Creative Entrees and Outdoor Ambience All Under One Roof
Antonio's Does Wonders with 'Ini's'
The Belleville Plaza lot might not seem like the most traditional setting for an Italian restaurant, but the attentive service and hearty meals at Antonio's Restaurant help make it a spot worth stopping for.
When my friend and I arrived at Antonio's on a Friday night, we were greeted by our friendly waiter and, surprisingly, by the dance tunes of Destiny's Child. A private retirement party was in full swing in the main dining room, so our waiter promptly seated us in the adjoining section. With the exposed brick, faux grass and hanging, potted plants, we felt like we were sitting outdoors at a charming Italian cafe.
My friend and I ordered wine and started off with the antipasti caldi, a hot appetizer dish sharable for two. The dish features two types of clams, casino and oreganata, as well as stuffed mushrooms, eggplant rollatini, fried zucchini and shrimp. My friend, who sampled the seafood, loved the clams casino, which was topped with prosciutto. All the appetizers were tasty, including the eggplant rollatini and the fried zucchini, which were prepared like French fries, being our favorites. Which leads me to my theory that Antonio's specializes in foods ending in "ini", but more on that later.
On to the main dish. I ordered the gnocchi alla partenopea, a homemade entree that may be hard to pronounce, but easy to swallow. With Antonio's Macelleria/Butcher Shop right next-door, my friend was in the mood for a meat dish. The waiter suggested he try the veal scalloppine dello chef, a restaurant favorite.
It ended up being both our favorites, too. With thin slices of veal sautéed with porcini, wrapped around fresh ricotta and prosciutto, and marinated in a red sauce, it was absolutely delicious. Which leads further support to my "ini" theory. Okay, technically "scaloppine" ends with an "ine" not "ini", but it's pronounced the same.
My gnocchi was also tasty, if a bit on the firm side, served in a tasty marinara sauce with melted cheese. All of the dishes were hearty and filling – just right for a blustery, late fall day. We had little room left for dessert, but tried the straciatella gelato anyway, which was tasty, albeit prefab and not made on the premises.
Overall, with its cheerful Italian ambience and hearty cuisine, Antonio's Restaurant is the perfect place for a family outing or to rent out for a private party (they also do catering). If you decide to go, won't you order the linguini and let me know if my "ini" theory still holds water?
373 Franklin Avenue Belleville, NJ 07109
(Tel) - (973) 751-7001
Hours: Monday-Friday, 11a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Live music on Saturday nights.
General: Eat-in, take-out. Catering available.
Parking: In lot
Food & dining options: Vegetarian