Walking through the door of Antico Posto on a rainy Wednesday night, we found the place completely packed. Perhaps it was because their weekly Wednesday special is one of the most sought after menu items. Although, after experiencing the scrumptious breadth of their menu, it’s entirely possible that it’s just always busy.
From the wall of wines that takes up one entire wall from the floor to vaulted ceiling, to the tile-framed, wood-fire pizza oven visible from the dining room, to the general décor of warm wood accents, lamp shaded chandeliers, and mix of subway tiles and Tuscan yellow on the walls, this place feels like an old school New York Italian restaurant.
A basket of warm bread is the first thing to arrive along with the traditional plate of olive oil for dipping. But they don’t stop there. It’s the first sign that there’s nothing pat or standard in their approach to Italian classics. Half of the plate is herbed olive oil with flakes of rosemary, parsley, garlic, a ton of grated Parmesan cheese, and a streak of balsamic vinegar injecting sweetness. It’s olive oil dipping sauce tweaked for maximum flavor impact. The other half of the plate is their homemade giardiniera, packed with olives, carrots, peppers, and eggplant, with the sharp bite of an olive tapenade.
Many of the Italian staples are made in-house. Like the fresh balls of mozzarella in their Caprese appetizer, so creamy you can draw the line from them to ice cream. They come artfully arranged next to sliced cherry tomatoes and whole leaves of basil before everything is covered with drizzles of balsamic vinegar and basil oil. Don’t just leave the basil on the plate like a garnish, a bit of it beautifully balances the brightness of the tomatoes and smoothness of the cheese.
Our favorite antipasti, however, was the Chicken Meatballs. They have the herbaceous depth of flavor of their red meat originator or an Italian sausage straight from the butcher, except they feel lighter. They sit in a pool of delicious arrabbiata sauce, gently spicy from garlic and red pepper flakes. I might just have a plate of these to myself as my entrée next time we come in.
The Spinach & Avocado salad is simplicity itself. Spinach and Romaine provide a hearty base flavor for big slices of perfectly ripe avocado and thick Parmesan cheese shavings. Everything is extremely fresh and it’s topped with a little sprinkling of pepper and lemon vinaigrette dressing that brings the right acidic contrast to pull all of the flavors into sharper focus.
Everyone that came to the table made the night so much fun. Perhaps this, even more than the parade of amazing dishes coming out of the kitchen, lets you know that it’s a Lettuce Entertain You establishment. Our waiter Adan moved from the starters into the entrees with a little smile and three simple words, “Here we go….”
Like the mozzarella, the pastas are made in-house, clearly fresh, and prepared to a tantalizing al dente texture. We tried two of their gnocchi plates. Even though Antico Posto calls them gnocchi—probably for name recognition—the little dumplings are actually gnudi, made with ricotta cheese instead of potato, resulting in an even more delicate, fluffy texture. Their Bolognese sauce in a classic, slow-cooked, ground beef sauce. It brings a mouth-watering richness to the lightness of the gnocchi.
The Gnocchi Delicati is approached with a lighter touch, a lovely herb butter, subtle tomato sauce, and punctuated with a hint of pesto. It’s simple, light, and utterly satisfying, allowing the ricotta a little more room in the flavorscape.
Antico Posto has a specific dinner special for every night of the week and Wednesdays, luckily, are Sirloin Braciole night. As I mentioned at the beginning, this dish is so popular that some patrons have been known to call and reserve a Sirloin Braciole along with their table for the evening. It’s an ultra-rich meat-lovers delight. It’s made by pounding a sirloin steak paper-thin and then wrapping it around a filling of ground beef, herbs, spices, panko breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese. The result is a dense steak experience combining the qualities of prime rib, meatballs, and brisket into one scrumptious roll. It’s topped with a very light tomato sauce to balance the meat richness and served over a bed of housemade cavatappi pasta.
For dessert we had the Zuppa Inglese, a soft vanilla sponge cake layered with whipped ricotta cream, like a less moist tres leches cake but just as sweet. The top is covered with big flakes of dark chocolate that add a touch of flavor gravitas against the light vanilla sweetness. Amaretto soaked cherries introduce a pleasing pucker, and provide the unexpected X factor and personality that Antico Posto brings to their entire menu.
Antico Posto is located at 118 Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook, 630-586-9200, antico-posto.com