Anthony David’s opened ten years ago as a prepared-food retail store and catering operation; but in 2002 chef-owner Anthony David Pino decided he “wasn’t having enough fun.” He bought the adjacent storefront, an antique store, knocked down the wall, and created the Dining Room.
It’s rare that a 34-seat restaurant can offer a choice of atmosphere. Anthony David’s does, so choose carefully. To the right of the cramped entryway, the market room still functions as a grocery during the day. A long banquette is set beneath shelves of artisanal honey, olive oil, and aged balsamic vinegar. Darkened refrigerator cases give off a quiet hum while clamor from the open kitchen and snippets of your neighbors’ conversations at the two rows of closely set tables make for a chaotic but oddly charming ambience.
The just slightly more spacious dining room is subdued, with antique mirrors and tapestries covering the brick walls and plush pillows lining the banquette.
Appetizers offer sonnets of flavor and texture. Grilled octopus was served on a ragout-like bed of cannellini beans, fennel, tomatoes, and garlic that was just rich and complex enough to compliment the delicately charred meat. Seared lobes of foie gras came with dried cherries, a Chianti reduction, and airy circles of challah toast that diffused the richness of the liver.
Risottos and pastas, which can be ordered in half portions, were uneven. Truffle-and-Parmesan risotto was heady and luscious, butternut squash risotto cloying and mushy. Maine lobster gnocchi tasted like burnt bisque over starchy dumplings. After a first bite, the latter two went untouched, and they were taken off the check by the management’s own volition.
Pino has a sometimes-intrusive sweet tooth, evident in a seared duck breast with a saccharine cherry demi-glace, and in a pie-sweet pumpkin polenta. Stick to savories like moist pan-roasted Chilean sea bass over caramelized brussels sprouts laced with salty, smoky speck.
Given Pino’s sweet tooth, desserts were surprisingly dull. Bourbon-glazed doughnuts tasted dry and a little past their prime, and pumpkin panna cotta was bitter. Fresh sliced strawberries, with challah crumbs, mascarpone, and a Chianti reduction were served in an elegant glass but tasted like a pedestrian parfait.
A better finale is the cheese plate, with selections from the market’s varied and well-conditioned stock.