Just beyond the southern border of south Charlotte, straight down Providence Road in Waxhaw, you will find a delightful dining establishment. In a most unassuming small strip mall is where you’ll find the delicious Italian fare in the form of Trattoria Antica. If you’ve been to either of Augusto Conte’s two popular restaurants that reside in south Charlotte, you are already familiar with the tasty Italian treats that come out of his kitchens. Trattoria is no exception.
Thought goes into the details from the moment you enter. The dividing wall in the waiting area with antique farm pieces means you’re not hovering over the tables on the other side. A calming and comfortable rustic look continues throughout the dining room, adjacent to the long L-shaped bar. Just enough accent pieces and artwork are in harmony to be pleasing to the eye, with tables for four to six people and a long banquette with multiple tables that allows for parties of eight. The only two flat screen TV’s are tucked back slightly on the wall behind the bar – thank you very much. The place has been filling up for more than two years now because of the food and the staff, not to watch a winning sports team (though there’s nothing wrong with that).
A very good place to start, other than a glass of Chianti, is in the half dozen antipasti. The calamari is lightly battered and then flash fried with spicy peppers, arriving with very tasty marinara. The Cozze Napoletana is perfectly sautéed mussels in cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic and white wine. I found it to be excellent, and be sure to have some of the warm house bread for dipping. You can also consider a caprese salad, an antipasto, or garlic bread with the homemade marinara or the house bruschetta. They are all offered for two or four – very smart. Insalate is available in Caesar, Greek, a house with goat cheese and the Trattoria, which has romaine, grape tomatoes, crispy pancetta, warm polenta croutons, blue cheese and buttermilk dressing.
The traditional pasta section has several considerations, any of which I would suggest you try, as I have enjoyed each of the plates I’ve tasted. Linguini, penne and fettuccine alfredo, as well as spaghetti with house made meatballs and eggplant parmesan. The meatballs are first-rate. The lasagna is a Roman version with pork and beef ragu with a rich béchamel sauce. The Rigatoni Buttera is created with tubular pasta, Italian sausage and sweet peas in a tomato cream sauce. Each dish is executed very well, starting with the scrumptious sauces they make. Trattoria also offers house made pastas, in the form of Gnocchi, the petite potato dumpling pasta, with fresh tomato sauce, basil and mozzarella, or cheese filled ravioli with your choice of bolognese, fresh tomato sauce or parmesan cream sauce. Cannelloni is stuffed with chicken, spinach and ricotta, then baked with marinara sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese. There’s even house made Spaghettoni Cacio – black pepper and pecorino.
Just to make sure you can return often and try something different, there are an additional dozen or more entrée’s to choose from. For chicken and veal, you have traditions, as in Parmesan, Piccata or Marsala. Most delectable is the Chicken Tuscan, with delicate scaloppini, Italian ham and fontina cheese with a white wine, butter and sage sauce. The Veal Romana also is very good – scaloppini topped with eggplant, fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers in savory brown gravy. If you’re a fan of short ribs like me, this one’s for you – their own Sunday gravy, rigatoni, braised short rib ragu, hot Italian sausage, san marzano tomatoes and aged pecorino.
Nightly chef’s specials also are available and are most worthy of considering. Recently I enjoyed a linguini with clams in a white wine sauce that was divine. Perfectly cooked seafood and dynamite flavors in the broth. Again, have the bread handy. If you get the opportunity, order the veal ravioli in a sage and brown butter sauce – really amazing. My personal favorite is the Osso Bucco, slow cooked braised veal shank. I recently enjoyed it as an entree with scrumptious pork meatballs in a tomato sauce as an appetizer during Queen’s Feast: Charlotte Restaurant Week, which I’ll come back to in a moment. I can’t forget the homemade desserts that I enjoy so much I’ll take it home if I’m too full at the time. The Tiramisu – ladyfingers, espresso, mascarpone cream and shaved chocolate – is so yummy. The crème brulee, enjoyed immensely on my last visit, is creamy rich vanilla custard with a beautifully caramelized crust. You also can choose from a cannoli, ricotta cheesecake and panna cotta – milk pudding with strawberry sauce.
I have enjoyed several meals at Trattoria Antica as have my guests. The recipes originate with Augusto Conte, a native of Italy, who knows great Italian food, how it has to taste and what it takes to have chefs execute the recipes to create the same dishes to the same caliber. As you know as a restaurant guest, it isn’t easy. As a restaurateur, I congratulate Augusto for surrounding himself with great people. One of those is Carlos Garcia, manager of Trattoria. He “works” the dining room, as the word indicates. He goes to each table on multiple occasions, making sure you’re having an enjoyable experience. Chef David Lopez and his staff in the kitchen are responsible for executing the dishes, or culinary works of art, with great consistency.
Last month, my wife and I had friends in from out of town specifically so they could experience Charlotte Restaurant Week. After reviewing a dozen or more menu considerations, I felt confident that Trattoria would please us all with its selections and my previous experiences there. It was the first Saturday evening at 7 p.m. – prime time. We were seated shortly after arriving and received excellent service from John Simon, another asset at Trattoria. John has been waiting tables for 20 years and is a true example of a great server. The timing was superb and our guests were extremely pleased with my choice, and so was I. On other occasions we have sat at the bar and been very well attended to by Tommy the bartender. Tommy has worked for years in high class establishments; I’m glad he is home at Trattoria.
Toscana, Mezzanotte, Malabar and Luce are Augusto’s other restaurants, each one a success. Last year, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory appeared at the 16th Annual Mayor’s International Community Awards, where he presented the award named in the Governor’s honor: “The Patrick McCrory International Entrepreneur Award” to Augusto Conte; a rare honor that is not lightly bestowed. I congratulate Augusto and all of his staff for helping to set the bar high in Uptown, south Charlotte and most recently, in Waxhaw. I suggest reservations, especially on the weekends, and enjoy!