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The Dining Room at Anthony David’s, in a former corner deli one block from busy Washington Street, started as a takeout and catering business. Then chef owner Anthony David Pino took over the premises next door, knocked out a wall, and created a dining room. Hence the Dining Room at Anthony David’s.
The original restaurant is still tiny, and if you enter from Bloomfield Street, you’ll pass a few tables, plus shelves holding bags of coffee, bottles of olive oil, and sundry other containers holding who knows what. But beyond the old-fashioned wooden icebox and the refrigerator-sized cheese storage is the kitchen, and beyond that the new dining room that sits apart from the hustle and bustle of the front dining area. There is seating for about 35 to 40 people in the combined dining rooms, and almost as many on the outdoor pavement in good weather.
Pino’s creative seasonal menu has a sophistication that belies the surroundings; the menu is comprehensive, and the cheese menu of 40 selections is worth keeping in mind when ordering your meal. Bruschetta topped with roasted red peppers and shaved Parmesan is the “amusement,” as the waiter calls it. A tasty, garlicky, white-bean dip accompanies crusty Italian bread.
Luscious foie gras on a toasted challah round with a Chianti cherry glaze makes an exceptionally tasty if expensive starter. Less pricey but just as good are the tender grilled octopus tentacles with cannelloni beans, tomatoes, and fennel, and the golden beet salad (actually red and yellow beets) with goat cheese, candied walnuts, and a wild-berry vinaigrette. Tuna tartare is cut into large chunks, mounded on chick peas, then glossed with a soy-sesame marinade and topped with mustard and cress; it is good but a little unusual. The warm potato tart looks like a small pizza topped with prosciutto, thinly sliced potatoes, and caramelized onions and would be great to eat any time of day. The only appetizer that lacks appeal is the mussels in a pretty but overly bitter sauce of orange, cream, pernod, and fennel.
Pasta can be ordered as a main course or an appetizer, and there isn’t a clunker among them. Both the lobster risotto with chunks of lobster and peas, and the truffle risotto heady with the perfume of truffles, are sublime. Veal Bolognese, with chunks of meat and porcini mushrooms, and wild mushroom tortellini with prosciutto, herbs, cream, and pecorino, are almost as good. Pasta with spicy lamb sausage, fennel, tomato sauce, and pappardelle is the only pasta that fares better as a main course.
For the main course, two large, two-rib lamb chops—cooked pink as requested with wedges of roast potatoes and garnished with diced red peppers—are meaty and tender. So is the Black Angus sirloin with lovely cheesy mashed potatoes, though it is baffling why chefs like to slice a good piece of meat so that it looks like London broil. While it may enhance the presentation, it takes away from the flavor because some of the juices escape and it cools very quickly. An excellent duck breast has such good flavor that one hardly minds the skin, which is soggy rather than crisp; it is accompanied by a tasty pumpkin polenta. Pork chop prepared à la Milanese with the bone still attached is very good but difficult to eat because it’s covered by a mound of dressed arugula salad, which makes the chop’s breading soggy.
Chilean sea bass with speck (cured ham) and mushrooms is perfectly cooked but a little too salty. Tuna, difficult to serve in a restaurant because everyone’s idea of rare is different, is not rare enough for a diner who prefers it simply seared rather than cooked one-quarter inch around a one-inch-thick piece of fish. Seared scallops with creamed corn, pieces of orange, and micro arugula are very good.
The homemade, bourbon-glazed doughnuts at Anthony David’s have quite a reputation, but when ordered on two separate occasions, they are hard, chewy, and golf ball–size rather than crisp on the outside and soft and yeasty inside. Much better are the mixed berries in a stemmed glass layered with challah crumbs and a Chianti-flavored mascarpone cream, and the rich chocolate ganache cake. Fried bananas with gelato, Chianti cherries, and glazed walnuts are good, but the chocolate boudino—a nearly solid chocolate cream in individual dishes—is too solid, and the baked apple with cinnamon ice cream needs to be cooked a little more.
One could forego all of the other courses for a huge plate of Anthony David’s cheeses, which are in perfect condition and temperature. That, along with a nice glass of Brunello di Montalcino, is the perfect end to a meal here.
Reviewed in: October 2006
111 Tenth Street
Food: Eclectic Italian cuisine, featuring grilled octopus tentacles and truffle risotto. Service: Very good Wine List: BYO Dinner For Two $90
Cuisines: French, Italian