It’s been a little over one month since the Antique Table gave Manchester a little taste of what is to come at its “soft opening” on August 2. Now, the anticipated eatery serving extra-fresh Italian fare is open in the space that until January was Paul Barclay’s 7 Central Public House, and the new restaurant is humming with an edited-but-growing menu of staples and seasonal favorites. Executive Chef and owner Abraham Gallego says an “antique table” evokes everything he loves about food — a common table, history, great food that is celebrated and enjoyed together.
When it was revealed last year the Antique Table restaurant would be taking over the large, loved space formerly occupied by 7 Central Public House, many residents were unfamiliar with the eatery and were eager to see what would happen.
What would the new owners do? Would they change the décor? Would a family-style restaurant specializing in Italian fare — as is the case with the Antique Table’s three other locations in Salem, Winthrop and Lynn — be successful here in Manchester?
Well, several weeks after a successful soft opening, many of these questions have been answered, delightfully. The Antique Table is up and running, with an ambitious seven-day-a-week dinner service, and executive chef and owner Abraham Gallego is onsite every day with a seasoned team (many coming from his other locations) to ensure everything gets off perfectly.
The seed for the “Antique Table” concept — across all three of his restaurants — came from Gallego’s childhood in Colombia, South America. His mother and grandmother were both culinary talents, and, as a young child, it stuck. In fact, Gallego’s grandmother was a chef in the Continental Hotel in Medellín, Colombia, and that example led him to kitchens and, eventually, opening his own establishment once he settled here in the U.S. 18 years ago (Gallego’s family — his sister, brother and mother — live in the Boston area as well.) The influence of his mother and grandmother is woven into the Antique Table, from the food (Gallego’s marinara, a staple in all his dishes, is actually his grandmother’s recipe) to the eating experience. To Gallego, an “antique table” evokes everything he loves about food — a common table, history, great food that is celebrated and enjoyed together.
The décor and design is familiar, with the same bar and dining room layout as before, but the vibe is more focused on food, Italian to be specific, with an edited menu that combines favorites from Gallego’s other restaurants (eggplant parmigiana, pasta di mare, prosciutto wrapped asparagus) with new seasonal offerings (lobster risotto, among others). The Antique Table will have entertainment, but manager “G” (yes, it’s “just G,” we’re told) said the plan for entertainment is to offer live music that complements a meal, so think acoustic or a light jazz vibe. “The focus is incredible food,” he said.
If the busy reservations are any indication, the food at Antique Table is going over pretty well. Everything in the restaurant is made fresh daily. Nothing is saved for the following day, according to Joao Ds Santos, manager of the Salem Antique Table who has supported the Manchester opening. The cucumber salad may seem straightforward, but it’s deceiving. Presentation-wise, there are greens rolled in cucumber strips, and the interior dressing is bright and citrusy. Another tasteful dish is the eggplant lasagna, a keto-lover’s dream, with no pasta (baked eggplant layers are the pasta) and smoked mozzarella and a light meat sauce that makes the entrée simultaneously light and rich. The entrée prices range from $17.95 to $29.95 (for the 10 oz. filet mignon), so Antique Table is designed to appeal to families, or, as G said “fresh great food that’s priced incredibly well for the quality.” The wine list is also accessible, with (not surprisingly) many Italian wines, most under $60 a bottle.
Even with all the focus on the food, the bar has not been overlooked. As with the rest of the restaurant, Gallego had brought in a strong “advance” team, with bar manager Jaclyn Schriebman in charge of the Manchester Antique Table bar full-time, after two years in the restaurant’s Salem and Lynn locations. Cocktails of note include a margarita by the sea (with Don Julio Blanco tequila), the nor’easter (bourbon, ginger beer and maple syrup), and, when we were there, a French martini with aloe spirits. (Wow.)
It seems Gallego (and his two business partners, who have been with him since their first establishment) has been leaning north as they expand. Manchester’s Antique Table is their fourth restaurant in nearly 12 years. The first, opened in 2008, is a small, 60-seat eatery still open today, located in a former railroad building near the border with Swampscott. The location still does a brisk business. Over the years, the team expanded to Winthrop, adding an adjoining take out operation to serve busy professionals. Almost two years ago, the team opened an Antique Table in the former Grapevine Restaurant location in Salem’s Pickering Wharf neighborhood (so they must know something about taking over a place with history).
In the end, Antique Table seems like a great fit for Manchester’s downtown eating scene, which is starting to hum with choice. The Black Arrow with its sophisticated American fare. Allie’s with its French-inspired menu. Bravo by the Sea with its fire-baked pizza oven. Cala’s with its casual American dining. And now, with Antique Table, authentic American Italian enters the fray. Makes you want to eat out.
7 Central St., Manchester
Open every day, 4:30–10:00 p.m.