It's been a very busy week for me and my family. We were all in San Pedro together and wanted to eat dinner together, but were dealing with some logistical issues (I needed to get to the airport, my sister needed to drive 60 miles home), so we caravaned from my grandparents house, not totally sure when we were headed. My Aunt Pam called up to the front car, "How about Ante's?" she asked. We all looked at grandma, who has the ultimate say on restaurant choice. She nodded and said, "sounds good!"
Ante's Restaurant is a Croatian restaurant in San Pedro that I have been going to since I was a child. Grandma and grandpa used to take my sister Annie and me and we always felt like it was a special dinner out. Diners sit in high, red leather booths and are served crisp, cold crudites before their main meal. For years, we've used Ante's for family events -- we had a party for my sister's first communion at Ante's and three years ago, we celebrated my grandparents' 60th anniversary there.
Tony Perkov, the Ante's owner, greeted us warmly. "Mrs. Silva," he said sadly and gave my grandmother a hug. My grandfather is sick, which is the reason we were all in San Pedro, and in chatting with Tony it became clear that he had heard the news. A customer had been in a few days earlier and had told Tony about grandpa. San Pedro, despite its proximity to Los Angeles, has an incredibly small town mentality. It was no surprise that he'd heard about grandpa. We reminisced with him about grandpa's restaurant and he brought me an ice-cold martini, and brought the others at the table a liter of red wine.
"To Hank," we all toasted and began our meal.
Grandma, with good reason, has been eating very little for the past couple of weeks. As she settled into her fried chicken dinner, however, you never would have known that she'd had little appetite.
Mom ordered fried shrimp, and the vegetables that came alongside the shrimp seemed to be frozen, pre-fab vegetables, but as we looked closer we realized that they were fresh vegetables cut to look like a frozen mix. They were deliciously comforting, as was the entire meal. Ante's is known for Croatian dishes such as mostaccioli, cabbage rolls and salumi, and comfort foods like pot roast and prime rib.
The food at Ante's is good, but as I reflect upon it, I think that the experience is meaningful to me because it's a part of our family history. Sometimes nothing takes the place of going to a restaurant where you're treated like family and where everyone knows your name.