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LOCAL FARE

Quirky atmosphere, Italian flair at Antique Table Trattoria

The chicken-broccoli ziti was served in a creamy white wine sauce flavored with a generous amount of fresh garlic.
The chicken-broccoli ziti was served in a creamy white wine sauce flavored with a generous amount of fresh garlic.Doug Stewart

WHO’S IN CHARGE Winthrop’s charming Antique Table Trattoria opened three years ago, following the success of its namesake in Lynn. Owners Mario Perez, Carlos Soto, and Abraham Gallego, the executive chef, are longtime friends. The Winthrop restaurant is not, strictly speaking, a family-owned business, but it feels like one. Michael LaMonica, one of the chefs, is among four brothers who work here. So does their mother.

“A lot of the people who come here, we know them by name,” said LaMonica. It’s a family restaurant, he said, and it’s run like a family business. “There’s no corporate structure. We don’t have an exact formula for everything we do, but we don’t let any plates leave the kitchen that we’re not happy with.”

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THE LOCALE Entering the Winthrop location, you feel as if you’ve stepped into a fantasy of rural Italy from Enrico Caruso’s day. Diners sit on old-fashioned wooden chairs at square wooden tables with white tablecloths. Below the high ceiling and wooden rafters, the rough yellow walls have the texture of rumpled sailcloth.

Crowding the walls are treasures acquired by Perez at thrift shops and yard sales. These include everything from copies of the “Mona Lisa” and “The Courtship of Miles Standish” to a pair of cuckoo clocks. To some people, the decor would count as kitsch overkill. But to us, it felt like the perfect space to sit down for an Italian meal, even if no village in Umbria ever had a trattoria this kooky-picturesque.

Soundproofing is not one of the interior’s strengths. Visiting on a crowded Thursday evening for dinner, we had trouble hearing one another. The restaurant at lunchtime a few days later was more tranquil.

The dining room at Antique Table Trattoria in Winthrop.
The dining room at Antique Table Trattoria in Winthrop. Doug Stewart

ON THE MENU The dining room’s retro vibe doesn’t mean the menu is stuck in the past. New to us was watermelon salad ($11): a thick slice of watermelon topped with arugula in an orange-vinaigrette dressing, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and feta cheese. It sounded weird, but it all blended delightfully.

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The house roulade ($23) was chicken and veal fillets rolled with bacon, asparagus, and smoked fresh mozzarella and cooked till lightly browned. It was fragrant, tender, and juicy. The pan-seared meat in the veal marsala ($20) was similarly tender. With mushrooms and a semi-sweet wine sauce, it was served over chewy house-made pappardelle noodles.

An appetizer of prosciutto rollatini ($14) was the dry-cured ham rolled with provolone, peppers, and fresh basil, cooked and then drizzled with a balsamic reduction sauce. Asked for his opinion, the usually voluble writer friend who ordered it said, “Words fail me. Delicious. Just right.”

The swordfish ($27) was sauteed with olives, cherry tomatoes, and capers in a light red sauce on a white wine risotto. Another seafood entree, the haddock ($22), panko-crusted and pan-seared, was served over risotto in a lemon white wine caper sauce. Each dish combined delicate flavors and pleasingly moist fish.

When we returned for lunch, we tried the eggplant rollatini, which, like the prosciutto version, was a row of perfectly prepared cylinders, their crispy browned tops contrasting with the bursts of creamy ricotta inside. As a lunchtime appetizer, the dish cost only $9 yet was as filling as an entree.

A lunchtime pasta order of chicken-broccoli ziti ($12) also was rich and abundant. The al dente pasta was served in a creamy white wine sauce flavored with a generous amount of fresh garlic.

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Earlier this month, the Winthrop restaurant added a to-go store around the corner, Piccolo Piatti. A third full-service Antique Table is scheduled to open early next year on Pickering Wharf in Salem. Artwork is already being stockpiled.

Antique Table Trattoria, 19 Crest Ave., Winthrop, 617-207-9054, www.antiquetableonline.com.

The watermelon salad was a delightful surprise.
The watermelon salad was a delightful surprise.

Coco McCabe and Doug Stewart can be reached at dcstewart@verizon.net.