In the late '80s, Chef Richard Cingolani helped transform Broward County from the dining doldrums into a place that could hold its own with the big boys. The acclaimed New World cuisine of his Café Arugula lit up Lighthouse Point. And, because, of Cingolani's singular stature, one could argue that his latest venture, the 3-month-old Café Angelica (2525 N. Dixie Hwy., Wilton Manors, 954-566-5644), located on the site of the old Turkish American Restaurant, hardly deserves second billing on this page.
A dinner there can easily support this view. Garrulous host and owner Marie Lombardy, who helped give Cingolani his start 25 years ago, will lead you to one of two places: either to a table out on the screened patio (for you smokers) or inside, to a candlelit spot in the surprisingly intimate, 60-seat room encircled by windows that look onto the Five Points intersection of what may become Broward's new Rialto.
The menu will lead you into what Scott, our waiter, called "Cuisines of the Sun" -- a sharp way to work in many of Cingolani¹s specialties. After choosing from a short wine list heavy on Italians ($19.95 to $64.95), you can visit the Boot through the antipasti ($3.95), pastas with carbonara and puttanesca ($12.95), and cannelloni. You can make a stopover in Spain by choosing an exceptional paella. Or you can turn south and go Caribbean with a signature jumbo lump Venezuelan crab cake with Creole mustard sauce ($9.95). Whatever the destination, you're in for a smooth ride. (For dinner specials, add $4.95 to any entré.)
Sensibly, desserts are limited here. But since when did three excellent selections demand self-denial? My recommendation? The not-too-sweet, lightly crusted Granny Smith apple tart with squiggles of caramel sauce around the edges.
You have your sweet dreams. I have mine.