A week into its tenure as an Aspen restaurant, Casa D’Angelo boasts a full bar, patio with Aspen Mountain views, and a full wall of windows to provide the perfect dining experience at sunset.
Celebrity chef Angelo Elia — born in Salerno, Italy and now a longtime resident of South Florida and Snowmass — celebrated the grand opening of his first restaurant in Aspen last Friday. Elia owns nine Italian restaurants in South Florida and the Bahamas, and he said he’s excited to bring his traditional homemade flavors and fresh, local ingredients to Aspen.
“I’m in love with Snowmass and Aspen, so I feel like I’ll be here forever,” Elia said. “I don’t classify myself as a corporate person, I classify myself mostly as a restaurant owner but focused on individuals. We are an independent restaurant. We love what we do, we bring the best quality. I’m not happy with any second day post.
Elia imports many of its ingredients such as meat and seafood from outside, but many of its dishes will also incorporate local ingredients. Casa D’Angelo’s menu features 10 Aspen-specific novelties, including Aspen salad and goat cheese sorbet. Quality is the most important thing, he said, and he likes to use local and fresh ingredients to provide variety.
Casa D’Angelo opened on July 30 and is reaching full capacity. Elia moved into the space vacated by Piñons, an Aspen staple that closed in April after 33 years. While Elia has done some renovations to make the space his own, he’s kept several staff members from Piñons, so the restaurant won’t seem so unfamiliar to you.
In addition to his culinary experience, Elia prides himself on his knowledge of wine, being the owner of a vineyard himself. Wine is also incorporated into its goals for its Aspen location.
“I’m very focused on great wine,” he said. “We already have an incredible wine list, but in about a year, two years, I want to make one of the best wines [lists] in Aspen. That’s my goal.”
Elia said that when customers come to eat at his restaurant, he recommends a glass of wine and the veal chop, which is his favorite. While all menu items receive his input and most were created by him, Elia will hand over the cooking at the Aspen site to its executive chef, Mark Connell.
Originally from Reno, Nevada, Connell studied culinary arts and pastry in Vail, Italy and Napa, California. He took his first executive chef job in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and traveled to Aspen to pursue his dream of doing nothing but skiing and cooking. He meets Elia on a whim via an advertisement and is hired on the spot.
“I’ve been working at a very high-end club for two years…and I really miss cooking for the general public,” he said. “There is something more to it. It’s more difficult, but I’m looking forward to being in some way in charge of a restaurant. I had an executive chef at my last job so I didn’t have full control over the menu. So that’s something I’m looking forward to – being able to do that and being able to do my desserts as well, because we had a pastry chef and I couldn’t do desserts, and that’s obviously something I ‘like to do.”
Elia said he also admired Connell’s knowledge of Italian cuisine, a practice Connell said he learned while studying in Italy and still prefers to other types of cuisine. He joked that in his previous jobs his menu sometimes had too many Italian dishes, but now it seems he can’t be Italian enough.
Connell is one of 40 team members who will work at Casa D’Angelo, and Elia said he hopes to expand to 50 employees when possible. Across all his restaurants he employs about 500 people and he said he was proud that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic he has not lost a single one. Elia also hopes to one day open a second restaurant in Aspen — a fifth location for his Angelo Elia Pizza, Bar & Tapas restaurant.
Casa D’Angelo is located at 105 S. Mill Street and is open for dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Take-out is not yet available but will be an option in the coming weeks as the business settles in. Reservations are available by calling 970-920-2021. More information is available on the restaurant’s website at casa-d-angelo.com and on Instagram @casa_dangelo.