The namesake for Sarasota’s Antoine’s Restaurant has quite a history. Established in 1840, the original New Orleans French cuisine eatery is the oldest family-run restaurant in the United States and has greatly contributed to the city’s well-earned ranking as one of the great dining centers of the world.
So when Angela and Olivier Georges decided to open their own French-style restaurant in Sarasota, they thought a successful, longstanding name like Antoine’s might bring them a bit of good luck in their business. Considering they’ve been regularly running a packed house for the past seven years, they were likely correct in that assumption.
Many restaurant owners say they were born to be in the restaurant business, because they have worked in the industry for most of their lives, but when Olivier says that, he really means it.
“I was born in my family’s restaurant in Belgium — literally,” he said. “My mother gave birth to me in the back room there. Needless to say, I started cooking really young and later did culinary school.”
Working in restaurants is also what brought Olivier and his wife Angela together. She is a trained chef, as well, and was hired by Olivier’s business partner in Belgium. Eventually, the two married and opened their own restaurant there together.
About nine years ago, they were offered the opportunity to move to the United States and work for a Belgian restaurant in downtown Sarasota. After two years, they were ready to go into business for themselves again.
“We opened our first restaurant here together on Fruitville Road,” Angela said. “When our lease was up two years ago, we had a choice to either stay there in the small space or to move and really expand. We did move, but only went from 32 seats to 42.”
The couple wanted to keep the small, intimate setting of their restaurant (the current location has 13 tables), because they feel it adds to the experience. And for the most part, it is just the two of them there, with Angela cooking and Olivier handling the front of the house.
Angela says that it’s set up much as small, family-run restaurants are in Europe.
“We stay focused on quality, not quantity,” she said. “And we never rush you. When you come here, it’s your table for the night.”
They classify Antoine’s as a French/Belgian restaurant and pride themselves in preparing authentic, “homemade with love” food. Every item on the menu is individually crafted and made from scratch.
Whether it’s the artisan breads, the flavorful sauces, the delicious pastas or the decadent desserts, rest assured they were freshly created by Angela in Antoine’s small kitchen. While the menu includes beef, pork, duck and pasta entrees, it’s clear that the stars of the show are the various seafood mussels selections.
When it comes to the classic dishes of Belgian cuisine, “Moules-frites” (mussels with fries) is a popular choice, and that is no exception at Antoine’s. From the Belgian coast to the streets of Brussels, most people are familiar with the large steaming pots laden with mussels coated with a white wine sauce and drizzled with fresh herbs and vegetables.
But Angela prepares 10 different styles of mussels, accompanied by the traditionally prepared Belgian fries. On Mondays the couple even has a Mussel Mania night, when you can buy all-you-can-eat mussels, prepared five different ways. Each night, they also offer two different appetizer and entrees specials which are not regularly on the menu.
They both say they love offering an authentic European experience to their loyal customers, and conveying to them their passion about what they’re doing.
“What we are offering is a modern twist on traditional flavors—those that please people, and are not complicated,” Angela said. “And we also concentrate on our presentation, because as the saying goes, ‘You first eat with your eyes, then your nose and then your mouth.’ You get the full experience here.”