Dining Out Magazine
Master Chef serves up savory Italian dishes
By Don Klein
Fausto DiCarlo, owner of Ristorante Antipasti, is not boasting when he says, “Only in America can I make a Wendy’s into an Italian villa.”He is talking about the new location for his gourmet restaurant at 31 st Street and Coastal Highway which not to long ago was slinging hamburgers and other fast food specialties. Today it is one of the finest sit down restaurants in Ocean City.After 10 years of operation two blocks to the north at 33 rd Street, the restaurant moved this past winter when Wendy’s vacated the location. It was just what Fausto was looking for. It turns out the move did not dampen the enthusiasm customers had developed for Fausto’s dishes over the past decade.“Last Saturday (just days after opening at the new location) was our biggest night ever in the 10 years we have been in Ocean City”, he declared in a recent interview.Fausto brags that the food he serves is the same as you would get in Italy. We are on a par with restaurants in Florence and Rome,” he insists. “Italian food is simple, no butter, no saturated fats, no cholesterol, no heavy doses of garlic and thick tomato sauces.”The master chef, whom everyone calls Fausto, learned his trade at his mother’s side in Controguerra, a town in the Abruzzi region of Italy. His mother, Ninetta DiCarlo, now 92, is still considered among the 50 top chefs in Italy. Fausto visits her every November for family reunions and also to pick her brain for tips and new recipes.The visits paid off when Fausto found himself on the U.S. Food Network a few years ago and was ruled a winner. He earned the rank of one of the top five pasta restaurants in the country. The winning dish is called timballo Abrussese, a lasagna-like delight with thin pasta layers covering tantalizing ground veal, buffalo mozzarella and nutmeg filling. The result is gentle on the palate and less filling than lasagna.“They still show the program featuring that dish on the Food Network in reruns”, he cheerfully noted. This award allows Ristorante Antipasti to advertise this pasta triumph for all to see on the giant new sign in the front of the restaurant.Many of today’s Americans have traveled to Italy and tasted the light dishes that are popular there, making Fausto’s style much more appealing than past Italian fare in the neighborhoods.Reading the restaurant’s menu I like opening an Italian-English dictionary. The dishes are written in Italian and numbered so if you can not pronounce “Rollatini di Vitello ai Funghi“ you can order number 35 and receive a repast of rolled veal with prosciutto, cheese and mushrooms.The unique attraction at the eatery is its fine display of appetizers laid out on a long table inside the entrance. The festive looking assembly includes paper-thin antipasti, calamari, salmon, trout and halibut with goat cheese, onions and capers, littleneck clams, mussels and other tangy bite-size treats.The menu includes savory soups, salads, pasta, seafood, chicken, veal and steak. During our visit the specials were a giant steak (believed to be about three pounds worth) with appropriate seasoning designed for two healthy beefeaters and a robust striped bass from the west coast for seafood lovers.For those who want authentic Italian desserts Fausto offers a mixed berry tart and what is called a thousand layer zabaglione shipped to him directly from Italy plus the standard house-made fare of the cannoli, tiramisu line. If you are longing for that endangered specie, the great invisible tortoni, which you can hardly find these days, he might even zap one up for you even if it is not on the menu.Fausto is a stickler for authenticity. He even imported from Italy the paint used to decorate the restaurant. It is called Tuscany country style terra cotta and he used two different shades for the walls and ceilings. It is a warm rich color in what can best be described as an orange-brown. “At night it glows,” he said. It is hard to describe, you must see it first hand to appreciate it.Decorations include three moderns shaped chandeliers, two large mirrors, a multitude of different size paintings and plenty of plants loaded with flowers. All in all it is a welcoming atmosphere.Fausto calls eating at Ristorante Antipasti a culinary trip to today’s Italy. He has a proverb about food: “Pasta is like sex, when it’s good it’s like heaven, even when it’s bad it’s not so bad.”
Ristorante Antipasti By Food Network, The Best Of
Tanned and fit, with a hearty Italian accent, owner Fausto DiCarlo makes it a point to greet every guest- especially women. In true European style, he bestows them with a friendly kiss (men receive a firm handshake). He's become famous for it. Women remind him if he forgets. Given the large crowds at his restaurant, this guy could make Richard Dawson blush.Talented enough to have once been a cooking sensation in Philadelphia, DiCarlo relocated to this vacation playground in 1993. He figured he could work hard in the summer and enjoy golf in the off-season.He might have a six handicap, but he's busy year 'round. Ristorante Antipasti is a first-class Italian restaurant, but the fact that it's in a resort town best known for chains and all-you-can-eat buffets makes it a true standout.Fausto's signature dish, Timballo Di Mamma, is made of thin layers of homemade pasta filled with ground veal, tomatoes, and a bechamel sauce. DiCarlo used to call it a "Sunday dish" and offer it as an occasional special, because it required so much work. But it became so popular, he had to add it to the menu. Another mouthwatering specialty is the Garlic Steak, a center-cut fillet covered in Italian herbs and then grilled black. You won't find this anywhere else.After a decade of success, DiCarlo opened a second Ocean City location in 2003. With his typical style, he scurried between the two restaurants aboard his Italian-made Vespa scooter.Golf would have to wait. There are guests to be greeted and many kisses to be bestowed.
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Ristorante Antipasti is a true Italian restaurant, focusing on traditional dishes for a clientele of regular, repeat customers. Recipes have been passed through generations, handed down from mothers and grandmothers. Each night at eight o’clock, chef Fausto welcomes customers with a dance to Michael Jackson’s Don’t stop ‘til you get enough, and then introduces the chefs who are working in the open kitchen. Dishes include an award winning timballo – a lasagne-like dish with minced beef, veal and pork – and gnocchi. During the winter months, the restaurant invites diners to take cookery classes with Fausto, who will teach them to cook true Italian food.