Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amici Ristorante

Last Friday found the hubs and I with our favorite couple friends wandering around Carytown looking to celebrate a birthday dinner.Technically we were supposed to go to Mezzanine, but without a reservation it was an hour wait. The hostess that night at Mezzanine, Charmaine, sent us down the street to Amici. We were all hungry, it was close by, we’d all heard good things about it, so we felt it was a no brainer and headed out.

Amici’s recently been doing some construction to beef up the patio area. They’ve bricked it in and it’s set back a little from the sidewalk so that you don’t feel like you’re out in the middle of Cary Street (like Can Can). As our party was navigating the crushed pavement to get up the steps into the establishment, a smiling face opened the door and welcomed us in. I don’t care who you are or where you're at, you can’t beat that. We were seated right away in the upstairs dining room. The entire restaurant seating area, both upstairs and down can’t be more than 500 square feet. So, it lends itself to feeling instantly cozy and intimate.

Our server came up and kindly solicited drink orders right away. And I will say right here, that service is what Amici does best. We wanted for nothing this evening and the response was helpful, never overbearing. We all felt comfortable from the moment we walked in until we trotted down the stairs out to our car. Well, until we had to get up and use "the facilities." Remember how I said Amici's was cozy and intimate? This also includes the restroom placement. Tucked into the back left corner of the upstairs dining room, it was uncomfortably close to the dining area. And the ladies toilet makes sounds. Rude sounds, that I was concerned other diners RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR, might mistake for emanating from me! I only mention this, b/c I figure someone would like the fair warning that I never received! But, I digress from the important subject, the food!

Our meal was definitely noteworthy. The hubs and my friend shared the calamari starter. I was told the calamari was tender, the coating crisp and an extra bonus of zucchini fries were mixed in as well as a side of house dipping sauce. Their plate cleared in a matter of seconds. I assume this meant it was good ;) Myself, I started with the Peperoni ripieni -Roasted bell peppers filled with pancetta and goat cheese au gratin. Salty, sweet, creamy deliciousness, I never wanted it to end. I would barely share with the rest of my table.

For dinner, the birthday girl ordered Cannelloni di carne -Baked home made cannelloni pasta filled with meat and vegetables in a walnut cream sauce. I tried a bite and it melted in my mouth, much the way you think it should in reading the menu. Her hubs ordered the duck(Anatra ai frutti di bosco -Pan roasted duck breast with mixed berries and port wine reduction), which came with a savory bread pudding underneath. My hubs had the shrimp which also had this bread pudding hiding underneath. This item was not outlined on the menu, so I wanted to point it out b/c both guys went crazy over it.

I ordered, with great anticipation, the Osso Bucco on special. The meat was flavorful and fork tender as it disintegrated upon contact. My only complaint was the risotto. It was supposed to be a traditional Milanese risotto, which to me, is a saffron risotto with grana padano/parm-reg cheese. I’m not sure exactly what was in this risotto, only that it was finished with orange juice. Which, according to my palate, ruined the dish for me. This is completely a personal preference. There might be those of you out there that would enjoy the sweetness. It was not, however, what I was expecting and therefore I was disappointed.

We skipped dessert as nothing was really speaking to us (and we had some dessert waiting for us at the Phoenician, thanks Naji!) But, the dessert menu contained the usual suspects: tiramisu, gelato, after dinner coffees, frangelico, port etc. etc.

Overall, with 2 starters, 4 mains, an asparagus and bottle of wine for the table, we made it out of there for $55 a person. Not bad for a fine dining, gourmet experience with excellent service! I will mention though, that our party(mid-30's) did not fit into what seemed to be the typical octogenarian demographic. Seems to be a favorite amongst mature diners. I can see why, with what seems to be reliable friendly service and reasonably priced great food. I guess with age does come wisdom! ;)

Amici Ristorante
3343 W Cary St
Richmond, VA 23221

(804) 353-4700

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