By Katie Moore-Gillon
Staff Restaurant Critic
I walked inside Ann & Tony’s restaurant, established in 1927 and located towards the end of Arthur Avenue, to what felt like Nona’s dining room. To clarify: I do not have a Nona of my own. A Granny, yes, but she’s English and prefers to whip up things like shepherd’s pie and elaborate rose gardens over a lasagna seasoned with eternal love and family pride. The restaurant is adorned with old family memorabilia and the tables are spaced out so it’s not too cozy, but you can chat to your neighbors if you really want to.
We were ushered towards the back of the dimly-lit, salmon-painted room and shuffled past two dinner parties of at least twenty people, each passing plates piled with pasta back and forth over raucous laughter.
A word to the wise: skip the calamari appetizer. You’ll save $17 on over-cooked squid and bland, oily batter that the tomato sauce on the side attempts to save, but ultimately fails. The Mozzarella en Carrozza, on the other hand, needs no sauce or gimmicks. The crispy, flaky shell encapsulating the soft bread and the juicy, velvet mozzarella cheese could hold its own. The bread was thin, the cheese was thick, and the plate was cleared. There was a long wait for the entrees in between, but it was necessary. We all savored a breather from the greasy starters.
(Left: Mozzarella en Carrozza, Right: Fried Calamari)
After crumbs of batter settled on my rose-colored napkin and I drank enough water to feel “rejuvenated,” our waiter finally greeted us with heaping plates of food all coated in bright yellow or red sauces. My dish, the Shrimp Limone, was a good place to start. The shrimp had a good bite: firm but not too chewy. It was complemented nicely with a rich, tangy sauce that you could suck out from the tail once the head was gnawed off.
The gnocchi, however, had less of kick. It was too thick, and I felt like I was eating never-ending potato (if that wasn’t a thing, they’ve made it a thing). It was begging for salt, and the tomato sauce was no help. The sauce was far too sweet and could in no way complement its far too bland focal point. Fortunately, the fettuccine alfredo was liquid gold in a bowl. The pillowy-soft pasta swirled in perfect harmony with the creamy, buttery sauce that offered hints of white wine to create the ultimate umami flavor.
(From left to right) Eggplant parmesan, fettuccine alfredo, shrimp limone.
The eggplant parmesan dish tried to undertake that same sort of lush victory that was in the alfredo, but it was a soggier attempt. The eggplant was crushed by a bulky tomato sauce and dense mozzarella cheese, completely masking the flavor. I got an occasional crunch from the batter. Otherwise, it was a formless bite that was easy to forget about.
The real hero of the night was a dish that has been on the menu since 1941: Chicken Ann & Tony. Stacked on my fork were chicken, prosciutto, mozzarella, an artichoke heart, and an olive. They complemented and overlapped one another like a symphony. The tender chicken served as the perfect canvas to enhance the meaty prosciutto, the liquid-gold mozzarella, the vinegary artichokes, and the tangy olive. It was layers upon layers of dreamy flavors that proved this to be an undeniably exceptional entrée.
Overall, there were some outstanding dishes. The simpler ones (with the exception of the fettuccine alfredo) did not necessarily mean better. A lot of failures involved poorly cooked main ingredients masked by heavy sauces. But when they were cooked just right, it was a compatible triumph.
By the end of the meal I was completely stuffed. As my friend Caroline observed, “This would be a good place to go if you were starving.” Nona would probably agree, and she would have made sure you finish your damn plate.
Ann & Tony’s is located at:
2407 Arthur Ave,
Bronx, NY 10458
Phone: (718) 933-1469