The Austin Chronicle

Ate Days a Week

How much more food and music can you ask for in this town around this time and after?

March 18, 2005, Food

When the Moon Hits Your Eye ...: Italian

Frank and Angie's

508 West Ave., 472-3534

Monday-Saturday, 11am-10pm; Sunday, 4-10pm

Wednesday night is the night to be at Frank and Angie's for live music played by Sergey Vashchenko. This self-styled Jimi Hendrix of the balalaika strums an assortment of old-world tunes that make you feel somewhere between Italy and Ukraine. However, the great New York-style pizza will keep you firmly rooted in the new world. Frank and Angie's thin-crust pies come in all the traditional sizes and flavors. The Scorsese pizza, with a carpet of pepperoni spread over a homemade tomato sauce recipe engineered by the owner's own grandmother, is about as classic as they come. For the more progressive-minded pizza lover, there's a pie made with spinach, feta, roasted mushrooms, and basil pesto. The menu also offers pasta and salads. Save room for Frank and Angie's delicious homemade dried cherry and chocolate chip cannoli – a better example of the genre cannot be found anywhere in Texas. The small dining room with red-checked tablecloths is almost always crowded with students and young couples, so come early to get a table for Wednesday's balalaika serenade. – Rachel Feit

Carmelo's Italian Restaurant

504 E. Fifth, 477-7497

Lunch: Monday-Friday 11am-2pm

Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 5-11pm

Everything about Carmelo's says "old world." From the moment guests pull into the port cochere and are greeted by the valet, the hustle-and-bustle of downtown Austin drifts away. The location is a lovingly restored 19th-century railroad hotel furnished with antiques, rich tapestries, and murals. Sicilian-born owner Carmelo Mauro (or an attentive member of his staff) offers gracious hospitality, and the menu features elegant continental dishes alongside classic Italian fare. Lunches here are big with the expense-account business crowd, and the private dining rooms are regularly booked for rehearsal and wedding dinners. Wine dinners pairing Carmelo's menu with the finest in Italian and Texas wines are a popular regular feature. One of the more charming aspects of dinner at Carmelo's is the presence of strolling accordion player Hershel Moody, who plays from 7 to 10pm Tuesdays through Saturdays. Nothing says "old world" like a little "O, Sole Mio" with a voluptuous plate of pasta and a glass of wine. – V.B.W.

Gino's Italian Grill

730 W. Stassney Ste. A, 326-4466

Monday-Saturday, 4pm-2am; Sunday, 6pm-closing

Gino's is a dark, cozy neighborhood nest at the corner of South First and Stassney that is known for its red-checkered-style Italian food, good drinks, and the great music that pours from the stage nightly. It holds about 90 or so, and the seats are most likely to be filled with folks from south of the river; sort of a workingman, old-hippies-and-their-families kind of crowd, and that's just the way they like it. Everyone's welcome, it's casual, the food's good, there's never a cover, and the music is top-flight. The menu is a cross of East Coast family Italian and Texas roadhouse, the prices are exceptionally fair, and the portions are large. Favorites are the ravioli, pizzas, pasta with meatballs, lasagna, Philly cheesesteaks, and the chicken parmigiana (most of the entrées are in the $5.50-$8 range), and there's a daily special that runs from 4 to 11pm most days. Georgiana, the affable bartender, pours a great drink and dishes good dirt, and happy hour runs from 4 to 7pm all week long. Mike, the chef, used to be in Johnny Dee & the Rocket 88's, so he's got good connections musicwise. Tomas Ramirez, Tony Campise, Michael Ballew, and Rusty Wier are regular performers, and they have an open mic two nights a week, and several bands alternate weekly gigs. Ted Hall does his Blues Church Jam every Sunday starting at 7:30pm. It's the type of venue where you never know who's going to be sitting in on any given night, but you know it'll be first-rate. – Mick Vann

Tree House Italian Grill

2201 College Dr., 443-4200

Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm

Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5-9:30pm; Friday, 5-10:30pm; Saturday-Sunday, 5-10:30pm

Samba and pasta sublimely come together under the grand oak at the Tree House Italian Grill just off of South Congress. Catavento, a quartet that musically tours the Latin American musicscape and features the sultry Susanna Sharpe on vocals, reopens the live music scene on one of Austin's loveliest patios. Any time is a good time to partake of the veal picatta or ravioli at this charming eatery. The interior boasts gilt-trimmed furnishings, frescos of Neapolitan scenes, romantic lighting, and flickering candles. But it's the gorgeous patio, one small step for man off South Congress, but a giant leap from its hustle and bustle for mankind, that provides the perfectly pastoral setting for live music. A towering and enveloping 400-year-old live oak tree twinkles with white lights, extensive landscaping includes tiny foot bridges and gorgeous greenery, and a tall wooden fence blocks out all vestiges of city traffic. After a winter hiatus from live music (the interior is literally not conducive to music), the entertainment resumes March 18, when Catavento continues its standing Friday-night 7:30-10pm gig. A rotating door of other musicians will provide the exterior entertainment on Thursdays and Saturdays, too. Ah ... cannelloni and Catavento at the cafe. – Barbara Chisholm

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