When you walk into a party, you immediately scan the room for three things: the bar, the nearest place to do a mirror-check, and any familiar faces. Either you’ll see your friends, or you’ll spend several minutes trying to figure out how you know that one person in the corner who you definitely know, even though you have no idea how you know them.
That’s what happened when we first walked into Anton’s in the West Village: we got the feeling we knew it already. Not because Anton’s is a carbon-copy of some other place - but because it’s a restaurant collage of some of NYC’s past and present greats.
If you’ve spent much time in the neighborhood, Anton’s real estate will already be familiar. It’s an especially-quaint corner spot in the West Village, formerly occupied by the neighborhood Italian standby Frankie’s 570. But now, the space is designed to make you feel nostalgic for the previous century. It reminds us a little of Keen’s, if Keen’s got a good makeover, or 4 Charles Prime Rib, but much less dark and ten times the size. There’s dark wood, warm lighting, big oil paintings, and is that a candelabra? The cocktails are martinis and Manhattans and Delmonicos, and the bar makes you want to linger, drinking more of them than you should. The tables have an almost-suspicious amount of space between them, and it’s loud enough that you can have conversational privacy, but not so loud that you have to repeat yourself. The servers, in white shirts and black pants, take their jobs very seriously. Anton’s is definitely a throwback, but the theme isn’t laid on so thick that you feel like you’re on a knockoff Mad Men set or in a claustrophobic vintage store. It just feels like a comfortable place to eat dinner.
For all those reasons, we’d recommend this place for a group that wants to share a bunch of dishes at a table big enough to actually fit them. But you’d be just as happy walking into Anton’s, getting a seat at the bar, and directing your attention only to the pastas and steak. The former are inexplicably (or, for old time’s sake?) hidden under the heading “Macaroni.” Once you locate them, direct your attention further to the Bucatini Bazynski, a twist on the Italian classic bucatini amatriciana, with bacon instead of guanciale. It’s named after their butcher - which makes sense once you discover this pasta has about five times more pork than the traditional dish. It could easily taste like excess, but instead it’s a pasta we want to carve out regular time on our calendars to eat. As for the steak with melted onions - at $26, it’s officially one of the best-value pieces of meat in the city, even if it does make us miss those simpler times when St. Anselm’s butcher steak was cheaper.
Otherwise, the rest of Anton’s American and European comfort-ish food is familiar, but there are enough twists to keep you from feeling dinner déjà vu. Like the excellent broiled oysters, which come to your table on a bed of dried beans in a silver platter. It’s the shellfish equivalent of a jewelry display, and will give you the sudden urge to propose to someone with a bivalve. There’s a roasted cauliflower salad with a mix of dried apricots, olives, and almonds, which sounds like what happened when a catering company got too creative in 1994, but is actually delicious. And you probably wouldn’t expect to see a warm apple crisp “a la mode” in any new NYC restaurant, but it’s the best way to end a meal here.
Anton’s isn’t the kind of restaurant that you go to once, for a new experience. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to become a regular, with a standing pasta and martini order. The kind of place that feels less like someone you think you might know at a party, and more like an old friend.
Anton’s does oysters and clams on the half-shell, and broiled. You want them broiled, and you want them to kick off your dinner here.
We’ve found this melted cheese on toasted bread to be a very helpful tool when walking into Anton’s with a desire to eat our own hands out of hunger. Put in an order for this when you sit down, and save your hands.
Find out whether your spirit ham is City or Country. We’re country.
With dried apricots, olives, and almonds, this is either the salad you order because you enjoy risk, or the salad you avoid because you’re risk-averse. If you’re the former, you’ll be rewarded - this is delicious.
If you want something bitter and bracing on the table to balance things out, this is a good order.
A play on an Italian-American classic, Chicken Francese, this dish swaps out chicken for pasta, which is something we should all do more often. It’s creamy and crunchy, and the angel hair pasta is cooked perfectly.
The best pasta at Anton’s, this has so much bacon that it’s an excellent dish to share. You just won’t want to.
This comes to the table looking like the pasta-with-butter of your eight-year-old self’s dreams - but it’s much more than that. The anchovy sauce is briny and rich and fairly addicting.
The kind of thing you want to wear in the middle of winter instead of a parka. This is meaty and rich and if you don’t split it with someone, you will likely wind up under your table in a beautiful nap by the end of dinner.
We don’t need to tell you to eat every bite of steak with some melted onion. But in case your server doesn’t - we do need to tell you to get some curly parsley in the mix, too. The combination of all three is what makes this dish a standout - the best-value dish at Anton’s.
A lighter entree option, for a pretty simple salmon dish, this is very good. The fish is cooked rare, and comes on top of white beans with crunchy fennel.
Our favorite side dish at Anton’s, this is essentially creamed spinach without the cream. Get it with the steak.
Simple and satisfying, with sour cream and olive oil, this is just the right amount of sweet for a chocolate dessert at the end of a very rich meal.
Are we at grandma’s house? Did we timewarp back to 1954? Depending on how many martinis have been consumed by this point, maybe. And we’re happy to be here.