Anton’s in the West Village is one of those uniquely New York restaurants you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
Opened by Nick Anderer, the former head chef of Maialino, Marta, and Martina, in November 2019, it’s an homage to old New York, and a tribute to his family’s German ancestry, as well as the Sephardic Jewish ancestry of general manager and beverage director Natalie Johnson, who also happens to be Anderer’s wife.
The restaurant is named for Anderer’s great-great-grandfather, Anton, who emigrated to New York from Germany in the 1800s. His son, Anderer’s great-grandfather, Lorenz, was a butcher in the city during the Great Depression, and there’s a steak named after his great-grandfather (the Strip Steak Lorenz), on the menu.
Anderer describes Anton’s as a “nostalgic New York cafe and wine bar” and, when pressed to talk about the food, he says, “It’s a love letter to the melting pot of New York more than it is any specific kind of regional [European] cuisine. It’s region specific — it’s New York specific.”
Here, Anderer, a lifelong New Yorker, breaks down some of the restaurant’s signature dishes, served all day at lunch and at dinner (save for his mom’s apple crisp and the fluke rofé, which is a frequent special), and how they tell the story of this uniquely New York restaurant.
1. Hand-Cut Angel Hair Francese
“Gene’s is this old restaurant on 11th Street and 6th Avenue that Natalie and I go to a lot of times after work and get an after-work drink and a quick bite to eat. But as with a lot of these old Italian and French restaurants, you get an entrée and then you get to pick a side, and it’s either pasta or vegetables, right?
“We would always get this side of angel hair pasta, but we would always ask for chicken Francese sauce on the angel hair pasta. So ours is kind of a facsimile of that special off-menu request that we would always get.
“But ours is nothing like theirs — we’ve kind of over-complicated things as chefs have a tendency to do. It comes off as a very homespun dish but it has a lot of parts that take a couple of days to cook. We make a chicken stock, which obviously has chicken bones in it but also some roasted vegetables, and the next day we add more roasted chicken bones and then strain it out and season it with lemon juice, garlic, and some dried Italian herbs.
“The pasta is handmade. We take sheets of fresh egg-based pasta, roll it out very thin, and then cut it very thin. So it’s kind of angel hair in quotes; it’s not a typical dry-extruded angel hair. And when we actually cook the noodles, it almost ends up looking like Italian ramen when it’s finished because we serve it in a very brothy, reduced, fortified chicken stock that gets mounted with a little bit of butter and then topped with garlic bread crumbs to add some crunch so it’s not all just a creamy mess.”
2. Fluke Rofé
“Natalie and I come up with both the food and drink menus together. We don’t ever do anything in a vacuum. She’s originally from Colorado but has lived in New York for 15 years. There isn’t as much New York history in her family but this dish is named for her grandfather’s side of the family who were Sephardic Jews from Egypt. Growing up, her grandfather would always make this spicy crab-crusted flounder.
“So I started making it for them, but my own version of it, when we would go on vacations together, and we have it as a fish special on the menu. We bring in a local fluke, pan sear it, and crust it with jumbo lump crab meat that’s been seasoned with a mixture of spices, minced red pepper, garlic, and garlic bread crumbs. And lately we’ve been serving it with pea leaves that have been quickly sauteed with just a wedge of lemon on the side.”
3. Chopped Spinach a la Noialles
“I’ve always been obsessed with eating creamed spinach, particularly at places like Peter Luger and Keens Steakhouse, which are two of my favorites. A big part of the inspiration for our menu was from reading and researching lots of old books. Some of the most accessible books that are available of old New York City recipes are from Delmonico’s restaurant, from around the 1890s to the early 1900s.
“I came across this recipe and said, ‘Oh wow, this sounds actually perfect, it’s a little bit different, it’s not just a straight up creamed spinach that’s laden with butter and cream. There is actually no cream in the dish at all.
‘I’ve researched the hell out of this dish, so don’t ask me what Noailles means or who it is. My guess is it’s named after a town in France, where some chef had come up with some recipe that then became adopted by Charles Ranhofer, who was one of the opening chefs of Delmonico’s.
“While there’s no reference in either of Charles Ranhofer’s books about where this recipe came from, or what the name Noialles is, it does have a very specific description of the recipe itself, which we follow almost to the tee. With the exception of the fact that we cook our chopped spinach in a mushroom velouté and the original recipe called for using a veal velouté to thicken the chopped spinach. But using mushroom keeps it vegetarian, and I also love the idea of the earthiness of the mushrooms that accentuates the spinach, which is also earthy.
“It’s our most popular side dish, and we can serve it year-round because we can get spinach all year.”
4. Bucatini Baczynsky
“Bucatini Baczynsky is a version of bucatini all’amatriciana, which is something that I’ve made in other restaurants. It usually has a spicy tomato sauce and some sort of salted pork ingredient — normally guanciale, which is salted pig jowl — but in this case, we’re using traditional bacon that is cured and smoked by J. Baczynsky, the East Village meat market and Ukrainian butcher shop in the East Village.
“The old man, J. Baczynsky died a few months ago, I think he was about 100. Now Andrew Ilinicki, a close family friend, has taken over and is running the shop. I’ve been buying bacon from Andrew forever; it’s my favorite bacon, so I knew I had to try making this dish with their bacon. Sure enough, it was absolutely delicious.
“We basically make it just like traditional Amatriciana, with rendered salted pork — in our case we’re using the Baczynsky bacon — and then some caramelized onion, spicy tomato sauce, and then the bucatini pasta and pecorino cheese at the end.”
A Closer Look at Anton’s
5. Warm Apple Crisp à la Mode
“This is a dish that has been on the menu also since day one and we haven’t been able to take it off — it’s the most requested. It’s my mom’s recipe. She lives on the Upper West Side, by Columbia University. My dad’s a professor at Columbia.
“The apple crisp is one of the most requested dishes at Anderer family birthdays. She still makes it for almost every birthday. I needed to do a version of it, although I really didn’t mess with it too much. Before there were cookbooks or anything else, she was my first teacher.
“It doesn’t really get much simpler. It’s just all about the love and care you put into it. It’s supposed to be that in every single bite, you get a nice little crisp topping and a nice little thin layer of melted apples. And of course, the ice cream on top. I wish we made the ice cream in house but our kitchen is the size of about two closets so we use Haagen Daz’s vanilla.”
Anton’s is open daily for lunch and dinner. It’s open on Mondays to Wednesdays from noon to 10 p.m.; on Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 11 p.m.; on Saturdays 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Devorah Lev-Tov is a food, beverage, and travel journalist with bylines in The New York Times, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Eater, Vogue, and more. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, two children, and senior shih-tzu. Follow her dining adventures on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.