For the last six years, Don Angie’s freewheeling interpretation of Italian American cuisine has blown up the internet, filling our feeds with two-tone caramelle pasta, cheesy-cloud chrysanthemum salad, and coils of lasagna. But one problem with culinary memeification, as Don Angie co-chefs Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito have discovered, is that people show up expecting to eat exactly what they’ve seen on their feeds. “We’ve had an issue trying to change the menu at all,” Tacinelli says. “People come up and show me pictures on their phone and say, ‘Why aren’t you serving this?’ We realized we have to open another restaurant to cook more food.” Luckily, last year, an exterminator had given them a hot tip: The Benny’s Burritos next door would soon be closing its doors after 34 years in business.
The couple jumped on the space and, in the coming weeks — target date: March 6 — will debut their next restaurant, San Sabino. The theme is coastal Italian, which, on first blush, feels a bit staid for the same team that serves calamari with “pepperoni fried rice.” The city is already so full of crudo bars and Murano glass chandeliers, one imagines the seas empty and Venice dark. But Rito says the description is just a way to play with diners’ expectations. “If anything,” she says, “we pull from the coasts of America. We have a shrimp Louie, from San Francisco” — a crab Louie riff with pepperoncini rémoulade — “and a couple nods to New Orleans.”
Elsewhere on the menu, Don Angie’s wide-ranging proclivities are on display. Octopus terrine is studded with capicola, spicy tuna is served with broccoli-rabe furikake, and crab dip gets whipped with mortadella (“Like a bologna dip,” says Rito), while scallop crudo is shingled with slices of yellow kiwi. Meatier options include “pepperoni carbonara” and an homage to the chicken served at Belmont Tavern in North Jersey: Thighs are grilled, then broiled with Pecorino until the skin becomes cheesy poultry chips. “We take a lot of risks with Italian food,” Rito says. “I would tell my grandma some of the stuff we were doing at Don Angie, and she would be visibly uncomfortable — that’s the niche we carved out.”
Even the most derided and decried of the Italian American canon get love. “I’m obsessed with shrimp parm,” Tacinelli says. “You want to say you don’t love it because it’s seafood and cheese and yet it’s so good.” Three oversize prawns lie on a silver platter — heads out, eyes intact — from a glistening coat of scarlet sweet-and-sour arrabbiata sauce, marbled with whorls of creamy stracchino. Sacrilegious? Only if you think tuna melts and lox with cream cheese count as culinary transgressions, too. The couple clearly knows its audience, and #ShrimpParmSpring is just around the corner.
Photo: Hugo Yu