267 Coggeshall Street, New Bedford, MA
On our way down to Providence, we thought we'd take a swing through New Bedford to check out Antonio's. I had read about it on Bitten and thought this was a good opportunity to visit. We are not really big eaters of Portuguese food, so we used past reviews to guide our food selections. Antonio's is a hop-skip and a jump off Route 195; it was less than 30 minutes (no traffic) to Providence.
We arrived a little before noon on Friday and the place was pretty empty, but by the time we left about an hour later Antonio's was packed. It's clear that they have a really good group of regular diners.
We started with the littleneck clams steamed with garlic and lemon. They were delicious and briny and garlicky. The steaming liquid was delicious and I just wish the bread had been better. The broth was begging to be sopped up with a crusty loaf of bread. What we got was soft and doughy and didn't really hold up to dunking. So, I had to use a spoon to eat it like soup. :-)
We also had some croquettes and cod cakes. They are sold by the piece and we agreed that if this was our local bar, we'd order the shrimp croquettes by the half-dozen. The shrimp croquettes reminded me (in a good way) of the fried ravioli I used to get as a bar snack. The tomato-shrimp mixture was creamy and encased in a pasta-like wrapper, lightly crumbed and fried. The cod cakes were much milder, but had a good taste of cod, without being too fishy.
I had the grilled sardines as my main dish. They were served super-hot and straight from the grill. They were whole sardines, heads and bones intact, and so they were really moist. For my palate, they needed a lot of lemon squeezed over them, and that addition made the dish for me.
Dave had the cacoila (braised pork shoulder). It was served with rice and(!) fries. The pork was really tender and flavorful. I am not sure what's in the braising liquid at Antonio's, but traditional recipes call for some kind of acid (orange juice, vinegar, wine) and lots of spice. This is a dish I going to try to recreate at home.
We spent $42 on our food and a half-bottle of Vinho Verde (Portuguese white wine). We ordered way too much food and had to leave about half of each of our entrees behind (we were off to a hotel for two nights, so carrying leftovers along would have been hazardous). Were we to go again, we'd probably get one appetizer and one entree. Crowd favorites appeared to be shrimp (looked like it was served in a butter, garlic and lemon sauce) and fish and chips.
We don't eat at Portuguese restaurants very often and one of things I am always disappointed about is the dearth of vegetables on the menu. I was given a green salad as a side with my sardines at Antonio's. It was a standard iceberg/romaine mix and was nice to have. But, why are the side dishes always so starchy? Don't get me wrong, I love french fries, but ... Has anyone ever found some neat vegetable side dishes in a Portuguese restaurant? The only place I have ever seen veggies is in kale and chorizo soup. Does anyone know of any dishes we should try next time?