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Eat Me: Antika Venezia…

April 17, 2012

Ok, let’s talk about food. Maybe then I can get my teacher wife to stop hissing at me every time I walk into the room.

So a few months back, my in-laws were out to dinner with friends at a place on the lower west side of Manhattan, down in the meat-packing district. While there, they were nice enough to grab us a gift certificate. So either they really enjoyed it and wanted us to share the experience, or they recognize that my wife and I rarely get to enjoy a restaurant that doesn’t provide crayons and a word search with the specials menu. So with no further ado:

Antika Venezia (Website here) is a small romantic place on Tenth avenue in Manhattan, specializing in Italian cuisine. Now if you are not familiar with that part of Manhattan, Tenth Avenue is actually also the West Side Highway. Parking can be tough down there so if you have a reservation, be sure to leave yourself some time to legally park the car. (And I mean LEGALLY! NYC does not fuck around with parking. Park illegally and you’ll be looking down the barrel of a $100+ ticket. If you’re lucky. Get a douchey traffic cop on her period and she will tow your ass. Then you’ll be walking off your dinner in the middle of the night towards the West Side impound lot, and take it from me, you want no part of that.) Anyway…

The Queen and I got lucky with a nearby parking spot and approached the restaurant. Not a whole lot to look at from the outside, like many Manhattan restaurants. A nondescript storefront with a few tables and chairs set-up outside for some fine al fresco dining, although we weren’t sure who would choose to dine that way since the place was directly on a major highway, but yannow, cest la vie. We were greeted warmly by a smiling hostess who offered us the option of sitting right away or, since we were a few minutes early, having a quiet drink at the bar. Being that we were child-free for the moment and also both functioning alcoholics, we opted for the bar. I partook of my usual 7 and 7 (Yeah, I drink like I am fucking ninety years old) while the wife perused the wine list. We were attended to by an extremely friendly bartender who not only made a solid wine recommendation for the wife, but let her sample a few different varietals before landing on a favorite. And by “sample”, I mean she was pouring half-glasses on the house until her decision was made. (A courtesy my wife is never too proud to take full advantage of, by the way.) Halfway through our drinks, the bartender appeared with a platter of Parmigiano cheese, olives, and arugula, on the house. Certainly a nice touch to take the edge off of an empty stomach being bathed in whiskey. After a few minutes and a lot of olives, we decided to head over to our table.

The Atmosphere: It’s a small restaurant, maybe fifteen tables total. Quiet enough to be romantic, but not so quiet that you feel the need to whisper. We were seated at a table of two next to a beautiful built-in wine rack. The whole place had the feel of a nineteenth century Italian winery. Just our speed. It is very, VERY dark. In fact, the only real light in the whole place is provided by multiple candles placed everywhere. Great for romance, but a little difficult to read a menu. Kind of a nit-pick, not a huge deal.

The Food: The table was furnished with a basket of fresh bread, both white and whole wheat, and a nice dipping oil. My wife and I both ordered off the specials menu, which started with a fresh arugula salad with strawberries, blood oranges, and raspberries, topped with a nice vinaigrette. We had trouble deciding where to go from there, so the waiter recommended we split a half order of a tortellini special that was actually an entrée. This dish was the highlight of the evening. A fresh tortellini filled with Ricotta cheese, prosciutto and peas in a nice, light vodka sauce. Even split into a quarter portion, which we were each presented with, the portion was generous. Next came a plate of bruschetta and a plate of fried zucchini, both provided gratis by the manager, a courtesy which is granted to every table. Both very good, and yannow, free, so it’s all good there. For our entrees, the wife ordered the rib eye touched by a peppercorn crust in a light brown gravy. Typically I am not a huge fan of gravy on a steak as it tends to drown out the natural flavors of the meat, but this was light enough to actually accent the ribeye. Also, the steak had to approach thirty ounces and had not one speck of fat anywhere on it. Very nicely done. My meal was a Bradzini (A whitefish) filetted and seared tableside in a white wine/brandy/garlic sauce. A nice light entree, with a touch of lemon, to finish off a heavy Italian meal. I did find one small bone, but I’m not a total prick, so I can look past it.

We passed on dessert because A. We were over-full and B. My wife is unapologetically addicted to Pinkberry and demands we patronize one any time we are in the city. Before we were presented with our bill, however, the waiter pushed over a wooden rolling cart with three decanters filled with a selection of homemade after dinner liquor, again, on the house. My wife tried a lemon sipping liquor while I went for the Sambuca, which was fermented with fresh coffee beans. I made a good choice. I don’t love Sambuca, but this was the perfect way to end a fabulous meal.

All told, the bill came to $147*, before tip, which was surprisingly reasonable considering the amount and quality of food, the location (Manhattan is really fucking expensive, I.E. eleven dollars for a 7 and 7) and the service.

The Service: Attentive, almost to the point of smothering. I felt like we had three servers standing nearby waiting to provide us with anything we may have needed. Some may be put off by the intense service, but not me. I am a fancy man, and I demand fancy treatment. The waiter suggested our entire menu and was dead on with every recommendation. In fact, I would recommend letting your server guide you through your culinary journey.

The bottom line is if you are in Manhattan and are looking for a romantic, kid-free evening, I cannot recommend this place enough. If the price seems unreasonable, keep in mind that the TGIFridays in Times Square charges like thirty dollars for fucking chicken fingers, so welcome to Manhattan.

* The total bill totaled $175, if you include the drinks at the bar at the beginning for the night. Keep in mind also that almost eighty of that was booze. (Yeah, we can drink.)

  1. Oh. My. God. If we weren’t already destined to be fast friends, your choice of drink sealed the deal. I used to work for Seagram’s and we had luncheon seminars on how to prepare a proper 7&7.

    • A proper 7 and 7 is an art form which sadly has not been mastered by most lost souls behind the bar. There is a certain level of brown that is required for the perfect blend. I once took a picture of the perfect drink with my phone so I have a visual aid for the barkeep when I initially plant my ass on the stool. I’m a high-maintenance drunk…

  2. Siobhan permalink

    Nice review. I’m going to recommend this to the hubs next time we are thinking about doing a fancy night out (which admittedly is about 2x a year) Maybe Mothers’ Day… but yeah, good review! Thanks

    • Yeah, we are on a twice-a-year pace ourselves these days. Good place though. Worth the price…

  3. Wow I live in Orlando where you can eat pretty cheap at lots of decent places and from your descriptions the price actually sounds extremely reasonable even from here.

  4. Hey Mon! permalink

    Drooling. I just fucking started Weight Watchers and I would so lick my plate at that place according to your description.

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