Trattoria Treat at All’ Antica
“A bottle of red, a bottle of white… Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight…” sings Billy Joel in Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. There’s something comforting, traditional, and nostalgic about the place Billy sings about. John Caruso grabs a slice with Shane and Helen McNally from All ‘Antica, an institute and foodie destination for more than three decades.
“Helen and I bought this place around the time of the GFC, and our parents were nervous for us,” recalls Shane. “I’d worked for other people for years and we wanted to do our own thing, so we started looking at businesses as far south as Byron Bay.”
“Shane’s always been driven, and he was determined to see if he could make a go of running his own restaurant,” adds wife Helen. “Once he found this place, it settled within two or three weeks, and he moved up and stayed with friends.”
All’ Antica opened 33 years ago when Kawana Shopping Centre first opened its doors and the area was full of open spaces and fields.
Shane said he thought about turning the place into something different, however the rustic, homely feel appealed.
“The restaurant had been very successful, so I decided to keep it as it was except for a few small tweaks to put our own spin on it,” he said.
“The thing with Italian food is that it appeals to everyone, so we stuck to that instead of going down the fine-dining route. We wanted a trattoria where the whole family could feel comfortable.”
“Plus, having young children ourselves at the time emphasised the need for a place like this,” Helen adds.
“I’d worked in fine dining but some of my happiest moments were working for big Italian families in Victoria in the 90s.
“I loved being in the kitchen with all the nonnas and learning from them. That’s when everything changed for me.
“I tried prosciutto for the first time, was making Italian sausages, dough for pizzas and learning the traditional Napolitano-style.”
All ‘Antica has kept its rustic charm for more than three decades, it’s precisely the location and atmosphere you imagine when you hear Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, and the menu reflects all that a trattoria should be and more.
“There’s the pizza and the pasta and ox tail ragu is always good for the specials board,” says Shane. “With any good ragu, especially with ox tail you must get good caramelisation; braise it all on a super high temperature and get those sugars out, that’s where you get your sweetness from. And then slow cook it with the measure of success being how easily the meat falls off the bone.”
As a Sicilian, I am salivating.
In winter, the All ‘Antica menu digs even further into that rustic Italian ‘peasant food’ tradition.
“We do a rabbit cacciatore like a Hunter’s Rabbit with slow cooked braised rabbit with tomatoes, rosemary, and olives. We’ll have venison on the menu too from time to time. If you look at the history of dishes in Italy, there have been times of poverty and scarcity of food, so Italians made the most of what they had, that’s how you end up with things like bruschetta and panzanella,” Shane says.
“Our customers call this place a hidden little gem, and some of our customers are the sons and daughters of people that used to come decades ago,” Helen explains. “I love that there’s a nostalgic connection for many of them.”
Shane’s starting point is always about the food.
“You get that right and the rest will follow,” he said. “There’s a reason for the traditional red and white tableclothes. We’ve made a few changes in fifteen years however those changes have only been small, the feel of the place has always remained the same.”
“I’ll meet you anytime you want, in our Italian restaurant…” – Billy Joel
EVERYONE HAS A STORY: ALL’ ANTICA
Want more? Listen to the interview on our Everyone Has a Story: Conversations from the Sunshine Coast and Noosa Podcast. Free on all podcasting platforms.