Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
Antonio’s: Italian and International Cuisine at Its Finest
by: Dick Davis
My wife, Mary Michael, and I enjoy good food and don’t mind traveling outside the Shenango and Mahoning valleys to try something new. But disbelief was our reaction when first we heard of supposed high-quality Italian fare at a restaurant called Antonio’s near Conneaut Lake Park in Crawford County, PA.
We thought maybe these Antonio’s fans had spent too much time on the park’s famed Blue Streak roller coaster. Or possibly plunged from the coaster and dinged their heads. Or both.
But an initial visit three years ago and several follow-ups proved us wrong. Antonio’s is a real-deal restaurant with décor and menu based on the Piedmonte region in northwest Italy, the birthplace of the grandparents of owner/chef Anthony Bernard. We feel like a passport should be shown at a custom’s gate before pulling into Antonio’s parking lot.
How many ways do I like Antonio’s?
Let me start my adorations from the start: the looks-like-I’m-in small-town Italy exterior and cozy, 55-seat dining room full of Piedmonte trinkets; the knowledgeable and witty service from server Dana Smith; the tangy items on its bountiful antipasti bar; its extensive every-day menu with everything from time-honored Italian dishes to the seafood, steak and veal creations plus daily specials of Anthony and staff; and the exquisite homemade deserts.
My favorite entrée is the Jacqueline, which is pan-seared scallops and shrimp mixed with artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers in a cilantro white wine sauce and served over linguine pasta. Like in Italy, all pasta is cooked al dente, or firm. A few squeezes of fresh lemon as I choose add to the mix of the large and tender seafood and firm, crisp vegetables and sauce---Magnifico!
The dish is named for its creator, Antonio’s sous chef Jacqueline Elliot. It is quite a treat that I’ve not seen elsewhere, including several visits to Italy.
The choice of Mary is vitello e crostacco Diane, which is veal, shrimp, scallops, langostinos and sautéed fresh greens, topped with Antonio’s pink peppercorn sauce and plated over pasta. Mary says the seafood and veal keep their individual taste while combining with the greens and sauce for a memorable meal.
That dish is named for Diane Bernard, wife of Anthony.
“I love and enjoy what we’re doing here,” says Chef Anthony of his 15-year-old creation. “We take pride in having a small and friendly restaurant serving good food. It is sort of a new world coming here—an escape from the world.”
Indeed, Chef Anthony.
Antonio’s food and furnishings are real. It will never be mistaken for any Italian-themed chain with mostly faux artifacts so popular in the U.S. It seems like a chunk of northern Italy somehow was planted in Crawford County.
Grazie, Chef Anthony.
Mary and I visited recently with five friends who enjoyed various entrees, from manicotti Florentine, gnocchi with sausage, to the Sergio, a chicken or veal dish with shrimp, sausage, onions and peppers in a red wine sauce, and D’Angelica, which is seafood sautéed in lemon and garlic butter with a hint or mint and served over pasta. Mary and I devoured our favorites then split an Affogato, an ample ice cream and espresso dessert.
It was a few hours of camaraderie and culinary happiness times seven.
Antonio’s antipasti bar is both a dining delight and somewhat of a problem: How much to eat from choices like marinated mushrooms, pickled cucumbers, lettuce greens, eggplant, beets, Antonio’s version of tomato salads, spicy cole slaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, hard-crusted breads with heavenly olive oil, and on and on and on?
Whatever Chef Anthony can get that is fresh and local will appear on the bar or part of an evening special. But too much antipasti may hamper enjoyment of the soon-to-arrive entrée.
Life is full of tough choices. I say indulge in more antipasti and take home some of your entrée. Problem solved.
Another authentic Italian touch courtesy of Antonio’s is a frozen, melon-ball sized scoop of refreshing, palate cleansing sorbet served just prior to the entrée.
Unlimited antipasti is included with all entrees or as a meal by itself for $12. Prices range from $17 for capellini pasta topped with garlic, oil and anchovies to $55 for lobster tail and filet mignon. Most entrees are in the high $20 to low $30 range.
Planned for the fall is Antonio’s annual, multi-course wild game dinner and for the holiday season is its Italian feast of the seven fishes. Chef Anthony assures me that passports or Visas are not required.
Mary and I truly appreciate that tip on Antonio’s several years ago. The trek to Conneaut Lake is no problem when cuisine by Chef Anthony and crew is simmering.
Antonio’s is open Wednesday through Saturday 5 p.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Bring your own alcohol as it has no liquor license. Reservations are recommended.
11531 State Highway 616
Conneaut Lake, PA 16316
Facebook section is checked frequently, no website. Menu and reservations available on Facebook.