Hoboken sees a lot of new restaurants, of course; the churn on Washington Street and down near the PATH station is pretty epic. Don’t like a new eatery that just opened up? Don’t worry; wait a few months and most likely there will be something else in that space.
That’s the main drag and downtown, of course. Back away from Washington things get quieter, with far fewer choices, and while you can make the argument that walking a few more blocks to have a great dinner isn’t a big deal, the fact is a lot of the new spots opening up downtown and on Washington are dominated by huge televisions, boisterous crowds, and some form of chicken wing on the menu. Which is why the reinvention of the legendary Antique Bakery—now the Antique Bar and Bakery—is so welcome. Not only is it a fun, sophisticated spot for a cocktail and a great dinner away from the hubbub of Washington Street—it’s also a friendly spot to have an adult conversation. We took a trip to Chef Paul Gerard’s new spot on a recent Saturday evening and had a truly wonderful experience.
We tried to make a reservation, but weren’t able to. Upon arrival, we found the place packed to the rafters with happy people, centered (naturally) on the bar area. We spoke to the folks at the host station and they told us they’d received so many requests for reservations they couldn’t keep up. It hadn’t hurt them much—they were doing a booming business.
Instead of just turning us away, the manager worked a little magic and told us he could squeeze us into a table if we didn’t mind being done and out of there within an hour and a half, as he had a reservation to honor. We were delighted and took him up on the offer; there are plenty of restaurants that act like you’re bothering them when you want a table with a res, so this was a great start to the evening. In fact, the manager checked on us several times personally and despite the terms of our table we never felt rushed.
Great Food, Great Service
We got a prime table right next to the coal oven, with a view of the whole place. They’ve done a great job with the ambiance: The old-school feel of the space has been preserved, but the touches they’ve added to make it cool and modern work perfectly. It has a very casual feel, like you just dropped in to an old friend’s house for a spontaneous dinner, with great oldies music playing to evoke just the slightest hint of old Sinatra-style Hoboken.
We ordered a bottle of wine—suggested by our waiter, and quite excellent—and then proceeded to stun several people with the amount of food we ordered for four people; we had a couple of folks checking on us all night, and despite the crazed, crowded pace of the room (literally people everywhere, enjoying themselves) we weren’t ignored once. Because this is, after all, the Antique Bakery, we ordered the Pepperoni and Sausage bread for the table, and it was as delicious as we remembered, served with a fantastic marinara sauce for dipping. We tried the beef cheeks, the speghetti squash carbonara, and the hot oil shrimp (these were literally the biggest shrimps we’d ever seen, and had a nice kick to them) before moving on to the lasagna edges, mac and cheese, and the dirty rib eye. To say the food was delicious is an understatement—despite the chaos of the crowds, everything came out perfect, and in serious quantities. If you’re going to have dinner here, bring an appetite, because they are not kidding around.
At one point, a busy waitress tried to put a third portion of the rib eye on our table after we’d eaten ourselves into a coma, and we waved her off. Concerned, one of the owners—none other than the NYC nightlife legend Rocco Ancarola—came over to make sure we were having a great time. We explained that we’d already eaten all of his food, and Rocco proceeded to just hang out, asking us our opinion and telling us how excited he was to have moved to Jersey City recently (for the “peace and quiet,” which this JC native has never heard to describe his hometown) and to open the new restaurant. Rocco was thoroughly charming and was happy to hear our praise for the food, the design, and the look of the place.
We didn’t have dessert or coffee; after three bottles of wine and enough dinner for sixteen people we were exhausted, and we’d agreed to give up the table on schedule, so we paid the bill and made our way through a crowd that was impossible bigger than when we’d arrived. We got a lot of jealous looks as we left, and assured several strangers that the wait was worth it.
Verdict: Eat dinner here, as soon as you possibly can. Whatever else you order, get the pepperoni and sausage bread. You can thank us later.