Like Highland Tap & Burger, the happy hour at Angelo's Taverna has been freshly crowned as a neighborhood sensation. In this densely residential area that condo builders insist on calling Governor's Park, it's not hard to see why residents are treating the two-year-old Angelo's as a default hangout. And by offering a menu of party-ready food and drink for happy hour, the place has the 3-to-6 p.m. crowd all sewn up on this part of Sixth Avenue. If you're used to happy-hour hunting, you're probably accustomed to sliding into a booth or a bar with little fuss; that won't happen at Angelo's, though, where I couldn't get a seat for the life of me around 6 p.m.
Angelo's is filled with the aromas of any good Italian place — bubbling marinara, the charred offerings of the oven — but with the additional whiff of deep-sea brine. Unlike other mid-market Italian places, Angelo's is all about oysters, be they fried, grilled, basted in butter or naked on the half shell. There's even a recently introduced Oyster Social brunch where the little guys take the main stage. Even though the space has been an Italian joint for decades, the remodel and renaming has given it a new identity. (Taverna, of course, is an old Greek or Italian word that translates to "We have ESPN.")
At both happy hours, one from 3 to 6 p.m. and another from 9 p.m. to close daily, Angelo's serves a familiar menu of Italian appetizers paired with discounted wells, wines and drafts. A Sex Panther ($10) on the rocks, culled from the special "Anchorman-hattan" menu, was made in traditional fashion but with top-shelf, unconventional whiskey and vermouth. That well-made drink, plus an impressive spread of craft beer on draft and in bottles and cans, was a sign of faith in the customer's intelligence. After blowing through some unmemorable toasted ravioli ($4), it was time to sample Angelo's seafood specialty with an oyster on the half shell.
At just a buck per shell, it's the closest thing to a signature item that Angelo's Taverna has. With a sliver of lemon and a bit of mignonette on the side, these oysters are more than adequate for the price. The meat inside tasted a bit briny but fresh — I didn't ask after the bivalve's origin, but for $1, who cares about terroir (or whatever it's called off-shore)? Though they added a raw bar and craft cocktails, the new owners of Angelo's wisely held on to their predecessor's pizza dough and sauce recipes. Perfectly proportioned for one person or to split among friends, the 8" happy-hour pizza ($6) is not to be ignored. The sauce is classic, the crust is chewy, the cheese pulls off all the toppings in the first bite: This is a solid old-school pizza at a solid price. And of course, you can always class it up a bit for a dollar a topping.
Angelo's happy hour strays a bit from the heritage cuisine that garnered the place our 2014 Best Red-Sauce Italian Restaurant award. But stick with oysters and pizza, and you'll see why Angelo's is packed. It's the kind of place where you could host a family reunion or schedule a regular date night, and it makes for a fine happy hour.
Perfect For: With Govnr's Park Tavern, a bunch of Frank Bonanno places, Racines, and Lala's 'round the corners, Angelo's would be a great midpoint in a Governor's Park bar crawl. Pro tip: save the margaritas at Benny's for the end, not the beginning.
Don't Miss: In addition to cheap, fresh oysters at happy hour, Angelo's is known for its char-grilled oysters ($2 at happy hour), with toppings like bacon and Gorgonzola or Breckenridge Bourbon chipotle butter. Ask your server about the origin of your oysters, too.