Restaurant Review

Anthony David’s

A Hoboken institution since 1998, Anthony David's recent revamp reflects Italian trattorias' mix of change and tradition.

No one can accuse Anthony David Pino and his wife, Liz, of standing still. In 1998, they took over a Hoboken shoe store with a vintage storefront at the corner of 10th and Bloomfield streets, transforming it into Anthony David’s, a gourmet Italian grocery with catering. The next year, the Pinos started offering brunch on weekends. In 2002, they turned Anthony David’s into a full-scale Italian restaurant, which became an institution in town. In 2008, they opened Bin 14, Hoboken’s first wine bar, with a full menu of Italian-style tapas.

Then, in late 2013, they totally revamped Anthony David’s, ditching the remaining shelves of groceries, adding a third dining room by annexing a space at the rear of the building, giving the whole place a sleek, new look and a modern trattoria menu. In the front of the restaurant, the Pinos installed an Italian-marble bar with 10 stools and a red tile façade. The new back room holds a communal table for 20 that can seat walk-ins and smaller parties if it isn’t reserved for a private party. The restaurant now seats 62 inside, compared to 42 before. In good weather, sidewalk tables add another 46 seats.

These changes were inspired by a trip to Italy they made in the summer of 2013 with their children, Bianca and Anthony, now 14 and 12, respectively. Amazingly, it was the couple’s first trip to Italy. “It was Siena that gave me and Liz a glimpse of the brand we want to be in Hoboken,” Pino, 45, told me on the phone after my visits. “There, trattorias that are in buildings 700 or 800 years old have clean [modern] lines, a cool palette, sleek wood and tile.”

Change and tradition also meet on the plate. Pino’s superb house-made pappardelle with wild-boar ragù has been on the menu since 2002, when that dish was rarely seen on New Jersey menus. Pino now mixes shaved, charred Brussels sprouts into the dish in winter, broccolini in spring, arugula at other times. But the intense, reddish-brown ragu never varies. He sears the meat, deglazes the pan with veal stock and simmers the meat in the stock for an hour. “To make it super soft, tender and tasty, we allow the meat to cool in the stock,” he said.

Some items are timeless, like eggplant caponata crostini, antipasto platters and the stuffed-artichoke appetizer, a frequent special. The filling, made with chicken stock, is moister, and better, than most. Where a classic Italian nonna would simply squeeze fresh lemon over her stuffed artichokes, Anthony David’s version comes with a silky Meyer lemon sauce.

That dish is one of many collaborations between Pino and Justin Antiorio, 33, his chef de cuisine here and at Bin 14. They switch between the two kitchens.

“That way,” Pino says, “each place gets two sets of eyes.” Their style layers contemporary American elements onto French and Italian underpinnings. Take for example, the duck entrée. The thick, tender, juicy slices of pan-roasted breast meat (from a Rohan duck, a hybrid of heritage breeds exclusively from D’Artagnan) were lavished with a thick, flavorful huckleberry jus studded with soft, whole berries. Baby arugula tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper provided color and cut the duck’s richness and the sauce’s sweetness. Since my visit, cherry demi-glace has replaced huckleberry, and creamy polenta has taken the place of wintry pumpkin purée.

You taste the modernity and care in a salad of kale and beets with pancetta, pickled apples, roasted pistachios and fresh mint in a simple apple-cider vinaigrette. Panzanella, the traditional bread salad, was reborn with cubes of tender butternut squash, charred leaves of Brussels sprouts, fresh basil, grand cacio cheese, pumpkin seeds and dried cherries steeped in apple-cider vinegar.

Anthony David’s is equally adept at seafood—for example, a smoky grilled octopus atop a garlicky stew of soft fennel and creamy cannellini beans. My single favorite bite, though, was the line-caught, seasonal fish of the day. Ours was a stack of triangular branzino fillets, their skin crisp from pan-frying in very hot canola oil. The fillets were interspersed with chunks of small, buttery potatoes, strands of velvety cipollini onions and pieces of asparagus, all moistened with beurre blanc.

Desserts are totally satisfying, if less than elegant. “We’re not pastry chefs,” Pino admits. A generous portion of dark-chocolate budino can be had on its own or in an icebox cake, the pudding combined with whipped cream and slathered between graham crackers moistened with espresso. Then the whole thing is frozen. My favorite dessert was bananas sliced lengthwise, fried, bruléed and topped with fresh cherries poached in Chianti.

There are a few shortcomings. Crab cake, a special starter, had way too much filler even for me, and I actually prefer a fair amount. Steak tartare topped with a raw quail egg was exquisitely composed, but had nary a hint of beefy flavor. On one visit, someone working the grill had a heavy hand with salt that almost KO’d several dishes. The tables are undersized and close together. For reasons that include out-of-towners bailing out (and not calling) if they can’t find a parking space, Anthony David’s does not accept reservations on Friday and Saturday nights. Pino’s advice: “Come early.”

The Pinos are still moving forward. They plan to open another restaurant in town late this year. “It will serve modern American fare, with raw bar, cocktails and craft beers,” Pino said. He and Liz are also working on a cookbook they hope to publish in the next year or two.

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Restaurant Details

  • Cuisine Type:
    American - Brunch - Deli/Quick Bites - European - Fusion/Eclectic - Italian - Modern
  • Price Range:
    Moderate
  • Price Details:
    Appetizers, $12-$17; entrées, $26-$37; desserts, $9-$10.
  • Ambience:
    Gracious modernity in a vintage storefront.
  • Service:
    Enthused, informed, efficient.
  • Wine list:
    BYO

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