Ann & Tony’s
2407 , Bronx NY 10458
Web Site: http://www.annandtonysonline.com
Ann & Tony’s restaurant in the Arthur Avenue section of Belmont in the Bronx is one of the oldest continually operating Italian restaurants in the borough, dating back to the 1920s.
Twitter is a very interesting phenomenon. I’ve only really started using it in the last year, initially as way of sending automatic updates from OTB and Tech Broiler to people who actually cared about using the service. A year ago, I thought the idea was pretty pointless, with these limited 140-character messages that people send out that everyone on the Internet can see, which seemed to focus on fairly dumb, exhibitionist status updates such as “eating a Cannoli” or “This alfredo sauce is @#$%ing awesome dude!” so I stayed away from issuing my own updates because I didn’t want to look like a total ass. I knew a lot of people were LOOKING at Twitter, but I didn’t feel like engaging in it beyond the “let’s feed my blog updates into it and see how it goes” capacity.
But then something else happened. I joined FaceBook, which hooked me up with a lot of old friends and many other foodie and technology industry colleagues. But FaceBook, like Twitter, requires you to enter updates about what is going on with your daily life to make your friends feel like you haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. So if I was now committing to doing FaceBook updates, I might as well start updating my Twitter as well. So I downloaded Twitter software for my Blackberry and my PC and started sending updates to Twitter, and automatically syncing those to FaceBook.
So now I’m addicted to Twitter. I have TweetDeck running constantly in the background on my PC and whenever I’m traveling I have TinyTwitter running on my BlackBerry. When people have questions, such as when Eater “Retwittered” a particular person’s inquiry about where to eat in the Bronx on Arthur Avenue, I offered up some advice. No later than 10 minutes afterward, I get a message from Twitterer @RalphNapolitano:
@jperlow saw your tweet about Arthur Ave. When are you coming to eat in my restaurant…LOL!!!
So I look Ralph up. Along with this brother Anthony, he Co-owns Ann & Tony’s, one of the many Italian-American restaurants on Arthur Avenue. Normally, when restaurateurs want me to come visit, I usually get an email extending an invite to an open house or a press event, or sometimes even a phone call from a publicist, but receiving a challenge over Twitter to come eat was a first. Okay, then, I’ll play. What kind of guy broadcasts a message like that to the entire Internet and not expect a serious foodie like myself to take him up on it?
I told him I was coming over that very evening, with hungry wife and friend in tow, and he had better be ready to face the consequences if the food wasn’t any good.
Click on the “Read the Rest of this entry” link below for more.
As it turns out — and I only discovered it that evening when I was dining and he came over and proudly showed me how he found me — Ralph has the search term “Arthur Avenue” on his Twitter client on his iPhone set so he can message anyone who mentions the subject. I wasn’t a unique target or special or any way. Oh well.
Frankly, I don’t know if it’s considered bad Twitter etiquette to do that or just plain genius marketing technique, but it was definitely an effective means for getting me into the place. That, and I hadn’t had a decent Italian-American meal on Arthur Avenue in a LONG time and I had visions of pasta floating in my head.
Ralph may have used 21st Century technology to lure me in, but what he and his brother are doing at Ann & Tony’s is very, very old school. It’s practically an anthropological exhibit. This is solid, but extremely dated, boilerplate Italian-American food, the way that things USED to be made. This is not the regionally specialized, Batali-esque, let’s attempt to reproduce authentic stuff from Tuscany or Emiligia-Romagnia Italian cuisine you get in Manhattan. This place has not changed a single darned thing since at least the 1940s, and they like it that way.
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. It could have been the prototype for that song.
A Bottle of Red, A Bottle of White..
Fried Calamari, crispy. Rachel thought it was a little overcooked but I appreciated the fact that it was well seasoned and had tentacles. Lots of places don’t bother with the tentacles, those are my favorite.
Eggplant Rollatini. Rachel and I loved this, it isn’t heavily breaded, but it’s stuffed with a wonderful ricotta mixture. Ann & Tony’s marinara sauce also has nice acidity with just the right amount of sweetness. I’m really looking forward to trying their eggplant parmigiana next time, which uses fresh tomatoes.
A portion of the dinner salad. Nice crispy lettuce and good job with the thinly sliced cukes but the tomatoes weren’t ripe. But this is not why you come here.
Italian Sausage and Meatballs. We all agreed that the meatballs were some of the best we’ve ever had, and you would totally be justified in ordering Spaghetti and Meatballs here. The sausage was good, in fact I would say it was very good, but the meatballs were better. The meatballs had just enough binder to hold them together, they were of ideal Italian-American meatball consistency with just the right amount of cheese and were a good mixture of Beef, Pork and Veal.
Here’s where we start getting into dinosaur territory. This is “Chicken Ann & Tony’s” which is boneless chicken cutlets pounded flat in a thick marsala wine mushroom gravy with artichoke hearts, prosciutto and mozzarella cheese. Rachel thought it was too rich and heavy, I actually enjoyed it for what it was and appreciated its “Look at me! I’m a fossil on a plate, eat me!” appeal.
Here’s a similar dish made with veal cutlets. Again, very rich and heavy, and the kind of thing you probably won’t find anywhere else in New York, let alone the Bronx.
I was disappointed in the Shrimp Fra Diavolo, only in that the sauce was fantastic but the shrimp were overcooked. At Ann & Tony’s I’d probably stick with the meat and pasta dishes.
We rebound from the shrimp with an excellent Clams with Garlic Sauce over Linguine. There’s whole cloves of caramelized garlic in this thing.
Like the New York Yankees, Ann & Tony’s seems to get better in the later innings. This is a fantastic Spaghetti Carbonara, made with prosciutto. Pasta dishes and the classic Italian American boilerplates seem to be where Ann & Tony’s really shines.
Rigatoni with meat sauce. What can I say, I can’t make a better one myself, and I think I make a pretty serious one. Like the meatballs this ragu is a blend of pork, beef and veal. It was so good it didn’t even need cheese on top. Ann & Tony’s also makes a traditional Spaghetti Bolognese, with a sauce that is simmered for hours. If the regular meat sauce was that good, the Bolognese has to be amazing.
Bases loaded with the pasta, bottom of the 9th. Angel Hair pasta with Pesto sauce, also very good with strong fresh basil flavor.
I’m very particular about my cannolis, as Madonia Brothers down the street are my favorite. But these were very good indeed. I had mine with an espresso, with lemon peel, the old school Italian-American way.
However, this orange flavored Italian Cheesecake was the home run that brought it all together. Rachel, who prefers New York Cheesecake stylistically over the Ricotta-style, actually made me stop eating this so she could finish it the next day, we liked it that much.
This zeppole, deep fried dough stuffed with Nutella and Bananas and topped with powdered sugar was an experiment that was tried on us by Chef Anthony. Definitely a keeper, but they need a name for it. I suggested “The Bronx Bomb” and “The Bambino” as possibilities but I’m not sure how they went over.