Lidia and Pellegrino "Rino" Maselli own L'Antica Trattoria at St. Bart's in Silver Lake.
Tell me a bit about St. Bart’s.
Rino: St. Bart’s (St. Bartholomew’s Men’s Society) started in 1903, helping Italian immigrants in the neighborhood get settled in America. In 1978, my wife Lidia’s father, Luigi, who was a member of the club, bought the building and started cooking for the members.
Lidia: When my dad bought the club and first started cooking, the restaurant wasn’t nearly as big as it is today. It was only open Saturday afternoons. I helped him in the kitchen. It was so much fun. He was my hero and I learned so much from him. I have always loved to cook, but he really taught me how to be creative.
What dishes did the restaurant serve when it first opened?
Lidia: In the early days, we only made a few dishes: tripe, suffrito, aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and olive oil), and veal spezzatino. We still serve tripe soup. Aglio e olio is a simple, delicious pasta dish which is still on our menu. You can even order it by the pound, family style.
Veal Spezzatino (the full name on our menu is “Spezzatino Di Vitello Con Funghi E Piselli”) is our most popular dish today and has been for 34 years. It’s a basic sautéed meat dish, and I use my father’s original recipe. The veal is sautéed with onions, mushrooms, sauce and seasoning.
Is the food you serve from a specific region of Italy?
Lidia: Our menu is full of dishes from Naples, where I was born. It’s basically peasant food, like what I used to cook with my grandmother when I was young. The old, simple peasant food is again becoming popular these days – like bruschetta or pasta with beans.
Rino: The club was originally all people from Vairano, the area of Naples from which Lidia and her family immigrated. Most of them lived in this neighborhood.
Are there any items made in house of which you’re especially proud?
Rino: My antipasto platter (Rino’s Antipasto) features our homemade dried pork loin. We can only make it in the winter when it’s cool and dry.
Lidia: Our snail salad is made completely from scratch – we don’t buy prepared snails, we buy the snails in their shells and scrub them, gut them. It’s a lot of work and the snails are getting very expensive these days, but we have some customers who love it, so we keep it on the menu.
Do you offer any special events or food specials?
Lidia: We just had a five-course dinner with wine pairings – we usually do these twice a year. The society has a banquet every year. We also do the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, and an Easter dinner.
Rino: As for regular food specials, every day besides Friday and Saturday, we offer an affordable dinner for two, including wine. We also have food specials every week which we post on our website and send out in our newsletter. Actually, we started our newsletter because a customer who loved our pork loin asked us to email him next time it was on the menu.
Are many of your customers regulars?
Lidia: Definitely. We have customers who came in as children and now return as adults with their own children. One of our regulars even insisted that the restaurant be her first stop after getting out of the hospital with her newborn. We can hardly believe that the “newborn” is now 18; her family still dines with us. It’s important to us to treat our customers like family, and because of this relationship, I’m really particular about making sure every dish I serve is something I’d be proud to serve to my family.
How did you two meet?
Lidia: Believe it or not, we met at the club, before my dad owned it, at one of the many dances they held here. Who knew we would spend our lives together in the same place we met?