Anjon’s, the classic Italian eatery in Scarborough has basically been open seven days a week, and on every major holiday, for 61 years.
You’ve probably driven by this mammoth establishment along Route 1 on your way to the beach, or perhaps to Saco. Anjon’s is the mysterious brown building with black awnings and blackout windows directly on the right after crossing Phillips Brook marsh. Most of the time it’s hard to tell if Anjon’s is even open. But even on Thanksgiving and Christmas, Anjon’s is open for business.
In 1954 Ann and John DiSanto started the family business, now owned by their grandson (also named John). And if you haven’t guessed it already, the name Anjon’s is the combination of their first two names.
Inside, Anjon’s seems a lot smaller and cozier than you’d expect from its exterior, but can still seat 180.
On a recent weeknight, Anjon’s was particularly sleepy – they’d actually closed early the day before because of a snowstorm – a few patrons were in the bar/lounge area to the left as you pass the host stand. The grand upstairs dining room was mostly dark after a slow day.
Visually, Anjon’s shows its age. The bar/lounge room is reminiscent of an Italian restaurant in New York City in the ’70s. A mural behind the bar, which was reportedly hand painted in the last 10 years, is a muted depiction of an Italian landscape. One wall of the lounge is some kind of black mirror that conjures up images of someone sitting on the other side, watching you at the bar.
And the wine cork walls — oh, the wine cork walls — are everywhere. Story has it that Rocco DiSanto, the elder son of John DiSanto, and John junior’s father, had dozens of wine corks lying around and began hand slicing each cork and then gluing them to square panels. The lounge and lobby walls, and one wall of the stairwell, are all made of wine corks.
The lighting is dim, the music low, and one ceiling fan hums softly overhead. There’s even an electric fireplace in the wall in the lounge, which doesn’t put off much or any heat, but fits well with the kitschy ambiance. In the wintertime, Anjon’s seems like a good place to have a secret meeting of the minds – or a place to bring your hush-hush boyfriend or girlfriend.
The bartenders at Anjon’s are enthusiastic and friendly, and an overheard conversation made it seem like it’s a good place to work.
Anjon’s cocktail menu is as dated and strange as its wall-to-wall carpeting. There’s an espresso martini, a “yummy gummy” martini with Pinnacle Red Licorice. There’s a creamsicle martini, too. And a “Millionaire’s Margarita” which is made with essentially 100-percent alcohol, no mixer, and even a splash of champagne.
Domestic bottled beers reign at Anjon’s – there are no beers on tap, which is disappointing. The wine list is long, with a decent selection of wines by the glass and bottle, including several house wines by the glass.
Happy hour is every day from 4 to 6 p.m. offering buy one get one free domestic beers, house wines and well liquor. Appetizers are half off.
Anjon’s has a nice aged Scotch selection – a 12-, 15-, 20- and 25-year aged bottle. A Scotch sampler is available.
Known best for their classic Italian dishes – most of the recipes, by the way, were passed down by Ann and John and are still made the same today – Anjon’s busiest season is undoubtedly summertime. Local hotels often send guests over to experience a little bit of Scarborough culinary history. After all, they know Anjon’s will very likely be open.
WHERE: 521 US Route 1, Scarborough | 207-883-9562 | anjons.com
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days
AMENITIES: Lounge/bar room, separate dining room upstairs, two flat screen TVs in lounge, black mirrors, homemade sauce for sale, free parking.
BOTTOM LINE: Built in 1954, and known for its classic Italian menu, Anjon’s feels like a family restaurant from another era. The owner is the grandson of the original owners and it doesn’t look like things are changing anytime soon. In the summertime, reservations are suggested, but during the winter months, walk-ins will very likely be accommodated without issue. The lounge area is separate and cozy with dim lighting, plenty of seating, and friendly service. The daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. is a great deal with half off appetizers, and a two for one drink special with any domestic beers, well spirits or house wine.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No.
Claire Jeffers lives in Portland.