By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Oct 05, 2018 at 11:01 AM

On Friday, Sept. 21, Antigua reopened after a two-month closure to relocate the restaurant from 5823 W. Burnham St. to 6207 W. National Ave., just a hop away from the West Allis Farmer’s Market. And the new location is bigger, brighter and even more beautiful than the first.

According to Citlali Mendieta-Ramos, who operates the restaurant with her husband Chef Nicolas Ramos, the move was prompted largely by demand for their catering business, which was becoming impossible to accommodate in the restaurant’s small kitchen.

"We’ve been looking for a new location for about three and a half years," notes Mendieta-Ramos, adding that they considered spaces in a variety of locations including Milwaukee and Bay View before finding the new location in West Allis. "We’re thrilled we were able to stay in West Allis," she adds. "We’ve lived here for years and we love this city."

Built to house a bakery, the National Avenue location is no stranger to food-related businesses. In fact, it’s been home to Thompson’s, Kaisers Six Point Bakery, Gianni's Bakery, Tony C’s Bakery & Deli and The Milwaukee Pizza Co., among others. However, it had been vacant for nearly three years before Ramos and Medieta-Ramos signed a lease to take over the space last spring.

Guests visiting the restaurant for the first time will notice a number of significant improvements. First and foremost, is the large parking lot next to the restaurant, which can accommodate up to 50 vehicles, alleviating the need to search for parking spaces, even on busy weekends.

The new venue features a bar area (once a showroom and retail area for the bakeries) that’s separate from the dining room – a luxury Ramos says they never had at the Burnham location.

"In our old restaurant, the bar never really had a bar feel, since it was right in the dining room," he says. "Now we have a separate bar space, so you can come out with your friends and have a drink and maybe appetizers and not have to sit down in the dining room."

Among the assets of the new 5,000-square foot restaurant is the kitchen, which features a large prep space and semi-open cooking area separated from the dining room by a half-wall. It’s nearly four times the size of the former kitchen, Ramos notes, providing plenty of space for both restaurant and catering operations to co-exist.

For guests wondering if that means changes to the menu, Ramos says "yes and no."

"We’ve actually cut the menu down a little bit," he says. "But we kept the core, including dishes that people really love. And I’m so excited. The smaller menu really allows us to be more creative. Over the past 12 years, we’ve created so many different dishes. And now we can change things up more often and give people so much more variety."

Some new menu items are the product of collaborations with area businesses, like the Peanut Butter & Jelly Deli, 6125 W. Greenfield Ave., whose products are featured on Antigua’s brunch menu in dishes like peach amaretto jelly and peanut butter pancakes.

But the kitchen isn’t the only space that’s larger. The dining room, which has a full capacity of 99 guests, is nearly double the size of the former restaurant, which seated 58. The space is also cheerfully bright thanks to large western-facing windows and a skylight, which provides a significant amount of additional natural light, even into the evening hours.

Medieta-Ramos says they intentionally kept the same color palette, adorning the walls in warm oranges and yellows. So the space has a familiar look and feel, augmented by new additions like floral art created by West Allis artist Tracy Delfar.

Among new additions are the dining room tables, which were made using the substantial tops of the original bakery tables that came with the building. It’s their way, notes Ramos, of paying homage to the the history of the building.

"This place has had food businesses in it for so long. And it feels good to carry on that history," he says. "It’s exciting that we’re going to put our own history into it too."

Medieta-Ramos says the restaurant is still a work-in-progress; and there are numerous improvements they’re likely to make in the months and years to come, including restoring the windows which once graced the front of the building, adding a parklet-style patio and opening up the bar to connect it visually to the dining room.

But those things will come, as will lunch service which Mendieta-Ramos estimates will be added sometime next year.

"Right now we’re just spending time listening to our customers and getting a better feel for the hours that make sense," she says.

Currently, Antigua is open Tuesday through Thursday 4:30 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4:30 to 10 p.m. Brunch on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.