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By Bernie Whitmore
My first visit to Amici Trattoria left such a favorable impression that I filed a mental note that went something like this: “Return!” Several years passed, but I never forgot the friendly little Italian place in Shrewsbury Center. So when I had a vote in this month’s dining assignment, I suggested Amici and tried not to sound too enthusiastic.
The next day a friend and I were being seated at Amici’s. As I scanned the dining room I was amazed at how little it had changed. The small bar-lounge area up front had a few businessmen engaged in conversation whilst the bartender vigorously shook a martini creation. From the tin ceiling to hanging lamps with their fabric shades to framed Italian posters on the wallsit was just as I remembered ~ perhaps a bit less crisp.
Roberta, our server, arrived with a friendly welcome and handed us the wine list. Intrigued by a Tuscan Sangiovese, I asked her about it. Moments later she was back with a tasting. The ruby color and soft tannin fruit flavor impressed, so we ordered a bottle of L’Oca Ciuca, “The Drunken Goose.”
When we asked about Amici’s Antipasto she raved and offered that the small portion would be plenty for two. I was learning to trust Roberta ~ the salad was a full flowering of the antipasto art form. On a bed of crisp baby greens were scattered marinated mushrooms, half-rounds of grilled zucchini pickled pepperoncini with hot red peppers, and triangles of green with red peppers. Layered over this was a thick wedge of parmesan cheese, grilled chicken breast, a large chunk of flaky tuna and rolls of Italian meats: capicola, salami and a sheet of prosciutto ham. The entire creation was capped with an artichoke heart and a drizzling of balsamic reduction. Magnifico!
Antipasto and wine alone would have satisfied, but there was serious research to be done and I forged on with my entrée of Risotto Alla Provencal. Amici offers ten different risotto entrees ~ the chef has clearly mastered Arborio rice. In his capable hands, Provencal is laden with chopped olives and tomatoes and an amazing number of tender chicken chunks are nestled into the rice. The creaminess of the just-firm rice coated all the ingredients with rich earthy flavor.
My friend’s entrée, Veal Piccata, featured three broad cutlets of veal sautéed with lemon slices in a white wine butter sauce, scattered with tasty capers. They were served with the nearly translucent slices of lemon ~ classic presentation and flavor. It came with a side dish of ziti with marinara sauce.
It seemed unfair to put Roberta through the trouble of reciting the day’s desserts without ordering one, so we sacrificed with tiramisu. Once again Amici managed to put an interesting spin on a standard item. Their tiramisu is served like a tall wedge of layer cake over a drizzle of chocolate sauce. The moist cake and creamy-rich cocoa espresso flavor capped off a meal that surpassed my high expectations.
The sign in Amici’s front window, “Where friends meet,” is appropriate. This is a small place with such a big sense of hospitality. I felt embraced by the spirit the moment I entered. And, upon leaving Amici Trattoria, I appreciated their enthusiastic service, value and robust Tuscan flavor palate.
I must return soon!
582 Main Street, Shrewsbury