ANGEL Rooftop & Dining is one of many endeavors around the world that, upon opening in late 2019, could never have imagined the trials of the years that would follow. Full of youthful energy with a team mainly under 30, they opened with promise — a contemporary fine dining location overlooking Florence’s iconic Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has meant two years later it can still be talked of as a new opening in the city. But luckily their drive for innovation hasn’t been lost amongst the lockdowns.
On a Thursday evening in February, the place is buzzing. A four-strong band is playing covers of 80s pop as diners fill up the tables lit by a warm pink glow. “Florence is a bit dead in the evenings,” says marketing manager Anna Gomez Pascarella, “it needed something bright and modern to give it a boost.”
ANGEL Rooftop & Dining is located on the roof terrace of Hotel Calimala, spectacularly situated just minutes from the Duomo in one direction and the Ponte Vecchio in the other. The restaurant decor continues the jazzed-up art deco style of the hotel beneath, which features elegantly arched mirrors as bed headboards, boldly tiled bathrooms and a drinks tray inside the wardrobe which illuminates pink when opened.
In winter, diners eat inside the warm, brick-walled L-shaped indoor space. In summer, however, two terraces afford surreal views across to Giotto’s belltower and the crenellations of the Palazzo Vecchio.
Serving up the food is Israeli chef Mor Micheli, who came to run the kitchen directly from Tel Aviv. As such, the menu is a fascinating medley of Mediterranean flavors, combining elements of middle Eastern, Italian and Japanese cuisine. Having not yet learned Italian, Micheli says, “food is my only expression here.” And he has a lot to say.
The breadbasket sets the tone with homemade gorgeously soft milk bread to be eaten with fermented Lebanese cheese. It is followed by the Pop Sashimi, composed of marinated fish of the day with a bold beetroot sauce and fresh fennel. Florentine tradition is honored on the menu, too, with seared Chianina beef on layers of rosemary-flavored potato slices with an aioli and za’atar sauce and fried capers.
Chef Micheli has a penchant for the umami flavors of fermented ingredients and they crop up in the Miso Shrimps & Fillet (fermented tomatoes in the gazpacho) and in the seared octopus with goat yogurt and spicy tomato cream. Micheli says it comes from his middle Eastern roots and “it gives this saltiness and added flavor I love.” Even the dessert of middle Eastern muhallebi has a fermented element — panna cotta topped with fermented red fruits syrup, pistachio and rose water.
The dinner menu caters to those wanting a traditional starter and main, while also giving options for single-course dinners like the Angel Burger with black garlic sauce. The bar menu, instead, is ideal for nibbles or ordering several sharing plates for a robust aperitivo. There is hummus with fermented vegetables, crusty bread with roasted red pepper and cream cheese, or a mini Chianina burger with truffle mayo.
The restaurant reopens on March 24 and, although it may seem a better location in the summer months, it is magical to step out from the warm interior onto the dark terraces and gaze at the illuminated Duomo that seems almost within touching distance.