My quest to scope out the North End restaurant scene continued this past Saturday night, as Dish Gal was joined by her parents, Dish Mom and Dish Dad, Sebastian, and cousin Liz (we'll call her Liz, short for "Lizst", as she is a piano master) at Antico Forno.
Walking down Salem St during this peak time was quite a scene. My street is pretty quiet, so when you turn on to the tourist-mob-scene that is Salem, it's overwhelming. (Don't even get me started on Hanover!) We had reservations but still had to wait-- not surprising considering the restaurant was pretty small. Inside it was very loud, which made it kind of hard for conversation. The walls were partially boarded up, too-- renovations? Kind of odd. Not much for ambiance, besides the cozy brick oven in the back.
However, what it lacked in ambiance it made up for with delicious food. We started with two appetizers to split-- calamari fritti ($13) (calamari with a citrus honey vinagrette) and the Foccacina con caprino ($11) (herbed flatbread topped with mixed greens, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, and grilled zucchini).
Both appetizers were very large-- definitely a good size for even 5 people to split them. The flatbread was unexpectedly delicious-- moist and fragrant. I would love to come in and get that salad on its own-- definitely not your average mixed greens salad. It had a generous portion of fresh and creamy goat cheese on top, and perfectly grilled slices of zucchini.
The calamari was also excellent-- not too rubbery, and sweetened by the citrus honey vinagrette. I liked how it was prepared this way, and not with dull marinara sauce on the side. Dish Dad also got a caesar salad ($6) which was your standard caesar-- not extraordinary, but again a huge portion.
For my entree, I could not resist a pizza, fresh from the aforementioned brick oven. I went for the vesuvio ($15.50), which was fresh ricotta, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, and roasted peppers. The prosciutto was not cooked with the rest of the pizza, but instead was spread on at the final moment, so it was still soft and chewy. Underneath lay the creamy ricotta, cherry tomatoes with skin softened from the heat, and sweet roasted peppers. Aaand my mouth is watering. It was delicious! And huge! I took some home, had it for breakfast the next morning, and still have two slices left. And I gave one slice away at dinner.
Everyone else seemed as pleased with their meals as I was-- Dish Mom's artichoke pizza and Sebastian's sausage and mushroom pizza were big hits, as was Liz's homemade gnocchi. Dish Dad enjoyed a special for the night, chicken parmesan with linguini.
Antico Forno does have dessert (a rarity in the North End), but we were all so stuffed we couldn't even look at the menu.
All in all, if you're looking for a fancy-schmancy, white linen tablecloth restaurant with nouveau Italian food and quiet dinner conversations, go elsewhere. Otherwise, Antico Forno is a great "North End" spot-- affordable, delicious, and void of any pretentiousness.