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LA

Review

Jakob Layman

Antico

$$$$
Written by
Jakob Layman

Fare la scarpetta is an Italian phrase that means using a piece of bread to mop up whatever’s left on your plate. It’s basically a socially acceptable way of licking your plate, a move we fully approve of. During an early visit to Antico - the Italian spot on a part of Beverly between Larchmont and Koreatown - exactly one piece of focaccia hit our table. It was fantastic, soaked in olive oil, and coated in salt. But it was only one piece.

Things have changed since then. On subsequent visits, servers brought focaccia out of the kitchen like they had a minimum quota to meet. Some leftover tomato sauce with tripe? There’s focaccia for that. A bit of beef still on your plate after you finished your tartare? More focaccia. It’s just one of the improvements Antico has made since we first visited - and a big reason why we like this restaurant so much now.

That first visit was, in every sense of the word, just OK - the pastas were bland, the meat was perfectly pink but under-seasoned, and the service was all over the place. But the more we went back, the more subtle changes we noticed. And the more we changed our minds. It turns out the first night was a fluke, and, while it’s still got some flaws, Antico is fully worth adding to your Italian restaurant rotation.

Before you even walk in, you’ll probably notice the smell of smoke from the wood-burning oven, which not only serves as a centerpiece for the dining room, but shapes an entire section of menu. Then you’ll probably notice the size of that menu. It’s small - just four or five starters, pastas, and mains each, plus an antipasti that you should absolutely order. It might seem like a random assortment of fruits, vegetables, and carbs, but when you start to take bites, you realize how well thought-out it all is. The roasted squash balances out the tiny hunks of bread topped with a dollop of ricotta, and the fantastically salty anchovy crostinis make you crave the accompanying stone fruit even more. We wish they provided a little guide to the plate, but sometimes it’s fun to figure it out on your own.

Jakob Layman

The pastas, though, require no cheat sheet. They change often, but if you see it, you should order the ziti with tripe ragu - even if you typically aren’t drawn to offals. The house-made ziti is perfectly al dente, but the real star of the dish is the tripe. It’s chewy, but still tender, and has a faint gamey flavor that complements the rich tomato sauce well. The spaghettini is another great choice, and a prime example of the power of perfectly ratio-ed flavors (in this case, of butter, anchovy, cheese, and lemon). Actually, just about every pasta is great - the exception being the maccheroni, which basically tastes like straight butter.

Antico’s improvements are perhaps most apparent when it comes to the entrees. A sad, overcooked hamachi we had on our first visit has been replaced with a rich swordfish belly that we love. It comes as a massive skewer, covered in tasty olive oil and Kalamata olives. They started making the chicken with thighs instead of breasts, and it made all the difference in the depth of flavor. It also comes with focaccia crostone, in case you need any more bread (you always do). Depending on how hungry you are, the huge entrees are generally big enough to split between two people.

And you don’t want to get too full here, because Antico has some of the best ice cream in town - really. It’s like if someone took a McDonald’s soft-serve cone, and made it richer, creamier, and approximately 1,000 times better. And it doesn’t feel like an afterthought, like some ice cream at fancy restaurants. They treat it like it’s the star of the show: The ricotta and plum variety is lightly salted and doused in fresh fruit, and the honeycomb ice cream has a subtle hint of olive oil that we absolutely love.

Antico’s not perfect. Some of the same issues remain from our first visit. It’s tough to get out for under $100 per person, especially if you start ordering from their massive wine list. And some of the dishes - especially the starters - feel too much like they’re playing it safe. This includes a run-of-the-mill burrata, and a couple just-OK salads that feel out of place on a menu with so many more interesting things to order.

But overall, this place has improved vastly as time has gone on, with no signs of slowing down. It’s further proof that it’s important to give things another shot. Especially if there’s focaccia involved.

Food Rundown

Jakob Layman
Antipasti

We have a philosophy: If there’s something under $10 on the menu at an expensive restaurant, it’s probably there for a reason. These plates rotate based on what’s in-season (we had house salumi, crostinis with ricotta and anchovy, and stone fruit). They complement each other perfectly, they’re also only $9 per person - so start your meal with them.

Bruschetta

This is great, very traditional Italian tartare. Not bruschetta. The tomatoes and raw beef are perfect together. This is the only starter you need to order beside the antipasti. But it should really be called tartare. Because… it’s tartare.

Burrata

We always like burrata, and this isn’t an exception. But it’s also not rewriting the script on burrata - and the same goes for most of the other starters. Focus your energy elsewhere.

Jakob Layman
Ziti

No one loves the idea of eating beef stomach. But even if you don’t like offals, you should still check this pasta out - the ragu is creamy and sweet, and goes great with the tender hunks of tripe.

Jakob Layman
Spaghettini

Four flavors - butter, lemon, anchovy, and cheese - balanced perfectly like a barber shop quartet’s harmonies.

Jakob Layman
Swordfish

Every time we eat swordfish, we wonder what happened to the sword. Do they just throw it away? Do the fishermen have duels with them? Either way - order this rich, tender kebab. It’s got capers and Kalamata olives, and on a menu full of Italian food, adds a nice Greek twist.

Chicken

Chicken is usually the thing we’re least excited about on a list of entrees - but not at Antico. These thighs are cooked with a massive hunk of bread underneath, which soaks up all the flavor of the chicken and gets super crispy. It tastes like stuffing made with focaccia, and it’s excellent.

Jakob Layman
Ice Cream

If you don’t save room for this ice cream, you f*cked up. If Antico opened an ice cream window tomorrow, it would immediately be in the running for the best ice cream shop in LA.

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