Located in the Southeast corner of the state, Erie, Michigan is a quaint township on Lake Erie’s coast. Its proximity to Toledo and small town feel make it an idyllic waterfront for residents. Ironically, those same attributes once made the town a bootlegger’s paradise during the U.S. Prohibition.
Erie sits between Detroit and Toledo, and it served as the perfect spot for Prohibitionists to distribute alcohol from Canada through lower Michigan and Ohio. One Erie business is particularly rich with Prohibition era history: Angelo’s Northwood Villa.
It’s not easy to describe the atmosphere of Angelo’s to those who have never been. It’s not a replication of a bygone era; it’s the real deal. Much of the vintage decor is the same as it was when the Northwood Villa first opened its doors. The impeccably refinished dance floor has lived through the Jazz Age. Fixed mirrors along one wall folded down and served as craps tables. A copper fitting in the ceiling of the main dining room used to be a hole where the owners would watch gambling patrons to make sure there was no funny business. The hidden cigar room that was previously a hangout for The Purple Gang is still utilized by Angelo’s customers today.
Well after the speakeasy days, the Northwood Villa thrived as a popular supper club into the early 90s. The restaurant was reopened in 2000 after being purchased by Angelo Tsipis. He wanted to maintain the historical significance and chose not to update the interior. The restaurant was renamed Angelo’s Northwood Villa and has seen nearly two decades of success under his ownership.
In an interview for the film “Toledo: The Prohibition Chronicles,” restaurant manager Alex Tsipis dives into the fascinating history of The Northwood Villa. During the tour, viewers can catch a glimpse of the basement which previously accessed hidden tunnels. They have since been covered, but during the prohibition days the bootleggers would transport liquor to nearby homes using this tunnel system.
Alex also gives his account on the building’s haunted nature. He lived in an apartment above the restaurant for two years and claims that late at night he could hear people laughing and clinking glasses in the dining rooms below. Since this was such a beloved spot for The Purple Gang, it’s not hard to believe they’d want to keep the party going there into the afterlife.
While the background of the business makes it intriguing, Angelo’s has truly flourished due to the hard work of its owner and staff. They have rave reviews across Yelp, TripAdvisor and social media. Their sauces are all made in-house and their ingredients are always fresh. Angelo’s prides itself on quality food and excellent service, and it shows through their many happy customers.
If you live nearby, or you’re passing through SE Michigan or NW Ohio, Angelo’s Northwood Villa is a must-see!