Timeless Love

Timeless Love

Anthony's Fine Food & Wine is a romance in the making

By Erica Wayne 04/02/2014

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Cleopatra was Antony's devoted lover as well as his political ally. Unfortunately, their relationship was doomed. Both committed suicide after their defeat by Octavian. I, like Cleo, am also a devoted lover of a modern-day Antony - Anthony LaCasella, proprietor of Anthony's Fine Food & Wine in La Cañada Flintridge.

My love is a new one, and I certainly expect it to be more successful than its ancient prototype. After all, this Anthony isn't out to take over the Roman Republic. He's merely engaged in the seduction of local foodies. And my devotion doesn't involve military aid. I simply intend to frequent Anthony's wine and cheese store and restaurant as often as possible and proclaim my passion openly to friends and acquaintances.

Almost three years old, Anthony's started life as a purveyor of fine wines without a liquor license, which was only granted a couple of months after the store's opening. However, even without alcohol, it was already garnering rave reviews from locals who happened by for lunches, cheese and charcuterie tastings, and the purchase of same. Once the sale and consumption of beer and wine on-premises was in place, Anthony's was ready for prime time.

At present, Anthony's hours are 3 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, when brunch is also served. It's small, only accommodating 34 diners at a time. The front space contains five tables, and the bar by the eastern wall adjacent to the cheese and meat display case has four stools. A couple of tall tables with more stools and a cozy "L" with cushioned seating are set up toward the rear, behind which is the wine "cellar" where some of their many vintages are displayed.

The interior is charming, with touches of whimsy in the huge wine-bottle chandelier hanging from the center of the main dining area and the painted landscape (with a small cheese and wine still-life at its lower right and a ready-to-inhabit picnic at lower left) which spans the interior of the upper entrance wall. On the west wall is a series of framed enclosures, each containing a unique arrangement of bottles, cheese containers, glasses and linens; every tableau a not-so subliminal advertisement for the enjoyment that Anthony's wares can provide.

The dinner menu is divvied into sections: "START," "BY SEA," "BY AIR AND LAND," "COMFORT," "FROM THE CASE" and "SWEET." We were there a few weeks ago with friends and were able to share a variety of tapas-sized dishes. To begin, we sampled a cazuela of cumin-scented cauliflower and buttery fried leeks ($8). We also had a plateful of blistered shisito peppers with black sea salt ($5), and a "caprese" of paper-thin burgundy beet slices with burrata, shaved fennel, chives and fragrant citrus vinaigrette ($13).

Then it was on to delicate spring pea pesto risotto with mint, pecorino and lemon ($9), and fork-tender costillas, or slow-roasted pork ribs in a mild chili sauce ($16). Gambas al ajillo (colossal shrimp in a sauce of brandy, garlic, Spanish dried peppers and parsley - $16), were perfectly sauteed. And duck confit came on a bed of pearl couscous with apricots, dates and a glaze of tangerine-honey and mustard ($18).

I would recommend all of these with the caveat that while our duck (a huge leg and thigh quarter) was absolutely delicious, it was a tad tough. Looking at the latest iteration of Anthony's online menu, I notice it has disappeared at least for the present. However, smoked duck breast salad, with candied garlic, croutons, dates, baby greens and seasonal dressing ($12) is still on the list.
I read a Yelper's comment that Anthony's wine list was "small but clever." I'm not enough of an aficionado to vouch for the accuracy of the latter adjective. Suffice it to say the list of 13 vintages by the glass, plus sangria, is international. It includes several small-production "boutique" wines and is painstakingly annotated. Most are offered in full or half pours. The evening we visited, a California cabernet sauvignon flight ($15) was also available. And any wine you buy from the store is sold and served without markup or corkage fee.

I hope we didn't offend Anthony by turning his wine list over and choosing from the equally carefully selected and list of ales on the other side. From the nine we picked a Spanish Estrella Damm Inedit ($13), The Maharaja Imperial IPA from Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colo. ($12), Trappiste Rochefort 10, Belgian Quadrupel Ale and Manifesto Witbier from Eagle Rock Brewery, just down the hill.

Finally, we were ready for dessert. Who could resist leche flan with caramelized apples and porcini (yup, mushrooms) streusel? The same for Chef Matt's chocolate chili ice cream and chocolate bread pudding with brandy cream and candied orange peel. All were excellent, even though the ice cream was a bit sweeter and less intense than we expected. (The dense, barely sugared pudding more than compensated.)

In mid-April there will be a French wine and cheese tasting at Anthony's. In mid-May there will be another for American products. The restaurant also provides occasional evening entertainment. Our only quarrel was that the singer's over-amped delivery made it nearly impossible for us to converse during the last half of our meal (and her rendition of Sarah McLachlan's "In the Arms of An Angel" darkened our mood by reminding us of the ASPCA's immensely depressing commercial featuring sad-eyed puppies and kittens behind bars presumably awaiting execution).

So, from now on, we'll choose to dine at Anthony's when there's quieter entertainment or when we're free to entertain ourselves solely through the restaurant's superb food and drink.

As Shakespeare said of Antony's obsession with Cleopatra: "age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety ...." So I say of Anthony's. I cannot imagine a time when I will cease to crave its company.

Fine Food & Wine
714 Foothill Blvd.,
La Canada Flintridge
Beer and wine
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