Having owned four restaurants in the UK, worked under some of the top Michelin-starred chefs in Italy and just opened All ‘Angelo in Droitwich – an Italian restaurant with a modern twist – it’s hard to believe chef patron, Angelo Petritaj, is just 28 years old.
At the age of 14, Angelo quit school simply because he wanted to be financially independent. He took the first job he was offered as a pot washer in a local restaurant in his hometown, close to Venice. It was the gateway to his love of food and throughout the summer he pestered the chefs to teach him whatever skills they could – from peeling vegetables to preparing and cooking on the wood-fired grill.
Angelo then headed for culinary school and insisted on working under Michelin chefs whenever his course called for work experience. Despite being the youngest student, he was known as the troublemaker as he would only work in fine dining establishments.
He now owns three restaurants – La Galleria in Alcester, All ‘Angelo in Oxford and his latest venture, All ‘Angelo in Droitwich. He admits his career has not been plain sailing. The second place he opened – a restaurant in Ledbury – did not work out as planned and he lost his entire investment of £140K. Similarly, a Bristol-based venue was also not a success, and he almost gave up on All ‘Angelo in Droitwich. Having taken over the premises in 2018, it was flooded three times, then beleaguered due to the onset of Covid meaning Angelo has only just been able to fully open this past month. It was down to the encouragement of his fiancée Alba that he decided to persist with it. However, having had the good fortune to eat there, it was certainly the right decision.
Angelo takes up his story:
‘I wanted to create a restaurant that captured the essence of Italy – family-run with the feeling it’s been part of the community forever. I chose Droitwich for my new restaurant because of its accessibility and that fact the town has so much potential”.
Situated on Queen Street, All ’Angelo’s is well placed for easy parking being just around the corner from Waitrose. From the outside, its quaint black and white ‘olde-worlde’ exterior gives no hint of the cozy Italian atmosphere that enfolds you as you walk in. Angelo undertook all the interior design himself and the walls feature authentic Venetian stucco decorated with vintage scenes of both Italy and Droitwich. The place is filled with plants and the warm light coupled with its quirky layout add to the sense of intimacy. That said, they take Covid restrictions seriously, maintaining social distancing and mask wearing whilst ensuring everyone checks in using the regulatory QR code. Large parties are only allowed if they are prepared to take the entire place over to ensure people feel safe and that no one table dominates the atmosphere.
Whilst meat, fish and vegetables are sourced locally, most of the ingredients are imported from Italy as Angelo explains:
‘I want to create an authentic taste of Italy and you just cannot find the exact ingredients you need over here. What the UK calls buffalo mozzarella, for example, is different to us Italians along with basic ingredients such as pasta and even the drinks we stock in our bar. We make our own bread, ravioli, and tagliatelle together with all the accompanying sauces and even the syrups used in our cocktails. Our kitchen is too small to accommodate a freezer, so everything is prepared freshly each day’.
Given his Italian training, Angelo’s specialty is fish and seafood – all his specialties can be identified on the menu as they are prefaced with the restaurant’s name. The menu changes every three months to maintain seasonality and offers a mouth-watering choice that would please even the most discerning of palates. Every plate of food come beautifully presented and tastes as good as it looks. Whilst we were there, we tried garlic bread with cheese, Arancini Sicily – handmade rice balls coated with breadcrumbs and filled with mozzarella- cannelloni and the most delicious lasagne known to man. You can also choose from an array of pasta, meat and fish, salad and steak dishes.
As for the desserts, they are certain to break any diet. As well as homemade Italian ice cream, the tiramisu is out of this world and the panna cotta is the best I have ever eaten. Again, the attention to detail when it comes to presentation is flawless.
Nothing has been forgotten when it comes to Angelo’s commitment to authenticity including the espresso at the end of the meal – it was rich, smooth, and packed a strong caffeine punch. It’s no wonder you need to book several weeks in advance if you’re planning to eat there at the weekend.
At the moment, Angelo has no plans to expand his thriving business other than to work towards his own Michelin star. He commutes daily to Droitwich from Oxford, working a six-day week and up to 16 hours a day. A three-hour commute either side does not leave him with the bandwidth to think about much else. That said, even when he is sleeping, he often dreams up a new recipe and always keeps his notebook with him to sketch out any new recipe ideas that come to him day or night.
However, the planning of the menu is very much a team affair with every member of staff coming up with ideas and suggestions. Hopefully things will not be disrupted again so they can expand their offering, creating special menus for key dates in the year including Christmas. Currently, they host Thirsty Thursday when they serve half-price cocktails. These are made with a flourish that would put Tom Cruise in the film Cocktail to shame and feature fresh flowers and fruit together with homemade syrups.
“Food is my passion and I love the family atmosphere we have created-we work together, laugh together and eat together and this sense of joy is something we want our customers to experience. Coming to eat here is about just that – experience together with the promise of great food, a great atmosphere and great people’