Friday, February 26, 2010
Taking a risk at Antonio’s Restaurant
My Achilles' heel as a food writer is that Italian tomato sauce (or red gravy) always makes me sick. Whether it is because of high acidity or combining it with cheese, it never fails, I spend the early morning hours kneeling to the porcelain god, swearing to the tile floor in my bathroom that I will never eat Italian food again, cross my heart and hope to die.
Making this kind of promise is highly problematic because I adore pizza (red sauce and all) and I love Italian cuisine. What’s a girl to do? On very rare occasions, I get lucky. I find an Italian place or pizza joint that plays nice with my belly and the only conclusion I can make from this mystery is that they offer a “quality” red sauce.
With a little online research I discovered that fast food pizza joints will add horrible things like MSG or citric acid to the cheapest tomato sauce they can get their hands on. It also worries me that formal restaurants who should be using fresh ingredients really aren’t!
Antonio’s Restaurant moved from the West Bank to Maple Street in the Riverbend in August 2009, but the waitstaff, owner and chef remain the same, as well as a pretty extensive wine list. John and I were rather comforted by the décor that featured rich, burnt orange painted walls, elegant art and warm, low lighting. The dining room featured sturdy wood tables and chairs that made dining (and lounging) quite comfortable.
For an appetizer, we ordered the Fried Calamari (spelled calamary on the menu) as a little test. Is it just me or does EVERY Italian restaurant feature fried calamari? Anyhow, I find that ordering this fairly simple appetizer tends to give me an idea of how good the rest of the meal will be. Antonio’s passed my test with flying colors. The fish was tender and the batter was crunchy and not too oily with just a little bit of heat. The calamari was served with a marinara dipping sauce that was neither too sweet nor too acidic, but just right.
John selected the Linguine Mediterraneo featuring large pieces of shrimp, artichoke hearts, black olives, cherry tomatoes and feta cheese in their “special” garlic sauce. My taste of his dish proved to be very fresh and flavorful with a nice tang from the artichokes.
Although we couldn’t finish our entrees, I was still raring for dessert and selected a Chocolate Lava Cake with vanilla ice cream. The cake came out hot with a large scoop of ice cream smothered in chocolate syrup. Usually, John won’t help me eat most of the desserts, but this time he finished it off!
Written by Kim Ranjbar