13619 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
When we drove up to Antonio's Pizzeria, I took one look at the green neon sign above and had a good feeling about this place. After walking inside this restaurant that is celebrating their 60th year in business, the good vibes continued to grow inside of me. We had just driven the two-hour trek up from Orange County and were ready for a good, sturdy Italian meal. Just being inside of Antonio's, a nostalgic feel washed over us, and we felt we were in for a real treat.
When I knew we were going to be up this way for a birthday party, I did quite a bit of research on where to eat on the way up to the valley. One of my favorite web resources for LA restaurants is Eater LA. They have many interactive restaurant maps, with many different genres. I have particularly become enamored with the 28 Classic LA Restaurants for 2017, which you should totally check out after finishing reading this review. I like this site because I'm not too familiar with all parts of Los Angeles, and it's easy to find restaurants near where we will be or driving by.
Antonio's was our pick on this trip, and man did they nail the old school feel of this place. Located on busy Ventura Boulevard, near its intersection with Woodman, Antonio's has been here since 1957. For the first year of its existence, it was known as Miceli's, but after a family rift, it has been known as Antonio's ever since. Antonio retired in 1988 and has been owned by siblings Steven and Alexandra Lunardon since then. They have made a few changes since then, mainly for their customer's tastes, but for the most part, this restaurant is just like the way it was when it opened 60 years ago. Their mantra is to keep things simple, real and tasty.
After finding the tiny parking lot in the back of the restaurant, we were lead to our small, red and white checkered clothed table in the corner of the restaurant. I was instantly charmed by the colorfully stained glass windows of Antonio's, the hanging Chianti bottles strewn around the dining room, and the charming murals depicting the Italian seaside lining the wall above our head. Antonio's really felt like a step back in time, but at present, we were pretty hungry, so let's see what we had in store for us at dinner.
With Katie's meal, she got her choice of soup or salad and went with this House Salad option. She was pretty excited by this dinner salad which included sliced cucumbers, kidney beans, garbanzos, a tomato wedge, beets, and mixed greens. The dressings are all made here, and she was impressed with their Italian dressing. Not a bad dinner salad at all.
Since we did not get an appetizer, I justified getting this Individual Sized One Topping Pizza ($10) to start off with. Yes, I did share some with Katie. At first, I was not in love with this pizza. It had something to do with the crust. It might have been a little too doughy for me, but as I ate it I kind of liked it more and more. They did not go overboard with the cheese, and the pepperoni was pretty solid. Not really as heavy of a pizza as I was expecting, maybe that's what threw me off at the start as well.
Part two of my dinner, and if you can not tell from the picture above, under all that sauce was the Lasagna ($15). The lasagna at Antonio's came highly recommended from the online reviews and our server. I liked it but was not in love with it. They have three kinds of lasagna here, chicken, veggie, and you all know I went with the beef selection. What threw this all out of whack for me was the sauce. It was a little too tangy for my taste and with the amount they poured over this it really overpowered the lasagna. I also like a more cheesy lasagna, and with all of that sauce, I did not notice too much cheese involved with this. Next time I'd definitely ask for light sauce, or maybe gets some bread or rolls to help sop up some of the sauce.
Last but not least was Katie's meal, the Chicken Romano ($20). This homey dish started with a boneless chicken breast as it base, which was blanketed with mozzarella cheese and surrounded with onions, celery, carrots, and mushrooms in a marinara-wine sauce. This was the best entree of the evening. Very comforting, almost like a stew. The chicken and veggies were nice and tender, and the sauce worked well with this. Again, some rolls or bread would have been appreciated for sopping up the excess sauce, but I dipped some of my pizza crust in it. This dinner also came with a side of spaghetti with meat sauce, which Katie picked at sparingly.
Okay, I think my expectations might have been a tad too high for Antonio's based on the nostalgia of this restaurant. It was good but did not knock my socks off. Of course, this is just based on one visit, and maybe if we had gotten other things, we might have liked Antonio's better. Service was good, and they really did make us feel welcome. I thought the prices were pretty fair for the amount of food that you get, and we saw lots of people taking leftovers home. Lots of old-school charm here, and worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood.
Out of five railroad cars, (because Sherman Oaks is named after Moses Sherman, who made big money in the railroad business), five being best to zero being worst, Antonio's Pizzeria gets 3 railroad cars.
For more information about Antonio's Pizzeria, head to their website here: https://www.antoniospizzeriala.com/