Several years ago a popular restaurant in Syracuse closed its doors, leaving a vacant spot in the heart of the Little Italy District. While food lovers mourned Antonio’s, Louis Santaro was busy compiling a staff and preparing a menu for a new restaurant. 10 months later the space was reopened as Attilio’s Restaurant and Bar and they’ve been fulfilling our pasta and margarita cravings on the Northside ever since.
“People love the location, the building, the old look of the place,” Attilio’s manager, Thom Madonna explains. “The changes Louis made were for aesthetic taste to enhance the beauty of the place.” The restaurant and bar are filled with charming details, from the tin ceilings to the small black and white tiles that line the floor. Upstairs in the banquet hall there is an exposed brick wall and doors that open onto a balcony, overlooking North Salina Street. Attilio’s atmosphere is romantic and sophisticated, but somehow still casual, warm, and comforting, making it a great place for a lunch meeting, an intimate evening for two, or an outing for the whole family.
If customers are first hooked on the beauty of the space, they stay loyal because of the great service and delicious food. “I’d be nothing without the supporting cast,” Thom says of his employees who are always polite, friendly, and knowledgeable about the extensive menu. Attilio’s serves staple Italian dishes like Chicken Parmigiana and a traditional Antipasto, but also Syracuse favorites like The Original Chicken Riggies. Attilio’s also offers gluten-free pastas and vegetarian options like the Red Pepper Penne with goat cheese and a walnut and oil-garlic sauce. The menu is filled with Thom’s favorites, but he suggests the Veal Saltimboca and Seafood in the Francaise style with lemon butter sauce.
Of course, it’s not just Thom who loves the food. Attilio’s has won both food and cocktail awards at the annual Winterfest. Last year was an especially successful year, as Attilio’s won 1st place for taste and presentation in the Martini and Margarita Mix-offs. They also received 1st place for best appetizer and 2nd place for best entrée and dessert during the Culinary Cruise. Many of the drinks are made “off the cuff,” Thom explains. While creating the Heaven and Hell Margarita Thom tried many of his various experiments on the wait staff. “It was trial and error,” he laughs, “but I stayed with it,” and it paid off–the Margarita has won for the past 3 years. Often the items chosen for food competitions are based on what tastes good to the general public—his everyday customers.
In the future, Thom hopes to continue participating in Winterfest, along with many other community events like the Tour de Champagne and different benefits for Charity for Children. He also tries to host his own events like Ultimate Lemonade Tastings and wine and cigar dinners.
“We’re successful,” Thom shrugs, “but nowhere near the height of Antonio’s success. But,” he smiles, “we can get there.” His optimism and determination is spurred by the surrounding neighborhood. He sees the renovations and changes taking place along North Salina Street and is energized by the developments. His face brightens when he says, “This is close to being the next up-and-coming place to be.”