The Boston Phoenix
September 9 - 16, 1999

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Antico Forno

Falling for an Italian lunch

by Liz Zack

Most people would rather stave off the inevitable end of summer than revel in it, but there are reasons to look forward to fall. One of them is lunch at Antico Forno.

On restaurant-cluttered Salem Street, Antico Forno is distinguished from its neighbors by the big brick oven that dominates the back wall. Dishes are sent to this oven to be "finished" -- gnocchi ($8), for instance, is covered with a basil-laden plum-tomato sauce and topped with slabs of smoked mozzarella, then relegated for its final minutes to the high heat of the oven. The mozzarella gets slightly browned, and the red clay pot the dish is served in radiates enough heat to warm you from a foot away. Another great entrée is the ribollita ($5.50), a hearty Tuscan bread soup made with vegetables, cannellini beans, and parmesan cheese. The soup is too heavy for sundress-and-sandals season, but it's perfect for autumn and will probably be even better come winter. The portions at this cozy wood-paneled restaurant are also made for larger appetites and baggier clothing: the best of the salads -- a mixed-greens affair with mounds of tomatoes, sweet roasted red peppers, and creamy goat cheese -- is enough for three to share ($6).

One warning: even in the last warm days of summer, Antico Forno fills up for lunch. Service can be sporadic and slow, so getting in and out within an hour may be difficult.

Antico Forno, located at 93 Salem Street, in the North End, is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call (617) 723-6733.

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