Antonio’s Made In Italy is the quintessential date night restaurant for those anyone who wants to venture a little bit outside of the city. Located 4 miles south of Micanopy in the Harvest Village (along with Jersey’s Creamery) off 441, it’s a small and quaint restaurant that serves up some great Italian food by Chef Antonio himself. It’s the type of place that your girlfriend or wife would walk into, and instantly drive you insane with her comments about its cuteness.
The dining room is small, and by that I mean it seats maybe 45 people by my estimate. During dinner, candle-lit tables and soft-dim lighting are accompanied by a live classical guitarist playing versions of old Beatles songs to make for a romantic, if not relaxing dinner. The chef moved here from Italy back in 1999, after owning and operating his own restaurants in Milan and Ponza. He spent time working at some restaurants in the area before opening his own spot in October of last year. The choice of location is interesting, as The Harvest Village is an old train station dating back to the 1800’s, and while the building that houses Antonio’s isn’t quite as old, it has every bit the old-timer charm.
For appetizers, I had the opportunity to sample both the Bruschetta Napolitana ($2.50 a slice – homemade bread topped with olive oil, fresh tomatoes, homemade mozzarella, and basil) as well as Antonio’s signature Cheese Burrata ($9.50 – homemade mozzarella ball served with olive oil, basil, and cracked black pepper). Both were simple appetizers, but fresh and delicious. Antonio’s homemade Burrata was just perfect. It was rich and butter while still maintaining its milky flavors, and just the right texture. This is a cheese that you can’t find anywhere else in town.
Now there are a handful of things that in life that I love; my dog, pomme frites, Christmas Tree fires, and Spaghetti Carbonara. So when it’s on the menu, listed as being made with pancetta, white wine, fresh cream, onions, garlic, and organic egg yolks…you better believe I’m ordering it. The spaghetti was a little on the done side, but the dish was great. It was every bit the rich and creamy goodness I could hope for. I could eat that plate of food all day, every day. My dining companion for the evening ordered the Stuffed Veal special; a bone-in cut of veal stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, smoked provolone, and pancetta that was juicy, perfectly cooked, and a hardy generous portion.
We finished our meal with an order of Tiramisu ($5.50) that was just divine. This isn’t the cube of sadness you find at Publix, but a homemade bowl of espresso-soaked ladyfingers covered in cocoa and an excellent mascarpone custard. This is a must-have to top of any meal of your choice here, and there are certainly plenty of choices for that.
There are familiar items like Marsala, Lasagna, and Fettucine Alfredo, and other assorted pastas, you’ll also find a plethora of other great choices. The Veal Saltimbocca ($23 – tender veal with smoked Italian ham, oven baked with provolone cheese and a white demi-glaze served over garlic and olive oil angel hair pasta) and the Salmon with Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce ($26 – baked salmon with Italian herbs, gorgonzola cheese, and drizzled with balsamic vinegar) both sound excellent. For our vegetarian friends, the Capellini Toscana ($18.50 – angel hair pasta with roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, olives, capers, artichokes, olive oil and romano cheese) and the Eggplant Parmigiana ($16 – thin layers of fresh eggplant baked in a tomato sauce, parmesan, and mozzarella over angel hair pasta) are both great options. There is also an option to substitute for gluten-free pasta on every dish for an additional $2.50.
The menu also boasts a good selection of wines for about $5.50 to $7 a glass or $25 to $35 a bottle, and Happy Hour is from noon to 6 PM every day (2 for 1 house wines and domestic beer). While they are closed on Mondays, they are opened from noon to 9 PM (9:30 on Friday and Saturday) every other day of the week.
While Antonio’s isn’t perfect (I found my Pasta Fagioli to be a little too watery, the bread was seemingly microwaved, and our side of broccoli to be overcooked), it is still a wonderful little eatery and worth the trip. Make a day out of visiting Micanopy (check out the Mosswood Farm Store) and head down to Antonio’s for an intimate and romantic dinner. While I love O Sole Mio out in Jonesville, Gainesville itself has little to offer besides the overpriced Stouffers Dinner Specials at Amelia’s and the crappy chain places that boast about breadsticks. As an old friend once said, Olive Garden is to Italian food, as Taco Bell is to Italian food. Manuel’s Vintage Room is great, but trying to secure a table can be difficult. Even the once delicious Pomodoro’s has lost a step or two in its old age. It’s worth giving Antonio’s a go.
(Pictured Clockwise from Top Left: Bruschetta, Carbonara, Tiramisu, Veal Special, Burratta, and the building)