A Conversation with Chef Antonio Avona

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by Alex Gonzales

Having served Dallas with some of the best Italian food for nearly 40 years, Antonio Avona is an expert in his craft. Upon arriving to Dallas from Calabria, Italy in 1981, Avona worked the late great renowned restaurateur Phil Vaccaro as the Executive Chef at Mario’s. He worked at Mario’s until 1998, when he decided to open his own restaurant, Antonio’s Ristorante, in Addison. For over 20 years, Antonio’s Ristorante has served some of the best Italian food in Far North Dallas.

I join Avona for lunch on a rainy, February afternoon at Antonio’s Ristorante. It is around 2:00 o’clock, the lunch rush has just passed, and Avona and his team of wine and Italian Cuisine experts are gathered around the television, catching up on the latest sports and policial news updates.

We sit down at a table, where Avona starts listing off some of his favorite wines. His love of wine began at a very young age.

“When I was a kid in Italy, we made wine for the family, and for everybody,” Avona says. “Every September and October in Calabria, we’d buy our grapes, make our wine, and we kept it year by year in wooden barrels.”

Avona then adds that one bad season in the year can throw off an entire barrel of wine.

“The whole year affects the quality of the wine,” Avona says. “If you have a bad summer or a real cold spring, everything affects it. Where I was raised, we had mountains and oceans, so it depends where they grew the grapes. The better the summer, the better your wine is.”

Avona believes that drinking wine can be a form of holistic medicine.

“It helps me relax,” Avona says. “The right wine with the right food is therapeutic for me. I’m not a doctor,” he says, chuckling, “but from what I hear, drinking wine everyday is good for your blood pressure.”

Having grown up in Italy, Avona understands the importance of utilizing in-season ingredients in his dishes.

“I follow the seasons pretty well,” Avona says, “not to trade the dishes out, but to showcase in-season ingredients.I’ve always strived to bring the best products, the best food, and the best taste. Whatever we do, we have to have the best.”
While a lot of Dallas Italian restaurants have their own signature dishes, Avona believes in offering a menu of traditional items made with authentic Italian ingredients.

“You’d be surprised at how nostalgic our recipes are,” Avona says. “We have guests come in from Italy and our dishes remind them of the way their mother cooked, or what they grew up with. It’s wonderful to see that we can bring that out in people. I think a lot of people don’t do the traditional dishes. We do. I take a lot of pride in seeing how many people love our restaurant.”

Avona also keeps an open ear to his guests’ suggestions, specifically from those who have travelled to other cities and seen their dining cultures. He tries to keep his menu changing based on these suggestions.

“I like to know what’s going on all the time, and I try to keep up with it,” Avona says. “You have people going to Europe all the time, and coming back. They educate themselves with food, so if you’re not doing something right, they’ll know.”

With an impressive collection of fine wines, as well as dishes utilizing traditional Italian cooking methods and ingredients, Antonio’s Ristorante proves that traditional Italian fine-dining is not scarce in DFW.

Antonio’s Ristorante is located in Addison, Texas, outside of Addison Circle Park. It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and dinner on Saturday and Sunday.

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Filed under Alex Gonzalez, Crave

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