Antonello Ristorante: Doing Service the Right Way
photos by Dawn Garcia
ORANGE COUNTY, CA – The night air is crisp and cold as the chill of winter rests down over us inviting us to find warmth in the smells now drifting just outside of Antonello Ristorante. Greeted by a smiling Hostess, I see Somm, Steve Ebol. The last time I saw him was at a wine dinner with David Long of David Arthur Vineyards. Steve lets me know he will be over to talk with us once we are seated. We are shown to our table. Table is perfectly set and eager to welcome our chilled bodies. We begin our evening with Veuve Clicquot … that beautiful yellow label that introduces you to a world of crisp bubbly delight and fresh bread served with their version of “salsa verde” consisting of garlic, serrano peppers, cilantro, parsley, capers, anchovies, and olive oil. (The bread and salsa verde burst with flavor.) Steve arrives at our table to tell us about the menu, the changes, the wines, and his reception is warm and welcoming. Savatore, the maître d’ comes to say hello as does our server for the evening, Carlos. Already, upon first impression, there is a level of old school service that is quite refreshing to see. Steve explains to us that Antonello’s is bringing back table side service – a rather lost art these days. The evening begins with a bang as Salvatore wheels out a cart adorned with a huge beautiful round of pecorino cheese imported from Sardino, Italy. Pecorino is made of sheep’s milk and can be described as nutty and buttery. The center is hollowed out for this particular dish. Beside the pecorino is the most glorious sight: black truffle sitting like bliss in a glass jar. A minute later, the risotto arrives and, steaming hot, is poured into the hollowed center of pecorino. Salvatore folds the risotto into the center as the cheese naturally warms and bathes in the risotto, flavors all culminating together and then he pauses to put on his white gloves and very gently begins to peel meticulous pieces of truffle. The smell of such heaven wafts through the air. Soon I bite into it and the edible Parmesan crusted bowl. The permeation of truffle layered into the well cooked risotto grains and hues of pecorino are delightful.
Next Steve comes to pour (and filter in a decanter) an ORMA Cab Franc Bordeaux blend. One wine, one estate. Both called Orma and located within the district of Castagneto Carducci, right next-door to Ornellaia, whose vineyard borders Moretti’s, north of the Via Bolgherese. This is an area with some of the most amazing terroir in all of Italy. Orma, ironically, means “mark” or “footprint”. There have only been three vintages so far, beginning with 2005, and in a very short time, wine and estate have indeed made their marks.
My take of ORMA’s Cab Franc: it has floral notes that linger on the nose, notes of pepper and berry blooming upon first sip – A beautiful red.
So now to take you through the rest of our courses:
Rucolo Salad: Arugula + Baby Artichokes + Sicilian Olive Oil, Parmigiano Reggiano + White Balsamic Vinegar
A warm spinach salad which is good but not particularly a standout dish. This salad was also made table side by our server, Carlos. The warm spinach tossed in a large bowl, juicy crisped pieces of bacon broken up and tossed into the spinach as a warm vinaigrette is added. Shaved Parmesan rests atop the salad as it is served on white plate – all right before our eyes.
Swordfish with green beans, Patate di Tartufi (Mash Potatoes + Black Truffle), and lobster claw.
The swordfish at first bite is good but I was more impressed with the lobster. That said, with time the swordfish began to bloom and with every component of the plate strategically placed on my fork, that bite was wonderful.
Now hungry for pasta, I order the Fettuccine (Porcini Mushrooms + Fresh Tomato + Truffle Oil) however I amend the fettuccine for gluten-free penne. It arrives and is prepared just so. With a few red chile flakes, it’s a happy bite of pasta.
Dessert – Cafe Romato. A couple nearby lures us in as they have this prepared table side; a fiery sweet dessert cocktail and immediately, we’re intrigued.
Wonderfully scrumptious served with vanilla gelato on the bottom of the dessert dish as the main attraction ensues. Salvatore has brown sugar, orange and lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar and then he adds the banana liqueur. He sets fire to the glass and pours it over the gelato. This is by far the best way to end the dinner as the fire trails in like a volcanic river flooding over the icy base.
Antonello’s is a restaurant that has a deep appreciation of their patrons and a loyalty to quality service. It is exuded in their staff, some of which have been there since they day they opened their doors. Sommelier, Steve Ebol showed such a thoughtful desire of sharing wines, telling the stories of the regions they come from, the rare little gems few get to experience whether in a year or blend or region and it’s refreshing. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Owner, Antonio Cagnolo and the grace of his presence is something rarely found anymore. Antonello’s is as if the old world traditions have found a happy marriage in a present day establishment that doesn’t dare compromise integrity of experience or quality of service. The experience at Antonello Ristorante is one that you will always appreciate and never regret. Thank you so much to Steve, Antonio, Salvatore, Carlos, and Chefs Gino Buonanoce and Salvatore Ferrara for everything. You and your staff from hostess to service was absolutely spot on.
#wine #pecarinocheese #Italian #food #diningout #OCRestaurants
3800 S Plaza Dr.
Santa Ana, CA 92704
CONTACT + HOURS
Lunch: M-F | 11:30am – 2:00pm
Dinner: M-F | 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Sat | 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Sun | Closed