The menu at Chad Colby’s new rustic, open-hearth Italian restaurant may not offer anything quite so dramatic as the beef and bone marrow pie of my dreams at the chef’s former kitchen—Nancy Silverton’s chi SPACCA—but over multiple visits to Antico, we found enough hallmarks of Colby’s cooking to make us understand why his new spot’s been a hit since its launch.
One of those elements included the antipasti ($9 per person) which shows Colby at his best with gently grilled zucchini; house-cured salami; slivers of salty anchovy; and deeply creamy ricotta on crisp toast—notionally simple to make, decidedly hard to make well.
Salads were more straightforward. A garden salad ($12) is a hard dish to mess up. Antico almost did. The simple salad with added sungold tomatoes just rang of good shopping, and they followed the current and rather tiring trend of dressing the leaves with enough acid to make your teeth dissolve. Burrata ($14) is ubiquitous in Los Angeles, but with the addition of seasonal ingredients and crunch—breadcrumbs in summer, pepitas in autumn—it takes on a welcome textural dimension.
Oddly, given Colby’s provenance, the least appealing dishes were the pastas; they were by no means poor, but L.A. is experiencing a moment in the sun when it comes to matters noodular, and the pasta at Antico felt very much in the shade. Of those we sampled from the short selection, the ziti with tripe ragu and parmesan ($22) was the most successful: The deeply rich sauce found its way into the center of the noodles, and both the pasta and the tripe retained a slight bite. The spaghettini “al limone” ($18) was perfectly cooked but tasted as if someone had just discovered colatura but not yet realized how, if not used sparingly, the Italian fish sauce can overwhelm everything else on the plate.
Two of the main courses received immediate and very firm thumbs-up: Meaty, juicy and pleasingly charred chunks of swordfish belly ($28) came skewered and topped with a sauce made of capers, lemon, dill and olives, and were cleaned from the plate in unseemly haste. The Antico steak ($44) arrived pre-sliced, gorgeously pink and speckled with a suitably rustic salsa verde. Tomahawk-style lamb chops, too, were impressive to look at and again cooked to a perfect medium rare—Colby is, after all, a recognized meat master—however, the slick of oily sauce which doused them made the dish more of a challenge to enjoy than I’d hoped for. The main courses also came with seasonal sides, including heirloom beans and a creamed corn that was as terrific as anything we ate during the meal.
The spun ice cream ($9) at Antico is a great way to end the meal, particularly when paired with an even better chocolate-and-ricotta budino ($12).
The service at Antico was particularly lovely. Do be aware, however, that a clearly marked and well deserved 20-percent charge for service is already added to the bill when it arrives at your table—and that service charge does not mean included gratuity.
Antico is still in its first year, but it’s already operating with considerable confidence; unsurprising, given Colby’s impressive provenance. While there are one or two missteps in execution along the way, I’m sure these will soon be ironed out and I’ll have more good memories from Antico to join the ones I have from my visits to chi SPACCA.
WHERE TO SIT
The cramped nature of the dining room reflects the need to cram in enough tables to offset the city’s escalating rent costs, while the diminutive size of the two-tops requires juggling skills of Barnum & Bailey to prevent constant plate-to-floor action; the bar seating by the open kitchen is as good an option as any. But the food is strong enough that the experience of being very well fed balances any level of seating discomfort.
WHAT TO EAT
The antipasti is a great way to begin the meal, while the burrata is done as well here as anywhere. The ziti with tripe ragu was my favorite of the pastas, and of the main courses, the swordfish belly and the Antico steak were the best on offer. Finish with an excellent chocolate-and-ricotta budino.
WHAT TO DRINK
The restaurant currently operates on a wine and beer license, so if pre-dinner cocktails are a must, then stop off before at the nearby Copper Still. Just make sure to save liver capacity for the well-priced wine list at Antico: It’s been assembled by Antico’s managing partner, Kevin Caravelli, formerly of Maude and the NoMad, and Gostolai’s Sardinian grenache ($55) was enjoyable enough for us to order a couple of bottles.