Third Midtown project for plucky restaurateur

Chicken and ribs Portuguese style

THIS TINY EATERY strives to snag the rotisserie and rib market north of Yonge and Lawrence.

The third project by owner Tony Xavier, who also runs Hazel’s Diner and Chega just doors away, Antonio’s offers locals an extremely limited space (just four stools) in which to chow down on inexpensive meaty main takeouts.

The fare here suits timestrapped families looking for a fast and filling alternative to home cooking and local midday workers craving something a little different from the usual pub grub and box lunches.

Terra cotta walls hung with nondescript prints stand in as decor. The warmth of wood in the space is neutralized by the stainless steel kitchen equipment that dominates the rest of the room.

There’s a brightness to the space, owing to well-placed light fixtures and a large storefront window facing west.

No surprises on the wallmounted chalkboard menu.

Various-sized appetites and groups pick their portion preference of rotisserie chicken (whole $12, as a half $8, or as a quarter — white meat $5 and dark $4) and ribs (whole $15, half $9).

But there are other options too: buttermilk-battered chicken wings, say, or pulled pork in a ciabatta panini sandwich or grilled fillet of salmon. Hot and cold side dishes aim to make a meal out of meat with the likes of Caesar salad, coleslaw, macaroni salad, penne in tomato sauce, and asparagus, couscous and butternut squash salad.

Can’t decide? Four combinations make it easy. For example, combo #3 brings together a full rack of ribs, a half chicken, one pound of wings, a large Caesar salad and a large serving of French fries for $39.

The quarter-chicken special ($6.95) offers patrons the most economical option. Spicy roasted Parisienne potatoes and a sizable portion of fresh and flavourful crisp green beans, baby broccoli, crunchy cauliflower florets and sweet carrot coins accompany the lightly seasoned rotisserie chicken.

Although the fowl is juicy and generous, it is slightly undercooked, and the skin lacks sufficient caramelization — a bit sinful for this specialty shop. Freshness also features in a salad of cucumber, onion and tomato ($4), chopped and diced just before plating and tossed in a very basic vinaigrette.

A mountain of thinly cut fries ($3) plays pedestal to a half rack of ribs. Practiced deep-frying renders the spuds delectably crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, but oversalting lessens the pleasure. Meat falls easily from the ribs — very tender indeed.

However, wouldn’t the savoury sauce have made more of an impression if brushed on before the ribs had finished cooking? In temperature, definitely. In taste, most certainly.

A help-yourself cooler keeps cans and bottles of water, pop and Fruitopia chilled.

After we perched on our stools, the pleasant and keen owner-cumcashier stepped out to mail a letter and was replaced by, well, no one — for at least 45 minutes of our visit. A kitchen worker came to the front of shop, when customers came in to place an order, but mostly we gossiped and giggled alone.


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