Eli and Holly Cure – Antoni’s Italian Cafe

Holly and Eli Cure, owners of Antoni’s Italian Café, join Discover Lafayette as part of Eat Lafayette’s yearlong celebration of locally owned restaurants. They share their captivating journey that had them working as employees of other restauranters before becoming dedicated proprietors of their own establishment.

Holly is a Lafayette native who always enjoyed the dynamics of the restaurant environment, having worked at Posado’s and Blue Dog Cafe before working at Antoni’s. Eli grew up in Covington where he first worked at B. J.’s Pizza at 14 years of age, starting out as a dishwasher and moving up to pizza making. He moved around the country, settling in Lafayette in 1993, building his hospitality career while gaining invaluable experience working at such restaurants as Canton City Inn, Chinese Buffet, Charley G’s, Prejeans, Don’s Seafood, Coyote Blues, and Chili’s.

The couple met while working together at Blue Dog Cafe, where Eli was the manager and Holly worked as a hostess. The relationships they built while working at Blue Dog have remained strong, and friends from that time include Andrew Payne of Pamplona, and Danielle Fava, one of Antoni’s managers.

Antoni’s opened in 1996 and has been locally owned and operated since inception, celebrating its 28th year in business this month. Holly and Eli worked at Antoni’s before taking over the reins from its original owners, Bruce and Lynda Cart, on August 5, 2013.

The Carts trusted Holly and Eli’s knowledge of their business, its mission, and the dining preferences of Antoni’s existing clientele. They generously facilitated the purchase of the restaurant with a ten-year owner-financing plan that the Carts paid off early. Even though the restaurant had been around for years, the Cures had to start the permitting process anew in order to keep the doors open. And the inevitable repairs needed to be done. With Eli’s adeptness with carpentry and finishing work, the couple worked on Sundays to clean up and make the needed enhancements for their official opening. Holly says, “Each ceiling tile was taken down individually and we cleaned each and every one ourselves.”

“Opening a restaurant is a step by step process, where one thing can’t happen before the other. First you set up your LLC, then you get the operating, Fire, Health, Alcohol permits. Each stage has different requirements. You have to ensure that all is working: ‘Are all the exit sign batteries operational?’ The Board of Health will inspect and require a level of cleanliness as if the restaurant kitchen had never been used before. Antoni’s was 17 years old when we purchased it, but it was if it was a new endeavor as we worked to get the permits.”

Lynda Cart handed over all her original recipes to the Cures and long-time staple dishes such as the basil chicken salad and house-made pizzas have remained crowd favorites. Eli is the culinary expert in this family-owned endeavor and has created new recipes over the years and added twists to the traditional Antoni’s fare.

Holly shared that one of her favorite foods on the menu is the plain cheese pizza, which is based upon the original dough recipe from Lynda Cart, their house-made Marinara sauce, and the part-skim Buffalo milk mozzarella which is a staple at Antoni’s. Cheese in the shakers is five-month aged sheep’s milk Romano.

With their loving, hands-on management and innovative twists to the original menu, Antoni’s is a popular destination for lovers of Italian food.  From classic pizzas and calzones to exquisite offerings like Quail, Salmon, Shrimp, and Filet Mignon, there is truly something for everyone.

Holly and Eli both spoke of a surge in the restaurant’s popularity, and attributed it to their dedicated staff, many of whom have worked at Antoni’s for several years. In the aftermath of COVID’s effects on the industry and changing expectation of workers, Holly and Eli have also endeavored to raise pay and be more flexible while upholding high standards of service. While it can still be difficult to recruit and retain in the hospitality business, Holly and Eli work to keep the staff’s mood light and happy by sharing laughter.

Holly and Eli Cure are a united front in their quest to provide great service and delicious Italian food at Antoni’s. They are hands-on owners, and Holly says, “There is no rest for your mind. You don’t leave work and not think about it. There is always something that could have been done. Each day is an adventure.” Luckily, Holly can rely on Eli for any repairs that need to be done: “He is the MacGyver at Antoni’s. He can fix anything.”

The Cures recently opened a brand-new waiting and lounge area, called the ‘Blu Room,’ open on weekend evenings from 5 to 9 p.m., and offering live classical and jazz music. The Blu Room has its own bar and is available on a first-come, first-serve basis with no reservations being needed.

For the 2024 kickoff of Eat Lafayette, Antoni’s offered its famous house-made meatballs. As part of Antoni’s celebration and participation in Eat Lafayette, any customer who mentions Eat Lafayette now through Sept. 8, 2024 can receive a free order of Garlic Focaccia with melted cheese.

We’d like to congratulate Holly and Eli Cure, as well as their whole team, for winning the 2024 Culinary Excellence Award bestowed by Foodies of Lafayette. Antoni’s exemplifies what it means to be an outstanding restaurant known for its service, great food, and warm ambiance!

Antoni’s is located at 1118 Coolidge Blvd., Suite A, Lafayette LA 70503. It is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday 5 p.m to 9 p.m. For more information, visit https://www.antonisitaliancafe.com/