Once again proving the point that the best restaurants in Los Angeles are in strip malls, Antico is the latest contemporary Italian eatery to hit the town. And not a moment too soon.
Located at the edge of Koreatown and Hollywood (in what some – not me – are dubbing East Larchmont), the restaurant is the first solo project from chef Chad Colby. You might remember him from stints at Mozza and Chi Spacca. At Antico, he dedicates his time-honed skills to turning out wood-fired meats, hand-rolled pastas and farm-fresh produce, all with equal aplomb.
Simplicity and sophistication interplay interestingly in everything from the setting to the menu. The entryway is accented with vintage and repurposed items while the main dining room is a pared-down space of whitewashed walls, bare light fixtures and blond wood tables. It is dominated by the bustle of the open kitchen, complete with hanging pots and pans and the open grill, at the back.
Some might call the menu small with under 20 entries total. I’d call it focused. The dishes read like an ode to the rustic but refined cuisine of Puglia and Campagnia. Along with antipasti and seasonal small plates as starters, there are a handful of homemade pasta options and items flame-grilled over the hearth.
Come with friends so you can sample the selection of house-cured salumi with various cheeses, grilled and preserved vegetables and a spread of baby sardines laced with chili. Slather them onto slices of the hearty focaccia, which is literally some of the best bread I have ever eaten thanks a fluffy, bubble-flecked center and a perfectly toasted, crisp crust.
The radish salad with parmesan and basil is a nice, understated counterpoint, but it would be a shame to miss out on the creamy burrata with tender autumn squash and pumpkin seeds. The poached egg is served over polenta so rich it is practically a pudding, along with a delicate walnut béchamel and paper-thin slivers of white truffle that provide just the right touch of decadence.
You might have noticed chef Colby’s personal collection of antique pasta-making equipment near the front door, so you can bet he takes his pasta seriously, rolling some of it in house and importing others from an artisanal producer in Italy.
If you can only order one item, the spaghettini should be your choice. It feels both familiar and surprising, conjuring memories of a leisurely lunch spent dining in a sun-splashed piazza. The delicate strands of dough are tossed in an amber-hued colatura sauce with just a tinge of lemon and topped with briny slices of anchovy for a slight bite. The dish is delicate yet flavorful, and not to miss. For a meatier follow-up, try the cavatappi with juicy lamb sugo, plump Gaeta olives and shavings of salty pecorino cheese.
Time for protein. Colby grills his meats over almond wood, hence the slight char on the outside of a flank steak that is still perfectly pink through the middle and drizzled with a savory salsa verde and olive oil. Also worth ordering, the Frenched lamb chops arrive at the table sizzling with a sprinkling of hand-torn mint, pistachio and a coil of sausage made from the rib meat and seasoned with garlic.
The kitchen will also send out small sides like roasted broccolini or squash to nibble on alongside your main course – just trust them to bring you what’s best.
Colby’s partner, sommelier Kevin Caravelli, oversees the impressive Italian-driven wine collection, with one vintage that even dates back to 1967. However, there are plenty of more recent (and more reasonably priced) options including a tongue tingling Arneis from Piedmont in the white column, and an earthy Sicilian Nero d’Avola with plenty of red fruit notes and a smoky finish that pairs perfectly with the grilled meats.
Desserts, meanwhile, come courtesy of Brad Ray, who has done time at Eleven Madison Park. He puts a Carpigiani ice-cream maker to good use churning out a rotating selection of flavors. If honeycomb is available, though, drop everything and order that. Flavored with dashes of olive oil and sea salt, the tart ice cream surrounds a core of syrupy honeycomb that will still have you salivating hours after you’ve fought off your fellow diners for the last bite.
4653 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90004; 323-510-3093; antico-la.com
Last modified: March 6, 2020