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Antico Forno - disappointing

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Went to Antico Forno for a low-key date after it got some decent reviews on the board as a midrange North End spot. Started off with the "foccaccina" - essentially a pile of standard salad mix and nondescript goat cheese on some fairly tasty focaccia wedges...I mean, it was well-dressed, but not too different from your basic garden salad. Entrees - I had the chicken saltimbocca, which was large and mediocre, covered in overly sharp "fontina" (might as well have been deli provolone) and rubbery mushrooms and bathed in a disappointingly thin madeira sauce. It came with spinach and roasted potatoes on the side that alternated between perfectly cooked and quite underdone. My companion had the gnocchi, which were perfectly edible but not much more - just a crock of fairly bland pasta with thin red sauce (oh, sorry, "plum tomato sauce") and rubbery melted cheese. Service was low-key and moderately attentive until the meal's end, at which point we apparently ceased to exist to the waitstaff for a good long while.
All in all, thoroughly disappointing. Thankfully, we were able to make amends by ducking out to Modern Pastry for a box of cannoli. Next time I'm in the North End, I'm sticking to Pizzeria Regina - cheaper, better, and more interesting, if not exactly romantic.

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  1. Sorry you had a dissappointing meal there.

    I have had their Risotto specials, the last being crab and salmon, and it was amazing.

    Also their steamed mussel/clams in parchment, straight from the brick oven, sensational.

    When I go, I always order an entree that comes from the brick oven.

    Although their pizza is really good (I think), if in the No End, I'll always choose Regina. And the box of cannoli from Modern is making my mouth water! Yum.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mcel215

      We also usually get the risotto special and the linguine with clams in parchment, and those have always been good to me. It's definitely not "knock your socks off" food, and I would never describe it as such. But it a good place to go with a group of friends, and definitely a good place to take my 19 month old (who absolutely loves the salmon risotto, by the way).

    2. I had a similar experience there. The entrees were so disappointing that the foccaccina ended up being the highlight even though the bread was hard.

      It would be nice to have a great, moderately-priced NE option, though, for when you want something more highfalutin than Regina's but not as expensive as Prezza. I'm planning to try Euno, Maurizio's and Galleria 33, and hope one will be a winner. Like you, I lean on the cannoli to make everything okay. I like to buy them preemptively, too, since the bakeries close pretty early.

      2 Replies
      1. re: pollystyrene

        Is Pagliuca's also in that moderately-priced / non-high-falutin range?

        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          I'd say yes re Pagliuca's -- in fact, they're one of the best such options in the North End.

      2. I used to live in the NE for years, and I would never step foot in AF

        3 Replies
        1. re: saltyair

          Try Piccolo Nido the next time you are in the NE. Off the beaten path and excellent.

          1. re: joebelt

            Was very underwhelmed by Piccolo Nido, though one can do worse.

            1. re: bachslunch

              In all fairness, I haven't been back to Piccolo Nido in a couple years now. It used to be a favorite when I lived in the NE.

        2. Sorry you were dissapointed as I've always had good experiences at Antico Forno. It's my comfort place, and I especially like the chicken parm. The only thing I don't care for is their choice of olives. That being said, you would probably be happier with someplace like Il Panino, although it does tend to be more expensive. The atmosphere is similar and I do think their food is probably a notch above. Maurizio's is also good although the tables are a really tight squeeze and I thoroughly enjoy LaGalleria 33.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Pegmeister

            Best buy in the North End is Giacomo's.

            1. re: joebelt

              Still haven't tried Giaacomo's, but it's on my list. Tried Pomodoro on Saturday and had mixed feelings. Their olive rissoto was sensational, perfectly paired with the veal and balsamic reduction sauce, but they don't have a wine selection. They just tell you; you can either have "red or white".

              1. re: joebelt

                Er, no -- best buy in the North End is Galleria Umberto.

                1. re: bachslunch

                  I disagree. Especially if you drink wine with your meals. Giacomos is much cheaper.

                  1. re: joebelt

                    I don't see how that can be possible??! Is everyone referring to the same two places?

                    1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                      agree..there's got to be some confusion. GU sells slices for $1.25 and the most expensive item is maybe $3. Wine prices are in line. 1 of the best deals in town.

                      I don't see how Giacomo's can be cheaper than that.

                      1. re: 9lives

                        I don't see anyone taking a date (like the original poster mentioned) to GU. Giacomo's is the best value dinner restaurant in the NE. The poster is talking about dinner, you are talking about a "takeout" place.

                        1. re: joebelt

                          But you specifically said "Giacomos is much cheaper", so how is Giacomo's cheaper than GU.

                          For the record, I love both places for different reasons.

                          1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                            I was answering the original posters concern regarding a place for a dinner date. Giacomos is much cheaper than GU because GU is not a dinner date type place.

                            1. re: joebelt

                              I understand what you're saying..dinner vs a lunch spot...

                              I'm still missing why you say Giacomo's is cheaper than GU; with the qualifier that you drink wine with your meal???

                              I'll also add that Giacomo's NE usually has a 30-60 minute wait with a line down the sidewalk.. for a table at prime dinner hour and does not take reservations.

            2. Been to AF many times, it's good old school stuff, but not great. I think it gets too hyped and expectations about what it really is get over done, thus a let down. It is a value in the North-end, I would go knowing that but, if I received and entree that was what you described, I'd send it back.

              4 Replies
              1. re: treb

                I've actually never been to AF but didn't they get an official designation as having "authentic" Italian pizza, meaning that they meet the Italian Government's strict ingredient and process guidelines?

                1. re: treb

                  I have found that the key to Antico Forno is ordering dishes cooked in the brick oven.

                  The aforementioned pizzas are great (fantastic margherita and a very good version with smoked mozzarella) thanks to the brick oven.

                  They also do a great brick oven chicken, a baked pasta dish (with roasted eggplant and roasted peppers as I recall), and a tremendous rolled eggplant appetizer (cooked in the brick oven!)

                  They also do a decent job with the wood fired grill, but for my money, there are better outposts - especially Prezza.

                  1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                    We were there as a foursome this past Sunday (it was quiet!) and the food again did not disappoint. The calamari fritti salad was light, crisp, luscious almost without peer. The rollitini eggplant appetizer too was perfection with a great, flavorful plum tomato sauce. My DC had the risotto, a total TKO and my buddy J had the special chicken parm which by all accounts was a masterpiece. Two of us had the frittu de mare which was magnificient & must be one of the best around, with each piece of seafood done just right; pasta and sauce were also right-on. Service as usual was nearly flawless. It may be that not every dish there is memorable but I have never been disappointed there in any way.

                    1. re: ipsofatso

                      Last time I was there - the brick oven chicken parm was great, but the gnocchi was terrible. Gnocchi came with a different, blander, thinner red sauce and would have been way better if they simply used the same sauce as on the chicken parm, even though it was way overcooked.

                2. Although I've never been as disappointed as the OP with Antico Forno, it's not a place I would recommend wholeheartedly to a bona fide, Speed's-hot-dog-eating, Angela's-Cafe-touting chowhound.

                  I think Antico Forno is a reasonably-priced, very good compromise choice when dining with chow-challenged friends, out-of-towners, larger groups, and/or families with kids. By no means the best the North End has to offer, but certainly something for everyone.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: finlero

                    Precisely. Last time I was at AF, it was with a bunch of work colleagues and they all enjoyed their meals. I had the gnocchi which were not great but it was one of those rare occasions where the food wasn't the focal point. My promotion was. :-) I think it's a fine, solid choice for the situations you ably describe.

                  2. As Coach Bill would say, AF is what it is. Not fancy, gourmet or cutting-edge by any means. But tasty and reliable. Lots of North End chefs eat there for doses of basic comfort food. I think it's a Hound fav because it's usually quite good and always very reasonably priced.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bostonbob3

                      I totally agree BB3, I think people have dreamed up unreal expectations about AF. For the price, it's OK.

                    2. So many threads on this place, hard to pick one, but this has a common theme of disappointment. I'm going to take an unpopular swing at their pizza. The dough, like their bread, is simplistic and unidimensional in flavor (I've noticed this with the bread at alot of places in town - Italy has a great baking tradition and its been neglected everywhere I've been). It's crispy enough to last a minute or two but falls under the sauce after that. The sauce is a little sweet, its main problem is runniness and excess portioning as described here before. The pizza is cooked more than American pies but adequately enough to be authentic, IMHO. They should use real oregano on the Napoletana. I would definitely choose Regina over this, but Gran Gusto still beats both by a mile.