Angeli Caffe opened 27 years ago when its stretch of Melrose Avenue was a stylish strip on which to open a hot new restaurant, and many did. While the others moved on or faded away, and the street's mix of stores and shoppers changed, Angeli remained. But losses have been mounting, and founder Evan Kleiman informed her staff that she can no longer cover the bills. Angeli will stop serving "rustic regional Italian food with a California twist" on January 8. From Kleiman's email to food editors:
Today I am meeting with my staff to let them know that I will be closing Angeli. Sunday, January 8 will be our last day. If you would like to meet as a group to ask me questions I am open to that. If you want to contact me separately that is fine too. This is a decision that I've known I had to make for the last couple of years and I can put it off no longer. I had hoped someone would come forward to buy the brand and carry it forward but up to now, that hasn't happened.
I am devastated for my staff, especially those who have been with me for more than ten years, and the core group since the first day - That's 27 years. I hope to find them all jobs. Or maybe a real angel will appear. Who knows. Anyway, I need to do as much business from now until the 8th as possible to be able to pay my final payroll etc.
Angeli has been my family's go-to place for a casual meal most of that time, even after we moved from the neighborhood. My daughter was raised on Angeli pasta and pizza. When she was little the staff got her (and many other kids) through meals with a mound of raw dough to play with at the table. There were some pretty skimpy years, but it seemed lately like Saturday and Sunday nights, at least, were pretty crowded. We're all a little sad here at the news.
Kleiman, meanwhile, has her show and blog at KCRW, Good Food, and other ventures. Jonathan Gold, the LA Weekly critic who is a regular feature on the show, always kept Angeli on his annual list of 99 essential local restaurants. From Betty Hallock at the LAT food blog:
Some of Kleiman's employees have been working with her since Angeli opened in 1984, when it was 24 seats in a former screen shop, a restaurant inspired by food she'd eaten in the trattorias of Italy and remarkable as well for its modern, angular architecture.
Ruth Reichl wrote in The Times that it was among the restaurants bringing "a whole new character" to the restaurant scene, with its authenticity "filtered through such sophisticated sensibilities."
At one point Kleiman had four restaurants: Besides Angeli Caffe, there was Trattoria Angeli in West Los Angeles, which opened in 1987 and closed in 1994; Angeli Mare in Marina del Rey, which opened in 1989 and closed in 1995; and the short-lived Angeli in the Rodeo Collection in Beverly Hills, which opened and closed in 1993....
Kleiman, who said she is especially devastated on behalf of her staff, had been trying to sell the restaurant as a brand for a couple of years, but nobody came forward. "And you know, it’s a different thing buying the space and buying the brand. It has to be a pretty special person."
The New York Times takes note.