Brandywine Restaurant is a Real Gem

Antica, a BYOB in Chadds Ford, Pa., shines in the hands of two veteran chefs.

It was just after sunrise when I found myself digging greedily into a to-go container holding the satisfying remnants of my pulpo contadino—tender chunks of lemon-splashed Spanish octopus with Great Northern beans, diced pepperoncini and herbed crostini. (Hey, there’s no law against grilled mollusk on toast for breakfast, right?)This don’t-knock-it-till-you’ve-tried-it mélange was among the parts of several dishes that had comprised our dinner the night before at Antica Italian Restaurant & BYOB, the one-year-old eatery situated along Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Pa. Chefs Josh Friedberg and Gent Mema first met while working together at Philadelphia’s Spasso Italian Grill. A few years back, the duo opened the still humming Il Granaio in Glen Mills. Pa. Like its predecessor five miles to the east, Antica is a cozy little gem. Tucked away in the shadows of Brandywine Prime steakhouse, it appears to be thriving.

- Advertisement -

Photos by Steve Legato

Spezzatino with mild Italian sausage, braised onions, red bell peppers and mushrooms served over grilled polenta.

Chef Josh Friedberg and business partner Gent Mema.

The name (pronounced an-TEE-ka) sounds exotically Mediterranean. In fact, it’s a catchy homage to the antiques-laden history of the area. From the outside, the former Bistro on the Brandywine space looks like a cheery New England-style seashore cottage. Inside, there are three dining rooms of varying sizes, with walls painted the colors of terra cotta and straw. Room divider cutouts inject a linear aesthetic, and an old, exposed stone wall is a vestige from days past. For starters, the zesty fried calamari passed muster, as did the balsamic-creamed Caprese salad. Soaked for hours in balsamic vinegar, red wine, garlic and a tangle of caramelized onions, Antica’s 12-ounce strip steak was a marinated marvel—tender to the core and a bargain at $23. The veal pizzaiola came topped with piquant capers, kalamata olives and chopped tomatoes, its milky cutlets awash in a white pomodoro sauce.  Most of the items on Antica’s abbreviated dessert list are housemade, including the crème brûlée and the tiramisu. We opted for the budino di pane, an Italian take on bread pudding—melted bitter-sweet chocolate and rum-soaked orange zest poured over Italian bread and tossed with toasted pistachios and kosher salt, plus a side of vanilla ice cream. All was fairly quiet when we arrived at 6 p.m. on a Friday. An hour later, a din enveloped the main dining room. Friedberg recently made cosmetic changes (the room’s ceilings were dropped; window dressings and wall baffles were installed) in an attempt to pad the restaurant’s resounding acoustical levels.

Antica’s pulpo contadino with sautéed Spanish octopus, white beans, pepperoncini, fresh lemon and herbed crostini.

Our Best of Delaware Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!

Holiday flash sale ... subscribe and save 50%

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.