The Condiment Queen and the chowhounditas are going off to Florida, and I got dragged along for some last minute present shopping. As always, I figured, there could be dinner in it for me.
Around 5 PM, all our tummies were starting to growl. I really had the hankering for some hanger steak and pomme frites, but we we at a different end of the polygon Oak Brook Mall. Right near us, however, was Antico Posto. It smelled good. The menu called out to me, and Ms. VI needed one of their "hand-shaken beliini's" (as if other bars used a Sherman Williams contraption to create their drinks?).
I said the menu called out to me. Well, two things in particuliar. First, there was a fried calamari appetizer for under $6 bucks. This was not so much something I needed but something needed to bribe the kids who were rather more in the mood for a food court. What I really liked, was the assortment of chopped salads. I love chopped salads and related items like julienne salads and cobb salads. After donuts, chopped salads may be my favorite thing to eat. I look forward to the day I can do the a taste-off between my current contender for best chef's salad, Thyme and Honey in Oak Park, and the Ultimo's, Gwiv's challenger in Edgebrook. A nice chopped salad seemed like a great dinner choice on a hot night.
The first chink in Antico Posto's armour occured when I realized that most of the interesting chopped salads were only available for lunch. I inquired if one of them could be served for dinner, and this being the oh so corporate establishment that it is, the answer was, of course, no. Still, for some reason, Antico's generized Italian menu appealed to me. Home made pasta with bolognese sauce? Ravioli with squash? Carbonara, Puttanesca? It all sounded good. I settled sharing a chopped "Milanase" salad and the aforementioned bolognese. Also, as promised, we ordered the calamari.
If we stopped with the calamari, we would have left with a good opinion of Antico. Not a huge portion, but well fried with the Lettuce trademark gritty breading. Two dipping sauces, a marina and an aioli, seemed to portend well for the upcoming entrees.
No. Antico's dinner seemed the classic case of good menu lousy execution. You could just taste the corporate test kitchen in these recipes, but worse, you could see the failure of the kitchen line staff to execute the recipes. The chopped salad had a bunch of good ingredients but suffered from my biggest pet peeve regarding chopped salads. It was hardly a chopped salad. Instead, it was a lettuce salad with some toppings. An even bigger pet peeve, it was extremely underdressed. I needed to ask for extra dressing, but when they bring you vinagrette in a dish from the kitchen the stuff is as un-homogenized as possible, so it is hardly helpful.
The pasta was much, much worse. The culprit, absolute no attention to draining the noodles, producing nearly a bowl of soup. Worse, that corporate kitchen, in reading classic bolognase recipes seemed to ramp up the butter so much that the sauce was nearly painfully rich. I like butter as much as the next chunky guy, but this did not work.
We paid our bill, over $50 and ran out, wiser but not very happy.