste that seafood can sometimes have. It is hands down one of the most delicious pieces of fish I’ve ever tasted.

It’s also worth noting that all of this food paired very well with the alcohol available, whether that be an Italian wine from their vast collection or a signature cocktail. “I think our entire wine list is something to be proud of. It’s all Italian wines,” says Amodt. “[In terms of cocktails], we have infusers which are those porthole cocktails that we make daily. They’re showcased on the bar, [brought] to the table [and poured] tableside for you, which we really enjoy. We do four different selections of that.”

Striped Bass Branzino – Photo by Anne Watson

So what’s next for Angelina’s? First and foremost, they’re rolling out their winter menu (they usually change their menu about two times a year). New selections include a tasty lobster tortellini dish and a gnocchi Bolognese with burrata. They are also currently working on their outside covered patio which should open this month and will add more than 40 seats to the restaurant. Also, they’re going all out for their New Year’s Eve party, called NYE 2019 Funky Town Disco Party. “We’ve got a DJ [and a] champagne toast. We’re going to do a four or five course prix-fixe menu,” says Amodt. “We’re throwing out all the stops, balloon drop and everything. We really want to push and get as many people in here as possible to bring in the new year with us at Angelina’s.”

In January, Angelina’s will also be participating in the Anaheim Ducks’ DucksNPucks event. Finally, mid-2019 Angelina’s will be opening Bottega Angelina where the old Savannah Chophouse was in Laguna Niguel.

Until then, Italian food lovers can enjoy Angelina’s unique, authentic Napoletana food at its Irvine location. “If you want the best pizza outside of Naples and an atmosphere to boot, come and see us,” says Amodt. “Really the way that I would describe Angelina’s Pizzeria is authentic, fresh and delicious.” We couldn’t agree more.

Angelina’s: 8573 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine, CA 92618, https://angelinaspizzeria.com