The high ceiling, the bare floor and the clatter gave the place the feel of a pizza shop I ate in one evening many years ago on a back street in Treviso. But the place in Treviso had one wine: It was red. Trattoria Angeli, on the other hand, overwhelms you with creativity.
That's what made dining at this new West Los Angeles restaurant so much fun: It has the casual atmosphere of an authentic Italian cafe, but it comes complete with a wine list no self-respecting Italian cafe would consider.
Too much, they would say. Who needs more than one red wine?
Resident Italians may not need more than a house red, but wine lovers, most of whom enjoy reading a well-chosen wine list almost as much as reading a hot new novel, will love the reading material at Trattoria Angeli.
It's an exciting excursion through many lands (most notably Italy), with pricing to make a penny-pincher smile. The owners of the Trattoria have worked at this list, and their love of wine is pretty obvious.
There are about 250 wines (it's hard to be precise because it changes often and some wines are listed in more than one location on the list). Included are 16 half bottles, most of which are dessert wines, alas, but prices for 750-milliliter bottles are so reasonable you're sure to find one under $20 to match your pasta.
Big drinkers have a choice of 21 wines bottled in magnums and two double magnums. There are 20 wines offered by the glass (no real bargains here, but good wines not unreasonably priced), including a host of nice dessert wines.
The strength in the list is in Italian wines, both whites and reds, and in California Chardonnays--there are some two dozen. The weakness is in Sauvignon Blanc (just three), Gewurztraminer (only one from California, but the Alsatian, from Hugel, at $17 is a very good buy), and Chenin Blanc (none!).
Service is friendly and unstuffy. (If you want to see a bottle of wine, ask and it's brought to the table without hesitation.) The wine list is presented with the menu, so you don't have to plead for one. Glassware isn't spectacular, but the very nicely chosen tulips are large enough to permit swirling. Corkage is $10 per bottle, but with a list this good, who'd want to bring something from home?
Best value white wine: Hard to say, because there are so many attractive whites from Italy at very modest prices. However, my choice would have to be 1985 Simi Chardonnay ($19), a marvel of richness and complexity that nicely matches the cream-based pastas.
Best value red wine: So many great Italian wines exist on this list (13 Barolos, 10 Barbarescos, and 12 Chiantis alone) that I can't recommend just one, but an absolute delight would be 1969 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva for $38. No, it's not cheap, but what a wine! It would probably sell for $30 on a retail shelf, if anyone had the courage to carry it.
Best white wine: 1983 Joseph Drouhin Le Montrachet "Marquis de Laguiche," which is quite an amazing bottle of wine, although a wine lover friend says the Franciacorte Ca del Bosco at $38 beats the heck out of the Montrachet, which sells for $195. (Still, the Montrachet is a "steal" at $195, because it ought to sell at retail for $225 or so.)
Best red: OK, I give up. There are just too many good ones.
Wanna splurge? The owners realize that it might be asking a lot of customers in a casual place like this to spend a small fortune on a bottle of wine. So when they refer to what they call "Rarities, Odd Lots and Odd Bottles," they say this: "We realize it's crazy, but if you feel you want to spend a lot of money for some fairly rare wines, this is the place to look." On Page 14 you'll find great, and expensive, wines.
But if all you're after is a fun, and not expensive, opportunity to experiment with unfamiliar wines, or to sip familiar wines at fair prices, try Trattoria Angeli.