Pay attention, and the quietest details tell the loudest tales. That's the case at Antelao Restaurant in Delaware Water Gap.
Chef Michael De Lotto at work at Antelao in Delaware Water Gap. The restaurant, with a small but sophisticated menu, can seat 24 in what was the parlor of a Victorian home.
The ''no cell phone'' sign by the door barely registered in my consciousness when I entered. But on my way out — after savoring dish after dish of this restaurant's exceptional fare — I understood why owners Michael and Elvi De Lotto protect the integrity and purity of the dining experience down to the smallest detail.
Thick and colorful gardens front the graceful old Victorian home that houses the restaurant along the main drag of this quaint Pocono town. Inside, with only a half dozen tables in the small dining room, it's personal, intimate and quiet. It's a white-cloth restaurant, but even so, casual attire is fine.
Michael, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and Elvi, his wife, share a passion for good food, as well as a partnership that keeps this restaurant at the top of its game. Antelao is one of only three restaurants in Pennsylvania that belong to Chefs Collaborative, a national network of more than 1,000 members of the food community committed to using local, seasonal and artisanal ingredients.
Michael wears the toque in this family, cooking up a summer menu that's both inventive and comfortable: Filet mignon gets updated with dried mushroom butter; a center cut pork loin sports a layer of Kalamata olive and sundried tomato tapenade; and roasted muscovy duck breast tops julienned cucumbers and napa cabbage in ginger sesame vinaigrette.
Elvi's the baker and the server. And she gardens, too; the restaurant's basil plants alone number 76, she told us. Her passionate and precise descriptions of Antelao's fare add to the restaurant's charm.
A basket of Elvi's rolls started dinner in grand form. About a half dozen specimens in various configurations of white, whole wheat and sourdough with additions such as flax seed and fresh dill were chewy, crusty and wholesome.
Smoked shrimp nori was outstanding: The seaweed-wrapped crustaceans, smoked over hickory, were served with sherried onion relish. ''If you have leftover relish, try it with the rolls, it's great,'' Elvi said. We did; she was right.
A second appetizer, roasted garlic flan, was a second success. When Elvi served the dish, she advised the best way to eat it — by including a bit of the grilled eggplant and roasted red pepper sauce with each bite of the silky, light flan. Testing her recommendation, I sampled a bite of flan, and, sure enough, its mild nature needed the texture and taste of its counterparts.
Antelao's salad was elegant in its simplicity: mixed baby greens judiciously topped by a creamy dressing bright with the flavor of fresh dill.
Cioppino was a delight: Plump sea scallops, shrimp and tilapia steeped in the flavor of the light and lovely seafood stock with tomato and garlic in which it was served. Garlic crostini added crunchy and piquant balance.
One of the meal's highlights was the house potato: baked, then mashed, mixed with sour cream and herbs, formed into balls, coated with panko crumbs, then baked again. These were so tasty I had to restrain myself from stealing them from my companion's plate.
Desserts made in the restaurant's kitchen ran the gamut from standards such as tiramisu and a brownie with toasted pecans and caramel sauce to more unusual selections such as semifreddo and panna cotta with blueberries.
Dinner for two, including tax, tip and nonalcoholic beverages, totaled $75.
Susan Gottshall is a freelance restaurant reviewer for Go Guide. Gottshall, who tells it like it is, attempts to remain anonymous during restaurant visits. All meals are paid for by The Morning Call.
Features Editor Linda O'Connell
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