New D'Antonio's Has Potential, Needs Amore

The Diamond Bar mainstay D'Antonio's is under new ownership but an old model. The restaurant's new ownership now has a chance to innovate.

has been a Diamond Bar tradition for over 28 years. It was 22 years ago, on a date, that I ate there for the first time. I was a trendy young lady from L.A. — Hancock Park was my home, Hollywood in my backyard. This young man from Diamond Bar wanted to take me to the “nicest place in town,” and D’Antonio’s it was.

Even back then, it was an expensive evening. With wine, appetizers, entrees, and dessert with coffee the bill was close to $100, but that was the price of the hippest place in town. The restaurant was packed, the bar full of regulars, and the D’Antonio family ran the kitchen and the dining room. I remember thinking “This place reminds me of the Cheers bar, but with food!”

We came back to D’Antonio’s for a number of years after our wedding, but not for a long time now.

A community staple

Tony and Sadie D’Antonio ran their restaurant until 2007, when Grandmother fell and needed care. The family moved to Temecula to be close and tend to family business, so heavy hearted, they sold their beloved namesake.

The new owner, in a nod to the D’Antonio legacy, promised to keep the menu and the service, so the Diamond Bar customers wouldn’t notice a transition, and for a while it worked.

The bar was full, the weekends were reservation only: business as usual. After the economic turndown, things changed.

And the restaurant has turned over yet again after the current owner tired of the fight.

With the history of this Diamond Bar landmark restaurant, what is the problem here? Some Diamond Bar residents have never heard of D’Antonio’s. 30-year resident Lillian Masloff said she has never heard of it.

"People are just not talking about this place. 28 years in Diamond Bar? I should have heard of it by now!” Masloff said.

However, Fred and Liz Romero were also long-time fans of the old D’Antonio’s.

“We loved D’Antonio’s when we first moved to Diamond Bar.” Liz said. “The changes happened with the ownership. We gave it plenty of chances, but the only thing I remember enjoying was the Tiramisu."

The couple bemoaned the loss of a long-time favorite restaurant, but said they have hope for the new owners and would give the restaurant another chance.

Another chance it is. Last week, Patch paid D’Antonio’s a visit. Not much has changed.

The "new" D'Antonio's

The décor is the same 1980s sage green and rose — silk flowers and wallpaper. The oak and brass bar, which has seen better days, now stands empty, and the dusty ceiling beams and open view of the ventilation system gives the restaurant a dated look.

D’Antonio’s still has a way to go before we can boast about our great local Italian spot, but there is potential.

The lights were out, the air was turned off, and there was no music in the background. The evening felt more like a place closed for lunch, and by the time we left at 6:30 p.m., there was no adjustment made.

The service, however, was great. Linda Maples, a loyal server for over 16 years and an original hire of the D’Antonio family, gave us her undivided attention.

You want to love a local family oriented restaurant, so we met the current and new owners, as well as the chef, who is direct from Italy.

The new owners are aiming for high end, authentic Italian cuisine, excellent pizza, in an upbeat, happening environment, and they are on their way.

We ordered the mainstays of any Italian restaurant in the U.S.: pepperoni pizza, baked penne with meat sauce, and the great eggplant parmigiana (any Italian restaurant worth its salt has good eggplant parmigiana).

We noticed another item on the menu that is also a telltale of an excellent restaurant: Cioppino.

Originated in San Francisco, Cioppino is not really true Italian. But in California, it is a staple. Hot, rich seafood broth, not too much tomato, fresh herbs, wine, lemon, tons of garlic, and a bounty of fresh shellfish in addition to at least two different kinds of fish, make up this amazing soup/stew.

It’s similar to the French bouillabaise, and a rich dish served with crusty sourdough for the added West Coast punch. Anyone who has visited San Fran, knows what a treat this is.

Needs Amore

For a local Diamond Bar restaurant to even have Cioppino, veal, halibut, and Ribeye steak on their menu, is exciting. Many of us travel far and wide for good Italian, Newport Beach, West L.A., and of course, San Francisco.

Nearby, most of the options are for Italian food are corporate chains, so it's a relief to see a place with a chance to bring in quality Italian dishes.

When you settle for a corporate place like Olive Garden, Carrino’s, or even Macaroni Grill, you get what you pay for, and you get what you expect.

D'Antonio's is striving to fill this void, but the delivery is still not complete. The Cioppino had no broth, or fish, though the sauce at the bottom of the bowl was very rich.

The light at the end of the tunnel was the dessert: chocolate cream cake, and Tiramisu. Both light and flavorful, we hope the new owners get the menu on board to match the delicious desserts.

Would a trip to D’Antonio’s be worth it? Yes.

It takes time for new ownership to figure out what to do with the old, and bring in the new. The menu is still the same, and the prices reflect the glory days of a once popular Diamond Bar hang out. The pizza was hot and crisp, and the farfalle proscuitto is a hot item — a bacon lover’s delight.

I’m sure we all would love a truly authentic, yummy Italian family restaurant in town. We could use some excellent pizza, with delivery, and a build-your-own pasta item on the menu for those nights out when you can’t break the bank.

Our new staff at D’Antonio’s has some work to rebuild a local brand that once brought this writer in from her Hollywood home, but there's promise.

Lydia Plunk July 09, 2011 at 03:27 PM
We will make a reservation.
SPG August 16, 2011 at 06:09 PM
Please reinvigorate this restaurant. As a young family who moved from San Francisco to Diamond Bar just a few years ago our first (and last) dining at D'Antonio's was a huge disappointment. You're spot on - the dated decor and the uninspired dinner was just plain sad. Diamond Bar lacks sophisticated dining establishments and I hope that a newly inspired management at D'Antoinio's will be the beginning of something new. Perhaps so much so that we'd even be willing to try it out again.
Gabriela Klein August 17, 2011 at 02:32 PM
Thank you SPG. As a native New Yorker, I've had to relearn the term "good food" living in the suburbs, as I'm not willing to battle traffic to get to LA for a good meal. For great Italian, I go to Mama D's in Newport Beach, or Pizzaoli in Chino Hills though. That's when I'm feeling like blowing all self control with pasta, bread, wine, and dessert. Yikes! Oh, and for the BEST cheesecake, Maggiano's at South Coast Plaza. It's always packed, but the cheesecake is made the old fashioned Chicago way with Ricotta. Yummy. Let me know what you think if you try any of these!
Hala Murad November 10, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Diamond Bar residents should support D'Antonios. Keep encouraging the new owner to change the decor and work on the menu to impress old and new customers. As the event chair of Relay For Life Diamond Bar, we are having our Kick Off Rally at D'Antonios on Jan.23, 2012. You are all invited to sample the food.


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