Antonio's Italian Chophouse is the best new restaurant in Morgantown. Hands down.
The newest contender in Italian cuisine has taken up shop in the Seneca Center on Beechurst Avenue, in the location previously occupied by the beloved Glasshouse Grille. Glasshouse closed some time ago, and the space had been sitting empty for years.
Antonio's opened in June and has since been serving up steaks, seafood and Italian specialties a fine dining atmosphere.
Tony Ottaviani chose this location in 2011 to expand his family business, Ristorante Ottaviani, which is located in Cumberland, Maryland. Many of the recipes he serves in his restaurants are family ones from Italy.
The first obstacle in Morgantown is usually finding how to get there. Luckily, there is plenty of free parking at the Seneca Center, so it's not a concern. The building is lovely, and as you walk down the stairs to reach the restaurant, it's like you're walking into little Italy. At the bottom of the stairs, there are some tables for outdoor dining and dim lighting. Perfect for date night.
The inside is elegant and formal with thick white table linens and servers dressed in black shirts and ties. Maybe it was the environment, but Tony and I were feeling a glass of wine. I went with the Moscato, and he ordered a Riesling. Mine tasted like apple juice with a kick, so of course I was happy.
The menu had me torn between a few things, but after consulting Sher Yip, photographer extraordinaire and fellow foodie, my options narrowed a bit. They have pasta options like meatballs, alfredo, and bolognese (homemade meat sauce). Also some more sophisticated pasta dishes like Civitella (pasta in a mushroom and truffle cream sauce), Cacciatora (pork with carrots and onions in a red sauce), Del Nonna (olive oil, garlic, sundried tomatoes), and Sausage and Peppers. Turn your attention toward the right side of the menu, and there's seafood and a slew of meat dishes, including chicken parmesan, chicken marsala, filet, and lamb chops.
I ultimately decided on the Abruzzo Chicken, which is like the classic chicken paremesan but done in a more modern way. It's breaded chicken breast over spinach and mushrooms sauteed in a balsamic vinegar, topped with gorgonzola cheese and baked. Served with a side of pasta. $19.25
I was surprised to find out it didn't come with a salad - isn't that standard with many Italian dishes?
But then I saw the platter that arrived.
Two giant hand-breaded chicken breasts were slathered with a creamy gorgonzola sauce that had the perfect amount of bite and creaminess. Lightly browned on top, the cheese was perfectly baked and stringy and melty deliciousness. Between that creamy cheese and the crisp breading of the chicken, plus the hot white tender meat inside made for a flavor explosion.
Underneath added another level with the balsamic spinach and mushrooms. That tang was incredible with the creaminess. And the pasta on the side with some light cheese, olive oil, butter. Just fabulous. Incredible, delicious meal out of a simple concept. Divine.
They had a list of specials, from which Tony chose from. He decided on a shrimp pasta with spicy tomato sauce, and he was a fan.
For dessert, I ordered the cannolis. The waiter warned me that they're not super sweet and are instead more authentic to Italy. No problem. I actually really enjoyed these. The filling was thicker, chunkier - you could tell it was ricotta cheese. But it was still slightly sweet, not overpoweringly sweet, though. I liked it. It was thick and more filling. Not as processed.
I ended up spending a pretty penny on dinner, but it was worth it to me. I would definitely go back, and it would be an especially good place for family visiting or a significant other.
Antonio's is open Monday through Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner.