Hours: Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday
Brad Schlieder, formerly of A Tavola, has opened this similarly intimate Italian restaurant with garden seating.
Tucked into what used to be an antique store just off Armitage in Bucktown, the aptly named Antico is by all appearances a typical neighborhood restaurant. Yet the unassuming facade masks a crack staff and kitchen. Cuttlefish fritti—thick ribbons of fish lightly battered and served with an explosive fried lemon wedge—beat any calamari I'd ever had, and an octopus special, served over a bed of arugula and flat-leaf parsley, had its sharpness undercut by a light, sweet dressing. Sauteed mushrooms served over polenta were a knockout, rich and buttery. House-made sausages were equally good, with nodules of fennel, complemented in sweet-and-savory fashion by braised red cabbage tanged with mustard and a mostarda of dried apricot. Risotto Milanese had a light, citrusy flavor balanced by Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the spaghetti con vongole had clams almost as fresh as the pasta. Yet the stars were the gnocchi, served three ways on any given night; we opted for the brown butter and sage, crispy fried leaves of the herb providing a light crunch to pasta that melted in the mouth. A special of fried grouper rested on its own flavors, complemented by seasonal and especially fresh asparagus tinged with lemon. Amarone-braised short ribs fell off the bone, the sauce soaking into a shallow pool of saffron polenta. Meaty Colorado lamb chops were likewise perfectly prepared, though not so well served by their accompaniment, a slab of sliced potatoes Parmigiano gratin. The thick-capped cappuccino I tried washed down a panna cotta with red-wine sauce that put flan to shame.
— Ted Cox
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