Much of the time, choosing a restaurant is a simple mathematical formula for me: I had Mexican Saturday, a hamburger on Sunday, and so it’s time for Italian on Monday. My destination this evening is Johnson Street and Hollywood’s Broadwalk — add the two and you find yourself checking out the menu posted at Florio’s of Little Italy. (Apparently it’s the former Angelo’s Corner now under new ownership, but tourists rarely catch on to nuances like this.)
To be honest, I never actually read that menu. My eyes hadn’t adjusted to my glasses yet when Cassidy, a red-headed waiter looking as un-Italian as you can, aggressively invited me to have a seat and he’d provide top-notch service. Well, the rule about formula dinners is not to waste too much energy on the decision, so I sat down in the plastic chair at an outdoor table where I could see the ocean and the families passing by on the Broadwalk.
True to his word, Cassidy acted more like I was dining in a candlelit corner and paying prices twice as high. (Shhh, don’t tell my husband, but you could also call the banter between us flirting. <grin>) I knew I would have left overs but I ordered the bowl of pasta fagioli along with a serving of gnocchi because I was on a business trip and you tend to get more careless about dollars under these circumstances. Besides, I had plenty to entertain between watching kids play in Charnow Park and ride their rented bicycles up and down the sidewalk. And always, there’s that ocean in motion to add ambiance.
So I truly wasn’t expecting great food, just something edible. Which is probably how that first spoonful of pasta fagioli blew my socks off. I thought nothing could top Olive Garden when it comes to my favorite soup, but Florio’s sure schooled me in what a stupid assumption that was. And the gnocchi — homemade, covered in cream sauce and spiced with pine nuts and basil. It was the far more flavorful (and fancy) than I was expecting from a shorts and tank top kind of place.
If this is what simple math gets you, I really should have knuckled down to conquer algebra.
Florio’s of Little Italy
200 Garfield St.
Photography: Julie Sturgeon