Welcome to another instalment in my Sixty Second Review series, which brings you scrumptiously snack-sized reviews for a quick flavour of my favourite places in Bath. Today it’s all about Antica, a cosy little Italian restaurant…
Where and what is it?
A classic Italian restaurant on Argyle St, a mere hop and skip from the centre of town across the beautiful Pulteney Bridge. The menu covers all of Italy’s greatest hits – pasta, pizza, risotto (my personal favourite) and more – and for manager Dani, it’s all about elegant, traditional recipes made with loving care and the very best ingredients.
Why this place?
I really love Antica’s approach – it’s all very well going nuts with the blue-sky thinking, but there’s a reason why Italian food is almost universally loved, and that’s because its most famous dishes have been honed to perfection over centuries of devoted cookery. I have a lot of respect for a restaurant that keeps things simple and just does them really, really well, and that’s what Antica does. If you’re craving a traditional Italian feast that won’t let you down, then this is the place.
What’s the atmosphere?
Like the food, the décor is straightforward and classic – no modern art, minimalism or fancy tricks with the lighting. The staff are friendly, welcoming and very knowledgeable, the dishes are presented with care, and there are a number of tables in the wide street-facing windows where you can people-watch to your heart’s content, or you can take a comfy banquette seat further in. This isn’t a joint where you’ll need to dress up to the nines – perfect for date night or a long, lazy lunch with friends.
Tell us about the food then…
Often when I go for a review, I try to choose something a little unusual or unfamiliar from the menu, but this time I decided to embrace the spirit of the place and order myself a feast of all my very favourite Italian dishes, to see how they’d stack up – so there was nowhere to hide. I started with calamari, which to my mind is probably the best starter you can possibly get from any cuisine. It was gorgeously crispy, perfectly tender (there’s nothing worse than chewy squid) and served with slices of fresh chilli and a fabulously garlicky aioli. For my main course, I ordered a mushroom risotto. I absolutely love risotto, which I think is the ultimate comfort food dish, plus it generally contains all the very best ingredients – garlic, cheese, wine, butter – but you don’t often find a good risotto on a restaurant menu because risotto demands so much time and tender loving care to make it perfect. Naturally, this doesn’t put off a place like Antica, and I’m pleased to report that their risotto is utterly dreamy; perfectly creamy in texture, oozing cheese and bursting with flavour. I paired it with some delicious rosemary bread (there’s a whole range of gorgeous breads on the menu, starring the same fluffy, chewy dough from Antica’s pizza bases) which I highly recommend as a combo. Finally, there was only one choice for dessert – the prince of puddings in Italy, the classic tiramisu. Again, if I was creating my perfect menu, tiramisu would be my choice for dessert, and I’m happy to report that this is as good a tiramisu as I’ve had anywhere – the ideal combination of fluffy sponge and rich custard, and the flavours of chocolate, coffee and booze all expertly balanced.
How much will I spend?
Most of the Italian favourites on the menu (pizza, pasta, risotto) range from between £10 and £15, while something a little more fancy from the carne or pesce sections will set you back between £15 and £25.
Everyone loves an Italian (steady) but there’s so much disappointing fare out there, from sub-par takeaway pizza to route-one pasta – so when you’re after a properly good comfort-food hit, where the best ingredients, traditional skills and classic recipes come together, I highly recommend you give Antica a try.