• French

Good Food

I have a standing date with Evan Kleiman on Saturday mornings at 11am.  I imagine, so do most of you?  For the hour that Good Food on KCRW airs, I’m completely in my comfort zone.  Farmer’s market profiles, recipes, food historians, the weekly anticipated Jonathan Gold review, I’m always enthralled.

Heirlooms.

Heirlooms.

As a native of L.A., Evan Kleiman also means Angeli Caffe, which means childhood comfort food to me.  It opened in 1984 just a few blocks from my elementary school.  The ever-popular modern trattoria on Melrose Avenue was a mainstay of my best friend’s family.  I remember many a night, pre sleepover, post long pool days, and definitely after school plays (we may have still been in our 4th grade “Fiddler on the Roof” make-up), devouring the Spaghetti alla Checca , and that bread…oh that bread.

Many years later and still close friends with her and her brother, we all rented a house together just down the street from Angeli.  We regularly went together and with other friends.  And, those many years later, the Checca was just as good.  The elegant simplicity of both the restaurant and the food never failed to deliver.  Though, in January of 2012, Evan Kleiman sadly decided to close Angeli’s doors for good.  I may never have that pizza dough bread again, but I’d be damned if I couldn’t somehow replicate the Checca.

A rough chop.

A rough chop.

The true beauty of a checca is the ease of it.  It’s a raw sauce generally consisting of ripe summer tomatoes, garlic and basil.  Chop, let macerate, and pour over perfectly al dente spaghetti.  Still to this day, when I eat this dish, I can feel my 8 year old hot pink post pool/bike riding cheeks slurping up the spaghetti and searching for more of the melty mozzarella.

Fresh mozzarella.

Fresh mozzarella.

Spaghetti alla Checca

Influenced and adapted from Evan Kleiman’s Angeli Caffe

What you’ll need:

Lots of ripe tomatoes, chopped (about 2 pints cherry or 5-6 large)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 -1 cup of good extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
8 fresh basil leaves, gently torn
6-8 oz fresh mozzarella, chopped and brought to room temperature
1 lb dried spaghetti

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper.  Add enough olive oil to cover the tomato mixture.  Let the sauce sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours.  Cook the pasta in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water.  Trust the pasta experts here, take the pasta out 1 minute before the suggested time on the back of the package.  You definitely want that al dente bite with this fresh sauce.  Pour pasta into a serving bowl.  Top with mozzarella and tomato mixture, and quickly mix well to coat.

Makes 4-6 servings.

5 Comments Read what others are saying!

  1. Alan

    Hooray! At last! I’m so glad this is up & running.

  2. Elizabeth

    Love this! So glad to have a recipe from Angeli. Please somehow reconstruct pizza dough for us! Angeli is the stuff of dreams. I was obsessed…I even got my (tiny) tattoo at the age of 15 upstairs from the restaurant at the tattoo parlor there…sadly it’s still there and Angeli is not : ( Thank you for the recipe! xxx

  3. Cathy

    Fabulous!
    Congrats!!!

  4. kate

    Have already made this twice. so simple and so delicious! i love it! congratulations on the site x

  5. I lived on Tower Drive (which is the last street on the east side of Beverly Hills, right at Wilshire and La Cienega) from 1992 through 1994. At the time I had just moved to Los Angeles and was living in a studio apartment. I didn’t know anyone, except my neighbor, who, as it turns out, was a waiter with a lot of knowledge of L.A. restaurants, and is still a good friend of mine. One night he told me he was going to introduce me to one of the best restaurants in L.A. We got there and he ordered the Spaghetti Alla Checca, and he recommended I do the same, which I did. It blew my mind, and for the next two years of my life, I had this dish at least once a month, either sit-down or take away. I moved in 1994, but since then have missed Angeli Caffe’s Checca. I tried finding similar recipes on the web, but to no avail. It warms my heart that someone who understands how special Angeli Caffe was has replicated their soul-inspiring Checca. Thank you so very much!

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