Antonio – The Real Thing
There was a time when unimpressed Easterners said things like "Los Angeles is OK if you're an orange." But no state in any country has evolved so quickly to becoming the "Restaurant Capital" of the world as we have; thanks to the ethnicity of our dining establishments, many being minutes away and worlds apart. As Confucius once said, "the enjoyment of food is one of the beautiful and gentle things which contribute to the peace and harmony of society." However, some restaurants have brought reality to ambience, becoming an art form to be seen.
I have always enjoyed Antonio's, with its special decor, famous "Margarita's," and marvelous entrees. After traveling through the small villages of Mexico, my imagination is stirred by the decor which has captured the colorful spirit, taste, and decor of the country. The ceiling is painted in the colors of the Mexican flag, along with artifacts, intricately carved booths, larger than life murals, some of (San Miguel de Allende) and a Mexican trio playing every week‑end; making music that lets you feel the life‑force of the Latino soul.
There are six cozy rooms, including a private dining room, La Bodega, built especially for Howard Hughes and his executives; later used by Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Gregory Peck, Mrs. Sammy Davis, Jr., and the Ronald Reagans. Also included is the Cathedral Room with wall-to-wall magnificent paintings of the grand churches. Fortune Magazine once referred to Antonio's as having "The finest Mexican food in the world."
The food is deliciously steamed rather than fried, and prepared without heavy sauces, oils or preservatives. Antonio claims that most of his meals have fewer calories than a hamburger, meeting the American Heart Association’s guidelines.
Mexican food has always been LA's most popular cuisine, and yet many Americans think of Mexican food as mouth‑scalding chiles, tamales and beans, and it's true that Mexican's love all three, but from early‑times the basic ingredients in their traditional cooking has been chocolate, corn, chiles, tomatoes, rice, garlic, peppers, spices, beans, and lots of imagination. The Spaniards reported that l,000 dishes of food and 2,000 jugs of chocolate were served at Montezuma's court using these ingredients in their many recipes of wild animal meats and birds.
To the Spanish conquistadors the native cuisine of the Aztecs came as a delight and an astonishment. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who accompanied Cortez, wrote about the foods that were unknown outside the Americas, such as chocolate, vanilla, corn, chiles, peanuts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, squash, beans, pineapple and papaya. To this list, Spain added oil, wine, cinnamon, cloves, rice, wheat, peaches, apricots, and the cattle that provided beef, milk and butter; all the culinary contributions from Europe, Asia and the Arab countries. Later during the brief reign of Maximillian and Carlotta, (l864‑67) sophisticated dishes of French, Austrian, and Italian origin were introduced. The most luxurious eating was done at the Royal court, a scene of gastronomic magnificence rivaling food displays of European royalty.
I enjoyed the variety of Antonio's menu, starting with the appetizers, combination salads and Guacamole, along with the many kinds of Enchiladas, Tostadas, and Tacos. His egg dishes include the famous Huevos Rancheros with refried beans and the popular Spanish omelette.
An entire page of sophisticated specialties from Monterrey, Mexico has about two dozen items listed, and one of my favorites is the House Special Fajitas, offering beef or chicken, served with sauteed onions, Bell Peppers, sliced tomatoes, avocados, and rice with beans and hot corn tortillas priced at $14.50. However, they have New York Steak, and quite a few other steaks, many chicken dishes, and terrific shrimp combinations.
In addition to all the above, there's the Mexico City specialties covering Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. These fabulous presentations are $14.75 and you will be amazed at the generosity on the plate. A classic veal dish introduced by the conquistadores is featured on Tuesdays. I don't want to make a menu out of this review, but you can always stop at Antonio's and pick up a menu.
Because many of us love the old fashioned tacos; try the fish Taco this time.
Appetizers, $3.50-$11.50; Enchiladas, Tostadas, Tacos and Egg dishes, mostly under $12; Monterrey dishes, $13-$17 for steak.
So enjoy it and take something extra for Margarita's and other libations.
In addition, take someone that would like to be carried off by anyone in a sombrero! 7472 Melrose Ave., LA CA; (323)655‑0480; valet and street parking; major credit cards accepted; banquets and catering. For more information, visit www.antoniosonmelrose.com