Is it possible to have a one night stand with a restaurant? Oh yes, it is.
Looking for adventure and whatever comes our way, we left Gisborne and drove three hours south to Napier. Napier is not much larger than Gizzy but it feels very different. Thanks to a 1930’s earthquake much of the city was reconstructed in the Art Deco style. Interesting I guess but it doesn’t really turn me on.
Being located squarely in the prosperous wine region known as Hawke’s Bay gives Napier a little of that Napa style charm with numerous little gallerys selling expensive artisan jewelry. That’s nice and all.
Driving into town we made eye contact. You were hanging out there on the corner, just beyond the posh boutiques, nearly in the shadow of the Pak’n Save. Red checkered curtains, the outside painted up like the Italian flag, no Cuisine reviews for you. Your sign had me at pizza and pasta. A brief discussion and knowing nods followed about how that would be the place for dinner.
We checked into our room, went to the uber-hip cafe for a late lunch, cruised the galleries, all in an effort to make the hours pass quickly until a reasonably hour was reached for us to settle in at Antonio’s.
Nervously we approached the building. It looked empty. With our luck it had probably been closed for months. No, whew, it was only the curtains blocking the people. We entered. Even with the door proped open on this fall evening the place still felt like a sauna. Counter, kitchen, take-away area and tables were all there in one open room. A large pizza oven with no apparent venting reigned over the cooking area and created the sauna sensation with a smokey haze from the baking pizza dough lingering just above our heads.
We were seated. We were blessed with an overwhelmed waitress leaving us lots of time to linger with the menu. I hate being rushed through the ordering process. I need to consider all my options. After much deliberation, Steve picked a spinacci pizza. I went with chicken cannolini. Hearty Italian red wine for Steve and the East Cape’s own Tolaga Bay merlot for me.
As we waited for our food, we realized this was our first dinner at a restaurant since mid-January, and here is was mid-April. Take-out or in Kiwi speak, take-away is the thing to do in Gisborne. We did this a fair amount. Take-away fish-n-chips on the beach with a bottle of bubbly- lovely! And Gisborne does have a couple nice restaurants. I never went to them. I have no love for fine dining. I do love good food but nothing leaves me less satisfied than spending heaps of money on fancy food.
What Gisborne and our lives have lacked for the past few months was a place like this. I must admit Lexington had plenty of good, cheap eats. I do miss that, good food without any mark-up to pay for tasteful decor or an ocean view. Old wine bottles holding candles and vintage Italian posters gave Antonio’s a grungy charm that would make me a regular for years to come- except I don’t live in Napier, New Zealand. So for me amore it was one night only.
The evening ended with strudel and more conversation. A dreamy discussion about our completely wonderful honeymoon in Italy and how a future crazy scheme must include a lengthy stay there. And that strudel, what a lovely apple, almond, creamy concoction that was.
Oh Antonio’s, I will always love you.
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