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Amici – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Amici: Pizza, Pasta, Salad and More

Amici: Pizza, Pasta, Salad and More

There are two laws of the universe — gravity, and everyone likes Italian food.”
Neil Simon, American playwright and screenwriter

A 2007 Harris Poll declared Italian food the most popular ethnic food in America, revealing that when Americans eat out, the cuisine of choice for nearly a quarter of them is Italian food.  Among the youngest group of respondents, those aged 18-30, the percentage is even higher.  Famous oenophile and food writer Dino Romano believes Italian food is so popular because humans are genetically predisposed to eat as many things that are good for us as possible.  Romano believes Italian cuisine lends itself to an anthropological need to eat a large variety of foods in many ways.

Perhaps the operative word here should be “large.”  When it comes to Italian food, most of us believe the only thing wrong with Italian food is described in the adage, “the problem with Italian food is two days later you’re hungry again.”  We like our pasta in profuse portions (lotsa pasta), our pizzas to be prolific, our cannoli to be colossal, our antipasti to be ample.  You get the picture.  When it comes to dieting, there are many other things we’d rather give up.

The colorful interior at Amici

The colorful interior at Amici

Compared to Italians, Americans are veritable lightweights in the consumption of pasta, eating about twenty pounds per person per year compared to a whopping sixty pounds of pasta per person per year among Italians.  It’s no wonder the number of Italian restaurants opening up across the fruited plain outstrips the number of new start-ups among any other ethnic cuisine.

The launch of a new Italian restaurant is a cause celebre, a time to break out a nice bottle of Chianti.  In late December, 2009, Duke City Diners in the know had good cause to celebrate with the launch of Amici in Granada Square off Montgomery Boulevard.  Situated at the former site of short-lived Iron Skillet and before that Gruet Grille, it sits in an area heavily populated by professional offices and apartment complexes.  There is some semblance to previous restaurant tenants, but a $25,000 make-over imbued the 3,800 square-foot restaurant with a more colorful and buoyant, clearly Italian personality.

Dinner salad with Ranch dressing

As if the launch of a new Italian restaurant isn’t reason enough to celebrate, Amici returned, for a short while at least, to the Albuquerque dining scene one of the most genial people to grace a Duke City restaurant.  That would be Rosetta Richietti Stewart who ran the Pantry Cafe and McGilvray’s for nearly two decades in the burgeoning downtown area before selling them both in 2005.  Her partners at Amici were former State Representative Dan Silva and his wife Angie who bought out Rosetta and assumed sole ownership of the restaurant.

Rosetta and the Silvas named their new restaurant venture Amici because it means “friends” in Italian.  The restaurant staff will indeed make you feel welcome at this bright and open restaurant.  Amici lives up to its name, which by-the-way is subtitled “Pizza * Pasta * Salad,” the three mainstays on a rather abbreviated menu that tries not to be a compendium of all things Italian, but a select number of dishes prepared well.  In February, 2010, Amici obtained a beer and wine license.

Housemade Italian Bread

Housemade Italian Bread

Amici is an advocate of Dino Romano’s approach to healthy Italian food, even employing olive oil (one of the key components of the Mediterranean diet) on the pizza dough and placing a decanter of it on each table.  It  is also a proponent of fresh ingredients and uncompromising quality.  In this case, quality does not translate to expensive.  Prices and portion sizes are reasonable.

The first item on the menu is pizza which is available in three sizes: small (12-inches), medium (14-inches) and large (16-inches).  Six designer gourmet pizzas, all named for Italian locations as they would be spelled on an Italian map (Napoli, Roma, Firenze, Venice, Sicily and Milano), are offered or you can have a cheese pizza topped with any of sixteen toppings.

Oven-fresh baked breads are the canvas on which Amici’s panini sandwiches are served.  Eight panini sandwiches, all with Italian names, are available.  They are served with a side salad.  Larger appetites will gravitate toward one of the seven calzones on the menu.

Green chile and potato soup

Green chile and potato soup

The pasta menu lists only six entrees–Lasagna Bolognese (with ground beef), Lasagna Bolognese (meatless), Fettuccini Alfredo with green chile, Penne Pasta topped with marinara sauce, hand-made Cheese Ravioli Alfredo, hand-made Cheese Ravioli topped with marinara sauce.  Also on the menu are chicken wings served twelve per order with the restaurant’s in-house Ranch dressing.  Five salads and a Zuppe del Giorno (soup of the day) complete the menu, again not a large menu, but one in which quality is emphasized over sheer numbers.  Spaghetti with meatballs, by the way, is a featured special of the day every day though it’s not on the menu.

Shortly after you’re seated, a plate of sliced bread is delivered to your table.  It’s Italian bread baked in-house and as crusty and airy delicious as any Italian bread in town.  Though olive oil is to be found on each table, you’ll have to ask for butter if you want it.  Don’t bother asking for Balsamic vinegar because you’ll get the restaurant’s Balsamic based salad dressing, a far cry from restaurant quality Balsamic vinegar.

The Zuppe del Giorno is not limited to a perfunctory minestrone or pasta fagioli.  Our inaugural visit was on a bleak and dreary gray day in which the only soup which would have hit the spot was exactly what Amici was offering, a creamy green chile and potato soup.  This elixir for cold weather blues is of medium thickness with tiny slices of perfectly boiled potatoes and a green chile piquant enough to get your attention.  This is comfort food soup that would be good on any day.

Lasagna Bolognese with beef

Lasagna Bolognese with beef

Garfield, the famous persnickety cartoon cat once said, “when the lasagna content in my blood gets low, I get mean.”  There are times I can empathize with him, times when only the sweet succor of luscious lasagna can quell my cravings.  When you lust for lasagna, Amici is a good option, offering not one, but two different Lasagna Bolognese options, a meatless option and one with ground beef.

The meatless option is layered pasta with bell peppers, onions, mushroom, spinach and a triumvirate of cheeses (ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella) blanketed with marinara sauce.  The meaty option is composed of layered pasta, ground beef, onions, mushrooms and two terrific cheeses, ricotta and mozzarella covered in marinara sauce.

Amici’s lasagna reminds me very much of the lasagna of my youth in Massachusetts when I practically lived in mom and pop restaurants specializing in “red sauce.”  At first glance, it resembles a pasta loaf swimming in an island of marinara sauce.  It’s a thick slab of deliciousness, a concordant marriage of perfectly prepared pasta layered with well-seasoned ground beef, rich mozzarella and a marinara sauce emphasizing the sweetness of the tomato.  The sauce has a slightly chunky texture, but it’s the sweetness of the tomato foundation which we liked best.

Roma pizza: Smoked Ham, Fresh Tomato, Mozzarella Cheese, Roasted Garlic, Marinara Sauce

Roma pizza: Smoked Ham, Fresh Tomato, Mozzarella Cheese, Roasted Garlic, Marinara Sauce

A large segment of the popularity of Italian cuisine can be attributed to pizza which Americans eat at the rate of approximately 100 acres daily, or about 350 slices per second.  By itself, pizza is a $30 billion dollar per year industry with more than 69,000 pizzerias churning out about three-billion pizzas each year in the UnitedStates.  Representing 17 percent of all restaurants, pizza accounts for more than ten percent of all food service sales.

Amici’s six gourmet pizzas are fashioned with ingredient combinations designed to complement each another.  The amenable wait staff will even swap one or two of the ingredients if you so desire.  On the Roma, a pulchritudinous pie constructed with eggplant, fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese, roasted garlic and mozzarella sauce, we asked for smoked ham instead of eggplant and got it.

If the Roma is any indication, Amici’s pies are thin-crusted–not the waifishly thin crust you can nearly see through, but stout enough to hold up against the volume of generous ingredient toppings.  It has just a hint of char, not the pinto pony speckled char that sometimes denotes burnt, and its outside edges are heavily populated with the airy holes that seem to define good pizza.  The crust is soft, but perfectly baked through and through and as with the restaurant’s other bread-based products, it has a fresh baked bread flavor which means biting into it will welcome you with the wafting steam unique to the staff of life.

The Danielo, a panini made with hard Salami, smoked ham, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, red onion, tomato, romaine lettuce, with a house vinaigrette

Our modified Roma was  delicious, a sixteen-inch, hand-crafted beauty resplendent with premium ingredients.  The smoked ham is discernibly different from the Canadian bacon offered at many pizzerias.  Real tomatoes with their slightly acidic bite complement the sweetness of the marinara sauce, a two-punch tomato combination that helps make this a special pizza.

It’s possible Italians from the old country wouldn’t recognize the large pressed sandwiches Americans call panini.  In Italy, panini is a small bread roll, not some super-sized ciabatta or Italian country bread behemoth.  By any name, Americans have been embracing those toasted, pressed sandwiches for years.  Amici’s rendition of the trendy panini is just a bit different in that the sandwich isn’t pressed.  In fact, the sandwich is at least twice as thick as most pressed paninis.  The Danielo is engorged with hard salami, smoked ham, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, red onion, tomato, romaine lettuce with a house vinaigrette dressing.  It’s a nice sandwich though the salami lacked personality and other than with its saltiness, didn’t distinguish itself.

About the only thing that isn’t made in-house are desserts.  The tiramisu is nonetheless a very good dessert with a strong espresso flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth texture.  As with the rest of the menu, the number of available desserts is rather limited with chocolate cannoli available on occasion.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Amici exemplifies many of the things Americans love about Italian food and with the Silvas at the helm, a promising future seems imminent.

Amici
4243 Montgomery, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 11 April 2011
1st VISIT: 14 March 2010
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 17
COST: $$
BEST BET: Lasagna Bolognese, The Roma (Pizza), Tiramisu, Green Chile Potato Soup

Amici on Urbanspoon

  • Barbara says:

    We tried Amici and I have to say, I found nothing about the place that would make it worth a return visit. Although my chicken sandwich and salad were tasty, and my husband thought the pizza was OK, there are far better Italian restaurants in town, both upscale and family style. Compare this place ( which feels and taste like I imagine Italian food would in some small, midwestern town ) to Caruso’s and it’s a no brainer where to go.

    March 18, 2010 at 8:20 AM
  • Schuyler says:

    I respectfully disagree with Barbara. Amici is a terrific restaurant with excellent service offering good value and delicious food. If anything my compadre Gil understates how good the lasagna is. The service is also terrific and you can’t beat the views on weekdays when some of Albuquerque’s loveliest senoritas eat there.

    March 18, 2010 at 9:12 AM
  • Beth says:

    I also disagree with Barbara. I had the Angelina sandwich, turkey, portabella mushrooms, pesto and provolone and found it perfectly delicious. The soup, also the potato and green chili, was something I will be craving for a long time!

    March 19, 2010 at 7:35 AM
  • Slick says:

    I agree with Barbara!
    I went to Amici about a month ago and ordered the ravioli. It was terrible! The sauce was the consistency of tomato paste and the ravioli was mediocre at best. I agree the food (if you can call it that) at Caruso’s was better than I had at Amici. Hell, even Capo’s is better. I will not return.

    March 19, 2010 at 10:43 AM
  • JRH says:

    I loved the ravioli with meat sauce. I appreciated that the pasta was handmade– so tender it practically melted in your mouth– and the thicker, spicier sauce was also much appreciated. (If you want your sauce thin and tasteless out of a jar, then this is not the place for you.)

    The presentation was pleasing without being fussy.

    The service was extremely attentive, and the staff was very responsive to our request for seating that would accomodate disabilites in our party.

    I will definitely return.

    March 25, 2010 at 5:14 PM
  • Joe V. says:

    We’re going to give this place a try next weekend. With all due respect to Slick, is anything possibly as bad as Capo’s? There was a reason why Capo’s was hidden away. Some of the seats were comfy..

    In these pictures, the colorful interior looks warm and inviting, and the food looks appetizing and fresh. When I go I’ll ask for a suggestion, but barring that, I’ll get the (green chili and potato) soup and lasagna.

    We’ll try Caruso’s too. 2 recommendations from one review! Good Italian restaurants seem few and far between.

    We always check “Gil’s list” before going out. We’ve never been steered wrong on getting to the way of wonderful food (and blind hits and misses can get depressing). Thank you, Gil!

    July 14, 2010 at 7:01 PM
  • Marlene B says:

    Well I have to say…Amicis is on my list of favorite restaurants. To start with the enviroment is so unmatched in this day and age..from the soft music to the attentive staff…The food is not only very delicious the way real Italian food should be but the taste of their Italian sauce just dances in your mouth…I have had the lasagna and the Spaghetti and meatballs(yummy). I have also had their Portobello Sandwich…actually my favorite because i dont get the chance to have things like that very often it is always a real treat when i can go.
    Around Valentines Day they had a special menu with Lobster Ravioli on it , i wish that was on their regular menu so sad its not because it was fabulous. I will however be looking for it again next year.
    Barbara and Slick i would have to say i strongly disagree with you, you may for one reason or the other just have unfortunately had a bad experience….i believe its truly your loss if you dont give it another chance…as for me and my family Amicis has become a favorite for us. We are always greeted with a warm smile and wonderful food.

    August 13, 2010 at 7:37 PM
  • Mike P says:

    My entry is a copy from my Urbanspoon review
    “Time of visit 12:45 Monday 9/13/10

    The only reason we went there is because we had a $20 Groupon which thank goodness we got for free. So including the $4 store-bought tiramisu and a $2 tip (more about both of those amounts later) we barely got our $6 worth of this place.As a local restaurant manager it really pains me to receive such poor service at any restaurant even it is one of my competitors. As we walked in every single table, including those on the patio, were dirty. We were directed to the only clean table by a gentleman I would assume was the owner. We were not even approached for at least 20 minutes when a lady (owner’s wife?) took our drink order. Another 10 minutes passed till our “server” who complained to us that she used to be the pastry chef brought our drinks stating “I’ll be right back to take your order”, to which we inquired if we could have some menus (30 minutes at the table and not even a menu to look at!)

    We finally placed our order and the “pastry chef” brought out some fresh Italian bread which was probably the highlight of the meal. Our food finally arrived 15 – 20 minutes later (thin crust pizza and a chicken sandwich?!) The server asked if we needed anything else we asked for some napkins and silverware as we had none. She acted all put out that we made this seemingly strange request.At absolute best the food was incredibly average. The sandwich was OK but the side salad looked like the bottom of the lettuce barrel, wilted, soggy, and overdressed. The pizza was below average.After our meal she asked us if we wanted any dessert, we asked her what were the choices to which she complained that they were not letting her do any of the pastry duties that she was only being paid $2 an hour to do anyways and that the desserts were not homemade.Twice we were told that she (the owner’s wife) was working on our check and after 5 minutes we went up to the counter where only 2 of the four items were on our check and the Groupon had not been taken off the check.I ended up tipping her $2 because that was all the entire service was worthI predict that if they keep this up they will not be there in six months.

    September 13, 2010 at 8:06 PM
  • Vincent says:

    My expierence at aAmici’s was guite nice. I heard that they were under new management, so I thought i would go see the new changes. The moment i stepped in to Amici’s i felt welcomed into a very comforting and inviting atmosphere. I was greated with smiles, and was seated promptly. The Restaurant looked and felt very clean. I was seated and served my drink, with the most amazing Italian bread EVER! I must say service is great. I found the owners to be genuily thankful for my presents. They are very, very nice people. I had the one of signatures dishes Fetticine Alfredo with green Chile and i added shirmp instead of Chicken. It was so good i go weekly to satisfy my graving. I yet to try the Green Chile Meatballs with Spagetti.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:18 AM
  • Celia Einhorn says:

    I love their green chili fettuccine. I recently dined at Scalo’s and I would chose Amici’s fettuccine over Scalo’s.

    I also love their green chili potato soup.

    Yes, I am a satisfied returning customer.

    April 17, 2011 at 1:17 PM
  • Sandy says:

    Amici has terrible food and service. I ate there once. Won’t do it again. Scalo’s is my favorite, by far.

    May 19, 2011 at 3:21 AM
  • JFeliciano says:

    My husband and I went for a dinner last week and were highly disappointed. We dined there before, but many things changes since then. Prices went up and portions went down (the items you see on the pictures do not look like that any more!!). For my eggplant parmesan I got a single slice of an eggplant and a scoop of angel pasta for over $10. Our waitress was rude and condescending; I guess our knowledge of Italian food was not meeting her standards. Not mentioning that we had to wait extra for our food, because another patron, well known to the restaurant, arrived and 3 servers rushed to get his attention. This was our last visit to Amici. BAD EXPERIENCE!

    February 15, 2012 at 11:48 AM

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