The quest for the Villanova hoagie

Kerry Lester

For the past few years, praise of Antonella’s Italian Kitchen has been passed along by word of mouth, and rightly so.

Take one step into this Conestoga Road restaurant, (across from the Wild Onion and Garrett Hill Pizza) and you’d think you were in Italy. White stucco walls, bright windows and simple wood tables complement the enticing aroma wafting through the air. “It’s a cozy place,” said owner and namesake Antonella, motioning to a group playing Trivial Pursuit at a corner table. “A lot of people just come in and hang out.”

Everything the restaurant serves is made on the spot. “My father still comes in and rolls the meatballs in the mornings,” she said. “Usually, with places like this, a lot of things come out of the box. Not here – we don’t even have a deep fryer.”

Though Antonella’s offers a wide array of Italian dishes, it’s not the manicotti, eggplant parmigiana, or baked ziti that’s most popular among Villanova students. It’s the hoagies, named after frequent customers.

Ever try the “Ali Conicella,” with grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, roasted peppers and balsamic vinaigrette? The “Padre” is another favorite: bread-crumbed chicken cutlet, sweet peppers, Russian dressing and melted fresh mozzarella. At $ 4.50 for a small sandwich, and $ 5.99 for a large, the prices rival Wawa.

This year, the restaurant is holding a “Villanova Hoagie” recipe contest. “All those affiliated with the University are invited to come into the restaurant and fill out a recipe form,” Antonella said. “Some Villanova alumni have been coming in and saying they’d like to be a part of the competition – so we’ve decided to open it up to anyone in Villanova.”

Some offices and campus organizations have even been pooling resources to come up with a sandwich to name after their group. The deadline for recipe submissions is Friday, Oct. 22.

From Nov. 1-12, the top 10 hoagie recipes will be posted for ordering at the restaurant.

“As people come in and order them, we’ll tally those that are most popular. On the 12th, we’re going to pick the hoagie that sold best,” Antonella said.

With approximately 20-30 entries already received, the restaurant is amazed at the competition’s popularity so far.

“Some people are talking about putting corn on the hoagies, applesauce and all these really strange ingredients,” Antonella said.

The winner of Antonella’s contest receives a free lunch with his or her family or friends, and the glory of having his or her name immortalized on the menu.

“Whatever this hoagie is, it will be by itself in a frame, giving the Villanova student’s name and special ingredients,” she said.

Now that’s food for thought.