My husband took the dog for a walk in downtown Hillsborough yesterday and found out that Antonia's, the restaurant going into the space that used to be occupied by Tupelo's in Hillsborough, was going to be open for business that evening. Excited by the prospect, he asked me if I wanted to go.
I wouldn't normally go to the soft opening of a restaurant, but seeing his enthusiasm I agreed.
Overall it was a pretty positive experience.
The space has been brightened up with refurbished flooring, new tables and pale walls with colorful art.
The menu has a small selection of classic Italian dishes - things like bruschetta, minestrone, alfredo, linguine and clams, etc. Pretty safe for starters, I think.
For appetizers my husband had the bruschetta and I had the caprese salad. The mozzarella they use in the caprese is house made. It was a bit firmer than I was expecting but not bad - could have been a little milkier, imo. I was a bit hesitant to order the caprese because this isn't the right time of year for tomatoes, but they were acceptable and I can certainly see those getting better as the season goes along.
For our mains we chose pasta - I had the lasagne and husband had the linguine with clams, choosing the red sauce over white. He said his was quite good, and that he'd be happy to order it again. My lasagne came out piping hot and and delicious - I'm pretty sure cream was involved in the bechamel used - it was rich and velvety.
There is a smallish but well-chosen wine and beer list.
Service was a bit - uncertain and inexperienced, but friendly and pretty efficient, considering the place filled up not too long after we got there. There was a line when we left.
The bread that came to the table was not likely made there, and was not accompanied by either butter or olive oil - not sure if that was an oversight or intentional, but it really should have something to go with it. I really think good Italian places should make their own fresh bread and serve it hot - I hope they think about doing that as things develop.
I'd also like to see real pepper offered - I like to pepper my caprese, and the table pepper was just that bland meh stuff that tastes like nothing. I didn't ask for a grind this time since it was their first night in business, but I plan to do so in the future if it isn't offered.
With the two apps, two pasta dishes, one glass of wine, one beer and the tip, the tab came to $60, which is a little more than we normally like to spend on a casual dinner, but I feel what we got was well worth the price. I have more lasagne at home to enjoy tonight as well.
A good start - I'm looking forward to seeing how this place does.
In other news, The Hillsborough BBQ Company (brought to us by the owners of the Wooden Nickel, who have proved they know what to do with food) is due to open later this week, so this is a good week for Hillsborough!