Angelo Pizza is sorry. "The produce guy didn't give us any parsley for the meatballs."
We're on the top floor of the Grandview Apartments at 3838 Roland Ave., in the building's restaurant space, now home to Angelo's Pie in the Sky, which used to be 15 floors lower and at 36th and Keswick until they lost their lease. My eyes are watering, but it's not a reaction to Angelo's announcement about the meatballs. And yes, Angelo Pizza is his real name.
My eyes are watering because the pizza oven vent is not functional. "We're putting that in tomorrow," says Angelo, who is sporting one of those Bluetooth phone clips on his ear, and keeps saying "hello," but not to anybody in the room, so it's a little confusing.
We're at the "Soft Opening" on Angelo's Pie In The Sky, but we weren't supposed to be here. Tonight was supposed to be for friends and family. Angelo tells us "somebody put it on Facebook, I've been calling people all day" to tell them not to come out tonight, but the restaurant is full.
"I thought the snow would help keep people away," he says, and maybe it did, because the majority of the seated diners are gray-haired, which makes us think this is a word-of-mouth mob comprised of tenants of the Grandview, a seniors apartment building. What are we doing here? We tell Angelo we got an email, almost a press release, from an overzealous somebody inside his operation, hyping the nonopening, but when he asks us who, we tell him we won't rat.
OK, so SOFT OPENING, you cannot judge a place by its soft opening! Especially tonight with the general mayhem of first-time waitstaff, a counterintuitive floor plan (the pizza oven is pretty much in the center of the dining area), and uneven product coming out of said oven. Angelo finds the new oven "intimidating," it's a 2015 model, shiny and new, state of the art, apparently with some tech tweaks, and it hasn't been used much, so they don't have it quite dialed in yet. Right now the pies are a little darker and crispier than the typical Angelo's pies, and although Angelo says that's how he prefers them, he acknowledges the typical Angelo's customer does not.
One of tonight's soft-openers is heading for the door with his leftovers, loaded on Natural Light beer (Angelo's is BYOB), and he thanks us for returning the gloves he dropped on his attempt to exit. My clothes already are impregnated with the smell of overdone pizza. Nothing like that potato-and-grease smell that would hang on your clothes all day from a five-minute stop for coffee inside the old Donna's at Charles and Madison, but it's definitely noticeable.
Our companions are not thrilled with the pizza. They complain about it, and the legendary "Big Slice," which is on the new menu, and they gripe about a few other things, but thankfully not to Mr. Pizza's face while we're at the other end of the table busily polishing off our pepperoni pie, and yeah, it's a little overdone, SOFT OPENING. We still think this is the place with the closest thing to "New York"-style pies in Baltimore.
We're on the elevated area with the best view from one's table. I look through the glass walls at the dining room. Everyone is eating. Everyone is happy. Hard or soft, Angelo's is back.