Antica Italian Restaurant, Chadds Ford, PA – A Review

by artfuldiner on January 25, 2021

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Pennsylvania, Wining and Dining

Antica Italian Restaurant

1623 Baltimore Pike

Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

(484) 770-8631

Antica - Interior 1Situated just a few hundred yards from the Brandywine River Museum in the shadow of Brandywine Prime Steakhouse, Antica (pronounced an-TEE-ka) sounds like some exotic Mediterranean port-of-call. In reality, however, the name is merely a playful nod to the area’s long-running enthusiasm for antiquing.

Owned by chefs Josh Friedberg and Gent Mema, also proprietors of the popular Il Granaio restaurants in Glen Mills and Phoenixville, Antica’s three light & airy dining areas come replete with soothing colorations, a rustic stone wall, and framed prints by Andrew Wyeth, Chadds Ford’s favorite artistic son. You sense immediately that this is a cozy, welcoming space… But it is the authentic, lovingly prepared and beautifully presented cuisine that makes this diminutive eatery worth a journey.

Although I had dined at Antica on several previous occasions (and reviewed the restaurant twice before), the circumstances my dining partner and I encountered were quite different from previous visits.

First of all, originally a BYOB, the restaurant now sported a liquor license, offering its patrons a compact selection of wines by the glass and bottle, brews, and an interesting inventory of specialty cocktails.

Secondly, our visit occurred on a Sunday evening during the month of December, just after the governor had once again prohibited indoor dining. We were seated on the partially enclosed porch with a free-standing heat tower perched directly next to our table. And while the unit did a commendable job of radiating the heat downward toward the tabletop, appendages below the table – namely legs and feet – remained colder than a witch’s toenail throughout our meal. In addition, the traffic noise from Route 1 was more than a little daunting.

Despite our bone-chilling evening, however, one aspect of the Antica dining experience has certainly not changed – the excellent quality of the cuisine… And, as an added bonus, the entrée portions were infinitely more prodigious than I remembered them. Leftovers abounded.

Antika - Roast Pork & Broccoli Rabe EggrollTo start things off, my dining partner and I decided to share the Roast Pork & Broccoli Rabe “Eggroll.” A relatively new addition to the menu – and a real winner, by the way – two crispy rolls are cut on the diagonal and filled with tender slices of pork, broccoli rabe, and kicked up a notch with plenty of sharp provolone cheese. But the real crowd pleaser comes courtesy of the accompanying mustard horseradish aioli… with just enough heat to tantalize rather than paralyze those delicate taste buds.

When it comes to entrées, under normal circumstances, we undoubtedly would have chosen the seafood route, as the kitchen is quite adept at matters piscatorial and offered both Sautéed Salmon and Grilled Whole Bronzino on their printed menu. However, since our lower extremities were still doing battle with the elements (rather unsuccessfully, I might add), some good old-fashioned down-home Italian fare looked mighty inviting…

Antika - Sunday SupperAnd my dining partner’s Sunday Supper (pictured) – a Sunday evening special combining braised pork cheeks, ground sausage, and meatballs in a rich red sauce over homemade tagliatelle pasta – succeeded in warming both body and soul. My own Veal Parmigiana, topped with mozzarella and served up with linguini marinara, Italian comfort food taken to the max, was equally satisfying.

The house specialties I’ve sampled over the years have all been incomparably delicious. So, when various items put in periodic guest appearances, be sure to take advantage of your good fortune. The Pasta Pomodoro, for instance, a deceptively simple dish, still managed to blow me away. It offered a choice of pastas – I ordered linguini – in a pomodoro sauce, which is made with fresh tomatoes, olive oil & garlic and, usually, basil. It is meant to be a quick, light sauce rather than a heavy one. And Antica’s version was most assuredly light on the palate… but it was also alive with fresh flavors.

Antica - Spinach FettucciniOn the other hand, the Spinach Fettuccini, a dish with a slightly richer consistency, definitely stepped up the “wow” factor. House-made spinach pasta was sprinkled with toasted pine nuts, tossed with a pesto cream sauce, and topped with shaved Grana Padano cheese. I generally find cream sauces entirely too overwhelming for my palate; but the pesto cream was both light and irresistible. The infusion of basil and garlic added a spicy, earthy dimension that both contrasted with and, at the same time, complemented the luscious consistency of the cream. And the toasted pine nuts contributed a most satisfying textural counterpoint.

Antica - Carote MarsalaAmong the side dishes, the Carote Marsala – freshly sliced carrots braised in marsala wine and flavored with thin slices of roasted garlic – is highly recommended. Carrots are rarely offered as a restaurant side dish, usually being consigned to some form of innocuous vegetable medley or nondescript garnish. But here, as elsewhere, the kitchen continues to weave its magic with a highly colorful presentation that is both tasty and tasteful.

Antica - Lemon Cream CakeHomemade desserts include such favorites as cannoli, tiramisu, and Bundino di Pane, an Italian version of bread pudding. For my money, however, nothing quite tops the considerable charms of the luscious Lemon Cream Cake. This is a crowd-pleaser at both Antica and the two Il Granaio restaurants. After a substantial Italian dinner (like ours), this delightful denouement hits all the right notes… It’s rich, but not cloyingly so. And, unlike some heavy, over-the-top sweet endings, it’s also as light as a feather on the palate. The perfect conclusion to your evening at table.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well


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