By Rebecca Cahilly
City & Shore Magazine
“This really is a dream,” Angelo Elia says.
The venerable Italian chef, owner of Casa D’Angelo and Angelo Elia Pizza, Bar, Tapas, will be inducted into Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Entrepreneur Hall of Fame on April 27.
“To be recognized alongside these big names is unbelievable,” he says. “I’ve worked so hard and really accomplished something in my life. My family is so happy for me.”
Each year, NSU’s H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship selects three South Florida business leaders to receive its highest honor. Now in its 27th year, the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame recognizes individuals based on their success as an entrepreneur, the means by which their wealth was accumulated, their contributions to educational, social and other philanthropic organizations, and their involvement in supporting opportunities for other rising entrepreneurs. Elia shares this year’s honor with Roger Penske, founder and chairman of Penske Corporation; and Steve Hudson, CEO of Hudson Capital Group.
Elia was born in Italy and worked his way up through restaurant kitchens in New York City before opening the original Casa D’Angelo in Fort Lauderdale in 1998. He credits his grandmother for encouraging him to pursue a culinary career.
“She was incredible,” he says. “She made me realize that I had a talent and if I worked hard every day I would succeed.”
That drive propelled Elia and Casa D’Angelo to the forefront of the country’s dining scene. Today, his dining establishments include three Casa D’Angelo restaurants (Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Paradise Island/Bahamas) and a chain of small-plate Italian eateries, Angelo Elia Pizza, Bar, Tapas (Fort Lauderdale, Weston, Delray Beach and Coral Springs).
Elia is involved with each location on a daily basis and credits a great team around him to ensure his exacting standards.
“If you don’t have good people around you, you can’t do it,” he says. “So many restaurants open additional locations thinking they’ll do great. It’s not that easy. You have to stay on top of the quality. Your food needs to be the best it can be.”
Since settling in Fort Lauderdale 30 years ago, Elia says that he’s been most impressed with the growth of the city’s dining scene. He was influential in bringing the inaugural opening night of the ever-popular annual South Beach Wine and Food Festival to Fort Lauderdale this year. He was joined by Cooking Channel personalities Chef Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar to treat 150 guests to an Italian kick-off dinner at Casa D’Angelo.
“It’s been growing so much, there is now such incredible food – it’s not just meatballs anymore,” he says. “We have a great future.”
And the future for Elia is now. Angelo Elia, The Bakery Bar will bring authentic Italian sweetness to Oakland Park in late May or early June, and this summer a fourth Casa D’Angelo will open in Miami.