A hub of international eateries to suit all palates, Plaza Momentum de Lindora on the Santa Ana-Belén road, southwest of San José, has much to offer: Peruvian, Japanese and coffee shop fare, and the recently opened Antonio’s. For connoisseurs of fine Italian dining, this excellent restaurant gives its competitors, of which there are a few, a run for their money.
A party of five of us sallied forth for lunch at this new establishment, which proved to be a delicious gourmet experience. It’s clear that much thought has gone into the impressive decor: the black and white motif is featured both downstairs and on the spacious, upstairs balcony, from where the chefs can be seen at work in the shiny, stainless steel kitchen. Comfy white leather chairs, black tablecloths, white contemporary-design china, polished silver tableware and sparkling, long-stemmed wine glasses all contribute to the elegant surroundings.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with Italian hospitality by the friendly Damiano Mantilotti, an experienced restaurateur from Florence, Italy. Our attentive waiter, Walter Alvarado, took our drink orders and suggested we take a look at the display counter in the kitchen, where lobsters and a variety of seafood were laid out to tempt the appetite. This certainly worked, as both the octopus and lobster were included in our orders. It was a hot, muggy day, but the breezy, al fresco dining area on the balcony was cool and pleasant. We sipped on a bottle of Chilean house wine, a nicely chilled Misiones de Rengo chardonnay ($15), and delved into the basket of fresh bread as we squinted at the menu, which was faded and hard to read because of its mirror-like background.
The attractively presented appetizers received accolades as we shared the succulent octopus carpaccio, sliced wafer-thin and lightly drizzled with flavorful virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. The portobello mushrooms with diced bacon and a wonderfully seasoned black truffle sauce, as well as the veal tonnato, come highly recommended, and the tender, thinly sliced cold veal (yes, real veal!), served with a light, tasty mayonnaise and tuna sauce, was delicious. The asparagus soup arrived in an impressive soup bowl resembling a satellite dish and couldn’t have been better. Our appetizers ranged from $9 to $10; the menu states that prices do not include the 13 percent sales tax and 10 percent service charge.
For main courses, we chose a variety from the tempting offerings available. The small selection of pastas include homemade tagliatelle in a light, creamy vegetable sauce, topped with a generous portion of black caviar, which was very good, as was the Risotto Toscano with porcini mushrooms and a truffle cream and saffron sauce. The lobster and champagne risotto was an extra-special extravagance laden with tender chunks of this much desired crustacean. The grilled salmon served with al dente vegetables was delicious, and the duck in an orange, honey and almond sauce was superb – “one of the best I’ve had in years,” commented the happy diner.
Prices for the above ranged from $13 to $21, except for the lobster risotto, which was a hefty $39. If you order lobster, shrimp or the imported rib-eye steak, expect to pay $24 to $44, plus tax. The menu does offer many less expensive items, but overall Antonio’s is not for diners on a budget.
After all this gluttony, we ordered two desserts to share. Both the tiramisu and lemon sorbet were deemed average and nothing to get excited about.
The menu also includes a small but interesting selection of pizzas, a variety of antipastos, and panino, focaccio and bruschetta with some tempting toppings. Prices range from $3 to $14, depending on whether you choose lobster or Parma ham.
Our bill for five people, including beverages, two bottles of house wine, tax and service, came to about $270. At Antonio’s, you certainly get what you pay for – first-class cuisine, service and ambience – and prices are not above average for this caliber of restaurant.
After lunch, we chatted with chef Pino Galuppo, who has four assistants helping him execute the exceptional cuisine and delightful presentations that appear from his professional kitchen. With more than 15 years of experience and seven years as chef at Cariblue in the Caribbean beach community of Puerto Viejo, he moved his talents to the Central Valley.
We were also joined by Jacques Lanusse-Cazalé, Antonio’s French owner and general manager, whose entrepreneurial skills will be extending to the Caribbean and Manuel Antonio on the central Pacific coast, where he is involved in opening two new hotels.
Lanusse-Cazalé says he plans to add a few French touches to Antonio’s menu, such as pâté de foie gras and escargots, and to hold a special U.S. Election Night Party with a big TV screen brought in for the occasion.
Location: Heading west from San José on thePróspero Fernández Highway
, take the Santa Ana exit. Turn right on the road to Belén and continue half a kilometer. The entrance to Centro Comercial Momentum de Lindora is on the left, opposite Auto Mercado.
Hours: Monday to Saturday, noon to 3 p.m. and 6 to 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.