Go for the Food: Italian Cuisine in Wyeth Country
If you love art by the Wyeth family - N.C., his son Andrew and grandson Jamie - then a day in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, is a must. Tour the places they lived, worked and were inspired, and enjoy three generations of their art at the Brandywine River Museum. A day-long tour package includes a simple lunch of soup and half-sandwich in the museum cafe, with a view of the tree-lined Brandywine River that looks like a Wyeth painting.
But after a day of tours, what about dinner? Philadelphia is 40 minutes away; New York City’s 125 miles. Art fans may find it hard to leave Wyeth country so soon.
Fortunately, a terrific Italian restaurant, Antica, is practically across the road from the museum and filled with Andrew Wyeth prints. If you’ve just come from Kuerner Farm, which inspired many of his paintings, pick a table at Antica beneath "Spring Fed," a rustic scene of a bucket on a barn wall. If you like his depictions of Maine, where he spent summers, dine beneath "Airborne," a beach scene with floating seagull feathers. The restaurant staff says Jamie Wyeth and other local artists sometimes even drop by.
The menu at Antica is enticing without being too precious. For starters, the caprese salad comes tucked in a wrapper of prosciutto. Sauteed clams are served with white beans, long hot peppers and sweet sausage. And eggplant Napoleon - breaded fried eggplant with mozzarella and red sauce - fulfilled my yearning for fill-in-the-blank parmigiana as an appetizer, without erasing my appetite for more exciting options for entrees.
I’m not a huge meat-eater, but braised short ribs, served with a crispy cake of polenta, were perfectly done: not a trace of fat, which pleased my slightly squeamish palate - just rich, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Spezzatino - a stew of sausage, peppers and mushroom ragout - is a house specialty, but I jumped at seafood spezzatino, an off-the-menu special. Large seared scallops, flaky chunks of sweet crabmeat, and cherry tomatoes were served over linguini in a light red sauce that was spicy, sweet and savory all at once. A side dish showcased carrots sliced in long ovals, cooked in Marsala.
One downside: Antica is currently BYOB. The upside: Bills are smaller without booze. If you’re craving a cocktail, stop at the bar at Brandywine Prime, a steakhouse on the other side of the parking lot that locals recommend. The pear martini is yummy and so strong you’ll only need one to start decompressing from visions of Helga, Christina and other Wyeth muses.
Need a break from all that art earlier in the day? Antica is also open for lunch. And if Wyeth paintings are not your thing, Antica’s name evokes another reason to visit the Brandywine Valley: antiquing.
If You Go...
1623 Baltimore Pike
Chadds Ford, Pennyslvania