Antico by Chad Colby

If we learned anything from Simone, it’s that success by a chef from one restaurant doesn’t alway equate to success at a different project. Having said that, I would be really surprised if Antico doesn’t end up being absolutely delicious. Can’t wait to try it.

I attended the opening night of Antico, and I have been eagerly awaiting Chef Colby’s return ever since he departed from Chi Spacca.

Opening night had some service jitters (to be expected); part of which was that they include a 20% “Admin Fee” on the checks, without saying anything about it, and there is still a Tip Line on the checks. I imagine they may have to change that as time goes on.

As regards past success equating to future success, though, Chef Colby hit the ground running in his categories taken from Chi Spacca. The antipasti course with house made charcuterie, cheese, and bread is instantly my favorite in Los Angeles. I hope he adds more of his charcuterie to it in the future (maybe for more $$), as it was absolutely marvelous to me, and I am not typically a huge fan of charcuterie. The house focaccia (which you need to ask for separated) is served cold, but has a great texture and bite to it so that even eating it unadorned is fantastic, though perhaps it won’t wow people who have had Chef Funke or Leo Bulgarini’s variations.

His salads are made with wonderful produce and delicious cheese. His carne cruda was a bit too chewy for my tastes, but it had good flavors. I wouldn’t skip the salads section even though they might sound “boring” the quality of ingredients makes them unmissable additions to the meal.

His wood-fired meat and vegetable courses also come out stunning. Succulent lamb chomps, the best house-made lamb sausage I have ever had anywhere, and the juicy, beefy, charred perfection of his Antico steak will transport you back to the good old days at Chi Spacca. I truly have no idea how he manages to coax so much flavor out of meat. Another vinegary, piquant salad, wood-fired peppery broccolini, and wood-fire roasted potatoes come with the meat entrees and each makes a delightful, simple addition that greatly enhances the overall experience.

In the dessert round, the house ice creams that are fresh spun are eye-opening. For me personally, precisely what I want out of an ice cream: both extremely soft and fluffy, while having a singularity of focus in flavor akin to Bulgarini’s gelatos. The “garden leaf with tangerines” is a bay leaf ice cream made with leaves directly from Chef Colby’s nearby garden at his house (many of the herbs and veggies are sourced from his own garden it seems), and is a revelatory ice cream experience. The other ice creams are nearly as grand.

However, the other two desserts don’t make as much sense. The buttermilk donuts come out cold, and don’t work despite the excellent whipped ricotta and chocolate budino beneath them. The almond crostata has marvelously done clotted cream, and delightfully sour cherries, but the crostata isn’t warm, and has the texture of a thick olive oil cake, which is not ideal, but this could be a style issue more than an execution issue; I’ve simply never had a crostata that was cold, dense, and bready like it before.

The most unfortunate part of the menu are the pastas. The vaunted “shrimp noodles” did not end up on the opening night menu, and the pasta tasting is now at $24 instead of $22 (the only price difference from the menu posted online). The tasting was still an excellent value, and a great idea that I wish more Italian spots offered. However, Chef Colby has never made pasta in a restaurant before as far as I know (the Mozza group feeling like pasta would cannibalize the Osteria’s business if he put it on the menu at Chi Spacca). Despite Chef Colby’s passionate exploration of pasta on his Instagram, I am not sure his sous chefs have the same level of talent he may have personally. The flavors in the pasta tend to feel somewhat “flat”, and only 1 of the pastas is made in-house versus with imported pasta. The al dente textures are certainly highly appropriate. It simply seemed like something was missing in each pasta that would normally make the flavors “sing” that way that his antipasti, salads, and meat courses do.

I will self-critique here, though, as I am not extremely familiar with Campanian/Pugliese pastas. The pastas taste most similar to Felix I would say, but not really like anything in particular there. Several pastas rely on beans to add texture and an almost maltiness to them, the maritati “arrabiata” (cecci beans) and the “bigoli al torchio” (heirloom beans + tuna heart). The only other place I’ve had a pasta with beans like this was at Margot a few months ago, where they had a more Cal Italian concoction bombolotti with 'nduja, black kale, and cranberry beans, which was quite good. Whereas the Margot pasta slaps one in the face with spiciness and savor that all melds together, Antico’s pastas focus more on having heat that lingers on the palate, and you taste each of the individual ingredients in a fairly straightforward manner that does have a highly “rustic” feeling. To perform a direct comparison, I’ve had spaghetti al limone at Felix several times, and Chef Funke’s version is always smacking of both lemon and peperoncino so that it is salty, sweet, and spicy. Chef Colby had a bucatini al limone on instead of the “shrimp” noodles, and while his bucatini were wonderfully thick and chewy, there was less of an interplay of heat, sweet, and spiciness, instead there was a large focus merely on letting the lemon flavor subtly lilt on the palate and intertwine with the tang of colatura, though perhaps they could have used a bit more colatura to make it more “zippy”(that may be an American palate bias, though; the use of colatura in the cod at Alameda Supper Club I had recently seemed to use colatura in a more head-on fashion, for example). The more “muted” flavors of the pastas may be a regional difference, I am unsure; as someone here said, this place is just like every other Italian spot in Los Angeles the same way that every sushi spot is the same in Los Angeles; i.e. if you are an Italian aficionado, I would consider it destination worthy just to try it.

Finally, the wine list is fantastic. It’s woefully rare to see a list with so many bottles in the $34-$40 price range that are actually interesting to drink, and which go great with the food. It’s even better considering the bottles in the $50-70 range. Of course, there are also plenty of even more rare wines in the $100-$200 range, with a few, like some Chateau Montelena coming in in the $400+ range, but overall it’s a really tight wine list that is a lot of fun to drink through, and is pleasantly easy on the wallet.

The dessert wine selection is top notch, but they only offer three options: a moscato, a chinato, and a marsala. I would like to see them add some grappa eventually, but the dessert wines they do offer hit the spot perfectly.

So, after ordering nearly the entire menu (only items not ordered were the Tuscan soup, the lamb cavatappi, the sweet potato, the kanpachi, the chicken, and chocolate ice cream), plus several bottles + additional glasses of wine for the heavier drinkers, we ended up spending $509 post tax and tip (admin fee) for 4 people. Considering we had 18 different dishes, and quite a lot to drink, I would say that $127/person was quite reasonable, perhaps even on the lower end for this type of dining.

For most people, it may be better to let them warm up a bit before venturing out, but for those with a burning passion for Italian food, I would say it’s worth going already, as, to my palate, it tastes mostly excellent, is a relatively good value, and also manages not to taste precisely like any other Italian restaurant I’ve been to in Los Angeles (or really anywhere in the USA).

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This is true and I think even more so with people that were sous chefs or chef de cuisine. The sous chefs role in the kitchen varies so much from place to place. From being a glorified line cook to being a big part of the creative process and really being a second chef, the same can be said for Chef de Cuisine.

Pretty underwhelming first meal at antico.

highlights:

  • anchovy toast
  • burrata salad
  • smelling garlic waft out of the kitchen
  • fresh spun ice cream

negatives:

  • service needs to work on clearing plates. At one point I was sitting with an empty plate for so long that the very friendly pastry chef noticed and came off the line to clear my plate. The same pastry chef also noticed nobody was taking my dessert order and came out of the kitchen again to take my order.

  • There was a 20% “administrative fee”, whatever the fuck that is, on my bill, with no mention of it at all on the menu or by the server. Not only that, there’s a line for a tip and a helpful “suggested tips” section for 15, 18 and 20 percent tips.

  • portions of the antipasti and steak were pretty small for the price

  • pastas and steak were just okay

antipasti - salumi, cheese, bread, preserves from the sea
Fine

Good

Highlight

Fine

burrata, sungold tomatoes, basil, breadcrumbs
Highlight

maritati - “arrabiata” cecci beans
The sauce tasted a bit like a chili with a little bit of heat

bigoli al torchio - heirloom beans, cured tuna heart
Didn’t taste much tuna heart and not a fan of the beans

cavatappi - lamb sugo, gaeta olive, pecorino

bucatini - “al limone” cetara anchovy, colatura
I was looking forward to this pasta the most since they didn’t have the shrimp noodles. I know this is “al limone”, but this tasted overwhelmingly of lemons, no balance at all. Where are the damn anchovies? The colatura wasn’t even noticeable either.

antico steak - salsa verde
I was watching the kitchen make this and thought they were squeezing quite a bit of lemon on it. And yep, when I tasted it, it was pretty much all lemon. Not much salsa verde at all. $44 for four slices of chewy steak and some tiny sides.


fresh spun strawberry ice cream
Highlight. Soft, fluffy ice cream with some delicous macerated harry’s berries strawberries.

no toto

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Describing portions as “Pretty small” seems generous.

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Thanks for taking one for the team @PorkyBelly. I was really looking forward to this, but will skip for now.

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I went this past Friday night, service had some small issues, food was fine. i liked the antipasti - salami, anchovy toast and the small slices of fruit. pastas were ok but a little small, and the sweet potato and the steak were also lacking in the QPR department.
i’m hoping the QPR improves because i do see a lot of potential and i want to come back eventually.
If i can go just to have the fresh spun strawberry ice cream i would be there at least once a week.
that ice cream was the highlight.

I’m giving them a benefit of a doubt since they just opened.

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Pretty much exactly how I felt too. Were you able to try the shrimp noodles? Have they disclosed the mandatory 20% “administrative fee” on the menu yet? Is there still a tip line on the receipt?

is anything else coming out of the fire besides the steak that nobody seems thrilled with?

Nope, shrimp noodles were not on the menu.
I don’t remember the tip line being there though and no one at Antico told me about the administrative fee, I only looked because it was mentioned here and I saw it.
I think they should at least put that somewhere on the menu if they weren’t going to mention it. Or at least the server should say something when presenting the bill.
Hope they work the kinks out

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wait, same valet stand charges two different prices depending on where you’re going?

yep

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if the korean restaurants just started calling their jook, risotto, they too can charge $8 for valet parking.

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It’s certainly possible that the Korean restaurants are actually subsidizing their customer’s tickets whereas Antico is not.

Knowing Koreans, I highly doubt it

Grandfathered-in pricing?

Assuming it really is the same valet company, the restaurants may have different contract terms. Maybe Colby requires them to have insurance and Gonjiam doesn’t. Or maybe the valet company jacked up their rates because they figured a name-chef Italian restaurant can afford to pay more than a “really tired K-joint.”

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“Chad Colby, chef-owner of the new Italian restaurant Antico in the Larchmont area of L.A., decided to employ just one crew member and have limited hours: dinners only, weeknights only. He said adding lunch would likely not be worth it because his labor costs would soar.”

After reading that article makes sense why he’s doing what he is. He’s basically running a restaurant on the premise of how you can be profitable but making as little money as possible and keeping costs to a bare minimum. While its not gonna get him rich he probably spent very little on the buildout and isn’t as vulnerable to inconsistent business if his break-even point is very low.

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