Alan Angeloni grew up in the restaurant business around the Trenton area, washing dishes in his family's restaurant at 9 years old. Maybe that is why the 57-year-old owner of Angeloni's II in Atlantic City says he is really 104.
Forty-eight years is a lifetime in terms of restaurant years.
Angeloni's dad began the family dynasty by opening a bar back in the 1950s, later opening the first of several restaurants in Ewing and Hamilton townships. The third restaurant was the charm.
"That was the first Angeloni's but it certainly wasn't the first restaurant," Angeloni says.
Angeloni's II was established in Atlantic City in 1981, and has been going strong ever since.
"A lot of places come and go," Angeloni says. "Our food is consistent, our menu diversified, and we have a great wine list."
He grew up learning how to cook but once he got behind the bar, it was the end of his cooking career.
"If I ever had to go back in the kitchen again, I'd sell," Angeloni says.
While their menu offers the best of both northern and southern Italian cooking, it has long been famous for its wine list, too.
"There are so many good wines out there, you don't have to spend a lot of money on them," Angeloni says. "It's a great wine list."
From an original list of 27 wines, the list now stands around 300 different wines.
Tasting everything that he could, and putting his favorites on the menu, Angeloni went from not liking or knowing much about wine to falling in love with it. He is happy to go to the table to explain the nuances of any of the wines on his menu.
With another 100 bottles not even listed on the menu, regulars know to ask for what they like.
The menu at Angeloni's II is large enough to provide something special for every diner along with the right bottle of wine.
At lunch, many of the most popular entrees are available along with a full selection of hot and cold sandwiches.
At dinner, the most popular hot appetizer is the artichoke hearts Francaise ($8.50) which no one else has.
"They fly out of here," Angeloni says.
Other big sellers are clams casino ($9.50) and scallops wrapped in bacon ($12) served with a honey horseradish sauce.
"Our crab cakes are to die for," Angeloni says.
The kitchen makes a limited amount each day, and when they are gone, you are out of luck. On the weekends they make a few more.
"We specialize in veal," Angeloni says.
Veal braciole ($18.50) is stuffed with sausage and locatelli cheese that is so tender, you don't even need a knife to cut it.
Many customers say it is even better than Mom's.
Veal saltimbocca ($27), veal marsala ($21) and the traditional veal parmigiana ($21), all sourced locally from a butcher in Vineland, are perennial favorites on the Angeloni's II menu.
Seafood lovers will have no problem finding a fresh choice on the menu. Seafood specials include local scallops and flounder, with weekly specials that sometimes change from day to day according to the catch.
Traditional dishes include Zuppa di Pesce ($34) loaded with lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams and scallops. Flounder Gianna Rae ($25) is served with jumbo lump crabmeat and a lemon butter sauce.
Shrimp oreganata ($25) is composed of sauteed shrimp with garlic and sundried tomato, topped with seasoned bread crumbs.
For the serious meat lover in your party, Angeloni's offers certified Black Angus beef and local lamb chops. A grain-fed New York sirloin steak ($27) and filet mignon ($35) are always available, along with two 8-ounce center-cut lamb chops ($31), or their famous charcoal veal chop ($48).
"Our steaks are huge," Angeloni says.
All entrees are served with soup or salad, a side of pasta or baked potato, vegetable, bread and butter.
Customer comment cards typically mention how comfortable the dining experience is at Angeloni's II. Maybe that's because the longtime staff knows how to please their regulars and how to make new customers feel right at home.