Set in the heartland of London’s artistic Bermondsey, Antico Restaurant & Bar is the brainchild of Nick Crispini, the 31-year old owner of this new Italian hotspot. We caught up with Nick to find out more about his foodie heritage and unorthodox route to the restaurant industry.
Following a degree in digital media, Nick rode the crest of the cyber age by becoming a freelance web developer, while also moonlighting as a part-time DJ and model. Yet having been born into a restaurateur family in Guernsey – his parents ran the hugely successful Nino’s, Mamma Rosa, Westcoast and Louisiana, amongst others – Nick has evidently inherited the foodie bug.
Having enrolled on a year-long course at London’s legendary Leiths Cooking School, Nick jumped into the business headfirst, notably cooking with Theo Randall at the Intercontinental; being front-of-house at Mews of Mayfair; and working at events such as Elton John’s White Tie & Tiara Ball, where he was butler to the top table.
The authentic experience
As Nick begins by telling us, despite spending his twenties dabbling in different professions, his true calling was always destined to be running a restaurant. “It was very much in the blood as both of my parents (and even my sister!) were all restaurateurs. Having decided to finally follow in their footsteps, I knew that Italian food was exactly what I wanted to serve.
“There’s just such a majestic simplicity to Italian food and it makes me feel at home – maybe because I’m half Italian!” he explains. “I wanted to take this simplicity and add a bit of modern flair to it. The result was Antico. Indeed, the whole concept behind the design of the restaurant completely mirrors that of the food”.
Living just minutes from the foodie hub of Bermondsey Street, Nick began his search for a site close to home and it didn’t take him long, securing number 214 on the corner of Bermondsey Street and Long Lane. “There was a buzz about the area,” he says, “and we were able to transform the building into a 70-cover restaurant and 60-cover bar over two floors.
“The building, before it was renovated into Antico, used to be an old antiques market – hence ‘Antico’, which is Italian for ‘antiques’. I wanted to draw upon this traditional aspect of the past and give the food a very rustic feel,” Nick describes. “This was the exact approach for the restaurant as well – from the soft oak flooring to the rustic mirrors and right the way through to the relaxed atmosphere”.
Intimate and trendy
As many restaurateurs will testify, opening one’s first restaurant is full of surprises – surprises that Nick has experienced his fair share of, as he continues by telling us. “I never realised just how difficult it would be to open a restaurant! Luckily, I feel that the restaurant and the food speak for itself, but the hardest part is getting people through the door. At the moment, I think we’re just beginning to develop a fairly regular clientele – the locals are very loyal and we really try to give them the best possible experience every time.
“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to have a bar and it’s going very well so far,” he affirms. “It gives our guests a full experience – pre-dinner aperitivo downstairs – perhaps an Aperol Spritz (a personal favourite!), upstairs for a delicious main of Mint & Lamb Ragu Pappardelle (inside tip: this is worth a visit alone), and then back down to finish the evening off with an Espresso Martini.
“The feel of the downstairs bar is intimate with quite a trendy atmosphere,” Nick highlights. “Great new additions to the bar include our flat screen TV that disguises itself just inside a two-way mirror and the beginning of a bi-monthly Acoustic Night, featuring live local artists from the Bermondsey area”.
Despite assurances from the legions of Italian restaurants that their pasta is truly ‘to die for’, it is rare to actually discover genuinely delicious, homemade pasta – something that Antico thankfully has in abundance, as Nick is understandably proud to clarify. “The restaurant’s major strength is the quality of the food, especially the pasta. We make it from scratch on a daily basis and you can definitely tell when it melts in your mouth.
“Wherever possible, we strive to use locally-sourced ingredients, but, most of all, good quality ingredients with no exceptions,” he notes. “We are currently offering a two course menu for £15 or three courses for £18 during lunchtimes and early evenings. Furthermore, we have a ‘2-4-1’ Happy Hour from Wednesday-Saturdays between 5-7pm in downstairs bar, so we have lots of affordable options available too.
“I designed the restaurant space myself, using influences significant to me that fitted with the concept. However, because of my nature, I am always looking to make little changes and the interior will always be evolving to keep it fresh and of the moment”.
As Nick proclaims on Antico’s website (www.antico-london.co.uk): “Pasta is easy to make but difficult to master” – a motto which is reflected throughout. Indeed, the menu is full of traditional dishes executed with a modern flair. On our recent visit, we were particularly impressed with Nick’s recommendation of the Mint & Lamb Ragu Pappardelle as well as the Slow-Roasted Pork Tortelloni. We were also told that for complete indulgence, the one Kilo Bolton Abbey Rib Eye Steak Fiorentina, dry aged for 35 days and served with Rocket and Parmesan is difficult to top.
Given the restaurant’s growing reputation in Bermondsey and throughout the capital, Nick has recently been boosting Antico’s PR efforts, as he continues by highlighting. “We are currently running a campaign to increase general awareness of the brand across the board. I would like to think that my attention to detail, dedication and passion has contributed to the early success of the restaurant and I have a superb team in place who share my vision for Antico, which is a massive asset”.
To conclude, we were curious to discover if any new dishes were on the horizon at Antico – a question that Nick couldn’t resist answering. “We have an exceptional dish of Monkfish, tomato, chilli and garlic risotto that is my new favourite, without a doubt. As well as being my personal favourite, it has quickly become our most popular dish as well and, for me, there is nothing better than to wash it down with a chilled glass of Soave Classico”.
And if, like us, you couldn’t get enough of Antico’s modern take on Italian classics, the Homemade Sorbetto is a must, not to mention an absolute steal at just £4. With a prime location in one of London’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, we are predicting great things for Nick and his team at Antico.
Antico Restaurant & Bar, 214 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3TQ
020 7407 4682 | www.antico-restaurant.co.uk