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Published: Thursday, 7/14/2005

Restaurant review: Angelo's Northwood Villa ****

Angelo s Northwood Villa is in Erie, Mich., just north of Toledo.
Angelo s Northwood Villa is in Erie, Mich., just north of Toledo.
NORTZ / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Entering Angelo's Northwood Villa in Erie, Mich., is like taking a voyage back in time. Depending on your age and global travels, the dcor may remind you of an Old World European restaurant, a retro American supper club from the 1930s, or both.

Not having been to Angelo's in many years, I asked the opinion of a friend who had gone there recently. "The food is pretty good, but the inside needs serious updating," she said. She was right about the food, but seeing the place recently after such a long absence, I've decided I wouldn't change a thing about the dcor.

Located in Michigan, just north of Toledo's city limits, the venerable restaurant recalls the charm and elegance of a past era. It was a gangland speakeasy during Prohibition, and the catacomb of hidden passageways that apparently still exists only adds to the tabloid intrigue of its past.

The expansive main dining room - there are several smaller dining areas throughout the restaurant - sparkles with crystal chandeliers and tiny lights. Huge reflecting mirrors, which reputedly disguised craps tables in the 1930s, create a dazzling effect, with a low-lighted concave ceiling dome drawing the eyes upward.

There's a dance floor that fills up on weekends, plus leaded glass, fancy archways, and dramatic paintings suggestive of a fine old museum. Those with a keen eye will also notice naked brass mermaids cavorting among the Art Deco fixtures in one of the establishment's two bars.

Finally, however, it's the food that provides the best reason for checking out Angelo's. The chef-owner, Angelo Tsipis, a Greek immigrant with a taste for Italian, presents lunch and dinner menus packed with choices: Angus prime steaks, pork and lamb chops, plus seafood, veal, chicken, and pasta dishes dripping with sauces accented by Italian, Greek, and Mediterranean influences.

Service was attentive, smiling, and only slightly frazzled when the servers had to cover for another who was missing in action.

At lunch and dinner, the starter is a tasty slice of warm cheese bread, which pays nostalgic tribute to the late Gen Dokurno, a much-loved food impresario who for many years owned both the Northwood Villa and the former Northwood Inn in North Toledo. A slice of cheese bread offered before each meal was her signature greeting to diners.

Two recent lunch visits

brought a cup of overloaded

cream of mushroom soup ($2) and a BLT sandwich and french fries ($5.50); the sandwich contained six or seven bacon slices. A bowl of spaghetti and meatballs ($6.50) was filling but not overwhelmed with pasta, while a chicken parmigiana sandwich ($7.95), piled high with tomato, mozzarella, and breaded chicken that was crunchy outside and moist inside, couldn't possibly be eaten without utensils.

Dinner brought equally memorable entrees. Greek perch ($18.95) melted in the mouth - Lake Erie yellow perch lightly breaded and topped with mushrooms and a luscious lemon and butter sauce. Not to be outdone was steak Siciliana, a 16-ounce New York cut with a heavenly sauce of olive oil, garlic, parsley, and lemon juice. The meat was thick, juicy, and cooked to a perfect medium rare, with vegetables, potato or pasta, and soup or salad included. At a mere $20.95, the meal proves that you don't need a king's ransom to dine well in greater Toledo.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com

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