CAFE ANTONIO – BYOB
Cafe Antonio is another of the plethora of Collingswood eateries that line Haddon Ave. It’s a couple of doors down from Joe Pesce and a few doors up from Villa Barone. I had mentioned in previous reviews of Haddon Ave. restaurants that part of the Friday night scene are the crowds gathered outside the various eating spots. These are composed of hopeful diners that did NOT make reservations. Sometimes, you have to wiggle your way into the place. That was not a problem last night at Cafe Antonio; there were no crowds, outside or inside. It might be noted (and you can see it in the photo of the sign), that the name is actually Cafe Antonio II. When I went to click on the link for this restaurant, up came a Cafe Antonio in Herndon, Virginia. Our party of six was comfortably seated and with the exception of two other tables, we had the place to ourselves. The interior walls are painted with those “faux” scenes of the Italian countryside. Our server, Lee (although it could have been “Leigh”) recited the evening specials and brought us a basket of warm rolls with a dish of peppers and garlic in a red sauce for dipping. Joe B. & Jerry C. split an order of mussels and the wives shared some broccoli rabe. Not being a huge fan of either of these items, I passed. Carol B. thought the broccoli rabe was frozen rather than fresh and the guys found the mussels “fishy” tasting. I reminded them that they did, afterall, come from the sea, so a “fishy” taste might be expected. They reminded me that I knew nothing about mussels. Touche!
I really liked the wine I had chosen for the evening, the 2008 Klee Pinot Noir, Williamette Valley, Oregon. I had read quite a bit about the 2008 vintage for Pinot in Oregon and how it may be the best in many years. This was my first opportunity to sample a 2008, as most have not yet reached the local shelves, and I thought it was delicious with bright cherry and plum flavors, well-balanced tannins and a smooth finish. It also got better with time in the glass. Sue C. brought a bottle of the popular Aussie granache, the 2008 Bitch. Her choice of wines naturally lent itself to a hundred comments that could be made right here but I will do the intelligent and civil thing and say nothing. It did make for a few laughs at the table and, it’s a very decent wine, anyway.
Joe and Carol ordered the Eggplant Rollatini which came with a humongous side of pasta and was topped with a generous portion of mozzarella cheese. I didn’t hear any comments on how they enjoyed their choice so I have to assume it was fine.
Sue and Jerry ordered from the “specials” with Sue choosing the Tuna with peppers and Jerry having the shrimp in a brandy creme sauce that was very similar to an “alfredo” sauce”. His plate gave the appearance of a heart attack waiting to happen. Sue sent her soup back as not being hot enough and I think I did overhear them in the kitchen say “she must be the one with the “Bitch” bottle.” Damn, I promised I wasn’t gonna do that!!
My wife, Kathy, has the Pollo Saltimbocca, big portion of chicken breast topped with spinach, cheese and prosciutto while I ordered the not very adventurous Chicken Parmigiano. Again, two large pieces of chicken with a generous helping of pasta with red sauce. I can safely say, you won’t leave Cafe Antonio hungry as the portions are quite large. We took home half of our chicken dishes. I think, overall, the food is ok, with nothing standing out and nothing delivering that “wow” factor. If Cafe Antonio was your local restaurant, a block from your house, it would be a safe choice for dinner. The prices for virtually all of their entrees are very reasonable. The problem is, it is located right in the heart of the Big League of South Jersey restaurants, and it is not a contender to win the pennant.