Celebrating Historic Restaurants in Providence

Published in People in Preservation.

Last month, in partnership with American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded grants to 25 historic and culturally significant restaurants in the United States. Their Backing Historic Small Restaurants Grant Program focused on People of Color, women, and underrepresented groups that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. “These restaurants are cultural treasures that strengthen their communities and carry their local legacies and traditions forward.”

We couldn’t agree more, and it’s a shame that no restaurants in New England were awarded grants. We want to do our part to recognize these important cultural treasures, starting with one that is nearly 100 years old: Angelo‘s Civita Farnese.

What other Providence restaurants are holding their own? Submit your suggestion here.

In 1924, Angelo‘s Civita Farnese Restaurant opened its doors on Atwells Avenue in Providence’s “Little Italy.” Angelo’s was the workingman’s restaurant where the community and neighborhood could gather for good food at affordable prices.
Angelo‘s has had history’s help in establishing itself as a landmark in Rhode Island and is the state’s longest operating family-owned restaurant. Celebrating their 97th year in operation, and its 56th year at this location, Angelo‘s has seen the comings and goings of customers and the changing scenes of Federal Hill. To survive the Great Depression, they made innovations that became long-standing traditions. They started serving French fries with meatballs and offering half orders of most dishes as an inexpensive way for patrons to have a full stomach while not emptying their wallets. The original white marble community tables are still there, as is the 125 feet of solid brass track on which runs the full scale L.G.B. train from Germany. As it has since 1996, a quarter will send the train traveling around the dining room ceiling. One hundred percent of all donations benefit children’s charities in Rhode Island, totaling more than $30,000 to date.
In 2008, Robert Antignano (third-generation), was recognized by the SBA as Jeffrey Butland’s Family-Owned Business of the Year. This is a national award, which honors a family-owned and operated business that has been passed from one generation to the next.

Now Angelo’s is owned and led by the fourth generation, Robert’s daughter Jamie Antignano. During the COVID-19 pandemic they implemented a new POS system with online ordering capabilities, moved tables into the street for safe al fresco dining, and started a pantry service to deliver quality food and ingredients in a safe and convenient manner. As an almost 100-year old restaurant they had to be increasingly nimble to adapt to every new regulation and challenge thrown their way.

Angelo’s is more than a place to eat; it is a slice of history where people from all walks of life sit elbow to elbow at the same white marble tables their grandparents and other family members may have shared over the years. They are committed to continuing this legacy for many years to come and in sharing their love of history, great food, and lasting family memories.

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