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Antigua works hard to develop an extraordinary wait staff.

They usually come with charisma, enthusiasm, a fresh set of eyes, and a willingness to learn. They’re groomed to become marketers, salespeople, promoters, and on-the-spot troubleshooters. They learn about the Latin culture and memorize an extensive food and drink menu. After a month or two of training and only if owners Citlali Mendieta-Ramos and her husband, Chef Nicolás Ramos, believe they are ready will they serve as waiters at the Latin-inspired kitchen, Antigua. She means it when she says the restaurant, “Work[s] hard to attract, hire, and train an extraordinary staff that is notable for its friendliness, intelligence, work ethic, empathy, and self-awareness.”

Imagine, then, the amount of effort they put into their food.

The bright, casual eatery always tries to give a spin to some of its more traditional dishes and the menu is updated twice a year. It took time to educate customers that, among other things, Latin American food isn’t Mexican enchiladas with tomato sauce right out of the can and meals don’t necessarily start with chips and salsa. The weekly specials include Late Night Happy Hour on Tuesday, Date Night Wednesday, and Tapas Thursday. Antigua provides premier, full-service catering—primarily for weddings, but also for corporate events and smaller parties. Delivery, curbside service, and empanada kits are all available.

Think, then, of the care and attention they must put into all of their food.

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Lola’s Food Truck

Antigua has a sister restaurant, Lola’s. This food truck can be spotted at every West Allis Farmer’s Market, located on National Avenue. By the end of the year, Lola’s will be a brick and mortar restaurant across from that farmer’s market. And speaking of West Allis, Citlali was named “West Allis Citizen of the Year” by the West Allis West Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce in 2013. Of West Allis, Citlali says, “The city has been nothing but great to us. We like it. We feel comfortable here and the mayor is doing great things. The city is changing and evolving.”

In 2021, Citlali was one of 30 entrepreneurs who received a Fiserv Back2Business COVID-19 relief program $10,000 grant. It was awarded in partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks. Antigua Latin Restaurant is also a member of The Business Council (TBC).

Chef Ramos is a Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE), the most prestigious certification in the catering and event industry. For some time, Antigua has had a reputation for being the best place in Milwaukee for Mexican and Latin food.

Now, about that food…

Chile En Nogada

One of Citlali’s favorite dishes is Chile en Nogada. It’s a braised Poblano pepper filled with a mix of pork, aromatics, dry fruits, and mixed nuts stuffing—then covered in a creamy fresco cheese and walnut nogada sauce, topped with pomegranate seeds, and served with cilantro rice. Who doesn’t want to stop by Antigua and try this?

Another one of her favorites is Encocao de Camaron, a traditional coconut shrimp stew from Ecuador. Ingredients include coconut milk, peanuts, bell peppers, and onions. Toasted coconut sits on top. It’s served with cilantro rice and fried plantains. Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it?

Some of the other entrees include Steak Ranchero (tenderloin tips), Carne a la Tampiquena (grilled steak), Poblano Pasta (grilled chicken and pasta with creamy poblano pepper sauce, corn kernels, poblano peppers), Churrasco Argentino (10 oz seasoned grilled New York steak served with Antigua’s house salad), Tequila Chicken (covered in a unique tequila sauce), the Peruvian dish Lomo Saltado (marinated sirloin tips).

Family meals. Yes, Antigua offers them. For up to 4 people, the dinners are: Grilled Chicken Taco Bar, Steak Taco Bar, Poblano Chicken Pasta, Cochinita Pibli Family Meal, and the Tequila Cream Chicken Family Meal.

The Antigua experience will be enhanced by indulging in some tapas and hand-crafted drinks before dinner. Tapas could be sun dried tomato & roasted pumpkin seed guacamole or bacon guacamole (yes, bacon!); Empanadas Colombiana, vegetable, or guava and cheese; Platanos Cubanos; or maybe Patatas Bravas.

Desert? What about Flan (caramel custard) or Platanos Borricho (deep-fried sweet plantains smothered in a sweet rum and khalua sauce).

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Flan, a caramel custard served at Antigua

At this point, it must be very tempting to call Antigua at 414.321.5775 for reservations. As guests are encouraged on its website, “You set the date, Antigua sets the table!” Now would be a good time to do just that.

In the meantime, what does team builder, active community member, and amazing restaurateur have to say to other restaurant owners?  Citlali shares this:

“Be resilient. If you really like this industry and truly enjoy what you do, keep pushing through, focus on yourself and what you’re doing, make sure that you do it right. Don’t worry so much about your competition. Worry about what you’re doing and continue to learn. I think that in any industry, you have to continue to educate yourself and learn in order to stay ahead of the curve.”

(Special Note: Antigua is, once again, offering corporate team-building collaborative and competitive cooking classes. These were put on hold during the pandemic. Call 414.321.5775 for more information.)

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