A sweet warmth lies just below the surface of Condesa’s über-cool Angelopolitano. Walking through the front door, we were first struck by the restaurant’s elegant decor, which exists somewhere between hipster chic and business casual.
Potted plants sitting beneath framed 19th-century photographs make the space feel more like an art gallery than a place to eat. Such an environment would be off-putting if it weren’t for the staff, who flashed big smiles as we entered and spoke to each other in a familial, teasing tone you’d more expect to hear at a friend’s dinner party than an upscale restaurant.
Angelopolitano specializes in food from Puebla, which is one of three Mexican states that claim to be the birthplace of mole (Oaxaca and Tlaxcala are the other two). While Angelopolitano serves several varieties of the spicy sweet sauce accompanied by different meats, as we had sampled in 2014, there was one dish in particular we wanted to try this time: the cemita de mole. This sandwich crams mole into a cemita, an egg-based bread only found in Puebla, an exemplar of the great Mexican tradition of gluttonously combining two existing dishes to create an even richer offering (cemita, it should be noted, also refers to sandwiches made with cemita bread).
“You can’t find real cemitas in D.F. [Distrito Federal],” Gerardo Quezadas, Angelopolitano’s owner, told us recently. “So we have them shipped in everyday from Puebla.” Quezadas prizes authenticity, hailing from a family of poblanos. In fact, the restaurateur synthesized the mole served at Angelopolitano from the mole recipes of his mother, two aunts, grandmother and great-grandmother. “I took the best parts of each recipe and got rid of all the bad flavors,” Quezadas admitted with a childish giggle.
Biting into the cemita de mole is like biting into a pillow.
After we sipped on an almond-infused horchata, our waiter placed a large white plate bearing our cemita de mole before us. First, our eyes narrowed in on the sandwich’s golden bun and green arugula; then the smell of freshly fried bread and chopped tomato hit our noses. By the time we lifted the half-foot high cemita to our face, we were salivating.
Biting into the cemita de mole is like biting into a pillow. After the slightest initial resistance, the bread gives way and everything between the bun follows suit, ready to liquefy into a delicious, spicy mush. The heat of the brown mole coating the shredded chicken hits immediately and drowns your tongue in a subtly sweet flavor. Cemitas often come laden with veggies, but Angelopolitano’s cemita de mole is a simpler affair: it has quesillo cheese, a slice of onion, a thin layer of black refried beans, a smidge of butter, a few chunks of avocado, crema, tomato and the herbs papalo and arugula.
While papalo, a flavorful Latin American herb, is part of a traditional cemita, the arugula is an Angelopolitano innovation. Quezadas would later tell us that he included the herb because it aids in digestion. “It’s to counteract the butter,” he explained.
Quezadas had already opened 39 street puestos and restaurants by the time he launched Angelopolitano in 2013. He planned to sell the restaurant as soon as it became profitable. But when the time came for Quezadas to put Angelopolitano on the market, he couldn’t.
“The place is just too successful,” he told us. Plus, the restaurant is the end result of four generations of family tradition. “My family’s proud of me and this place,” Quezadas said before pausing and chuckling. “And they like the mole, too.”
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