Welcome to back to One Month In, a periodic series in which Eater editors connect with chefs and restaurateurs about their early days of operation. This time it’s Antico, Chad Colby’s debut restaurant in a cozy corner of Larchmont, Koreatown, and Hollywood. Colby opened Antico with partner Kevin Caravelli in June 2019 to much fanfare, making this week’s series a seven month check-in.
Before opening last June, Antico had all the makings of a hit Los Angeles restaurant. Chad Colby enjoyed a celebrated tenure as the opening chef of Chi Spacca, and as a chef at Mozza under Nancy Silverton’s guidance. To open Antico, Colby partnered with former Maude general manager and sommelier Kevin Caravelli. The pair recruited Eleven Madison Park veteran and sous chef Brad Ray, plus Colby designed a massive, eye-catching hearth in the open kitchen to produce rustic Italian food. So far, the formula has worked.
All of this proved successful without with minimal investors or even a publicity team. Diners flowed in to try Colby’s rotating menu, where the Los Angeles Times discovered “strong pastas and perfect ice cream,” while TimeOut LA “found enough hallmarks of Colby’s cooking to make us understand why his new spot’s been a hit since its launch.”
“We’re not a restaurant group,” says Colby. “We’re not a concept that was conceived at a board meeting that would be the hot thing to do. [Caravelli and I] are both excited about this passion project. We faced tons of challenges, but once we opened and had people in the restaurant, the easiest and most important part is when we’re in service.”
Antico’s achievement is thanks to thoughtful service touches by Colby and Caravelli, who keep a close eye on the details. Both live only blocks away from Antico’s strip mall facade, with some menu ingredients plucked from Colby’s home garden. Colby even uses an 80-year-old vintage meat slicer he bought on eBay.
Seven months in, the result is a restaurant dedicated to service. Colby preps and expedites with a calm presence for his crew of five. The staff is attentive and never overbearing. Antico’s line cooks seem relaxed as they toss almond wood logs into the hearth, while producing handmade pastas and dishes such as grilled kanpachi or lamb with pistachio and mint.
Antico’s ease also comes with trial and error, starting with the service. Antico started as a fine dining establishment, an approach that went to the wayside fairly quickly. “It’s still beautiful service, but casually elegant,” says Caravelli. “We started too rigid, now we let down our hair and have a lot of fun. We stopped trying to be good and perfect, and now we’re more casual and fun than when we started.”
According to Caravelli, “Chad wanted to dispel the myth that there was any servitude in the restaurant. And for me, service is always about kindness and generosity.”
Diners can look at the ceiling to view another significant change. They soundproofed the dining room last September, making it far easier to have a conversation at dinner.
Caravelli also restructured the wine list. “The goal was to have something with age that I could afford,” says Caravelli. “All of the older vintage wines from the 70s, 80s, and 90s are sold at a great value. We’re selling it at retail prices.”
I sought out prices on all wines that are 20 or more years old we’re selling (them) at retail prices.”
Both Colby and Caravelli feel supported by the surrounding community and noticed a boost when Antico received positive reviews. “Both helped us, the Times especially. It was a kind and nice review and we immediately saw more people coming in the doors. It gave us worthy feedback as well.”
Having Saturdays and Sundays off is a rare practice in the restaurant industry. Colby instituted a Monday through Friday work week before opening, with no plans to change it. Caravelli agrees. “It’s a benefit to a staff in an industry that’s short on benefits for staff.”