It was just after sunrise when I found myself digging greedily into a to-go container holding the satisfying remnants of my pulpo contadino—tender chunks of lemon-splashed Spanish octopus with Great Northern beans, diced pepperoncini and herbed crostini. (Hey, there’s no law against grilled mollusk on toast for breakfast, right?)
This don’t-knock-it-till-you’ve-tried-it mélange was among the parts of several dishes that had comprised our dinner the night before at Antica Italian Restaurant & BYOB, the eatery situated along Route 1 in Chadds Ford. Chefs Josh Friedberg and Gent Mema first met while working together at Old City’s Spasso Italian Grill. A few years back, the duo opened the still-humming Il Granaio in Glen Mills.
Like its predecessor five miles to the east, Antica is a cozy little gem. Tucked away in the shadows of Brandywine Prime steakhouse, it appears to be thriving. The name (pronounced an-TEE-ka) sounds exotically Mediterranean. In fact, it’s a catchy homage to the antiques-laden history of the area. From the outside, the former Bistro on the Brandywine space looks like a cheery New England-style seashore cottage. Inside, there are three dining rooms of varying sizes, with walls painted the colors of terra-cotta and straw. Room divider cutouts inject a linear aesthetic, and an old, exposed stone wall is a vestige from days past.
For starters, the zesty fried calamari passed muster, as did the balsamic-creamed Caprese salad. Soaked for hours in balsamic vinegar, red wine, garlic and a tangle of caramelized onions, Antica’s 12-ounce strip steak was a marinated marvel—tender to the core and a bargain at $23. (A comparable steak from Brandywine Prime runs $11 more.) The veal pizzaiola came topped with piquant capers, kalamata olives and chopped tomatoes, its milky cutlets awash in a white pomodoro sauce.
Most of the items on Antica’s abbreviated dessert list are house-made, including the crème brûlée and the tiramisu. We opted for the budino di pane, an Italian take on bread pudding—melted bittersweet chocolate and rum-soaked orange zest poured over Italian bread and tossed with toasted pistachios and kosher salt, plus a side of vanilla ice cream.
All was fairly quiet when we arrived at 6 p.m. on a recent Friday. An hour later, a din enveloped the main dining room. Friedberg says the room’s ceilings will be dropped, and window dressings and wall baffles will be installed to help pad the restaurant’s resounding acoustical levels.
THE SKINNY: Antica is the sort of casual, quality-minded neighborhood spot where you could easily dine more than once a week, with service as affable as it is well-informed and food that satisfies the fiercest trad-Italian craving, whether it’s coming from the kitchen or your refrigerator the next morning—and that’s really saying something.
Antica ITALIAN RESTAURANT & BYOB 1623 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, (484) 770-8631, www.anticapa.com. cuisine: Multiregional Italian. cost: Salads and appetizers $6-$12, à la carte entrées and house specialties $17-$25. attire: Stylishly casual. atmosphere: Two spare but tasteful dining rooms, plus a back space for private parties of up to 30. hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, closed Monday. extras: BYOB with no corkage fee.