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Amici Miei, Traditional Italian in Rockomac


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After four days of staying in, cooking, getting things done, shoveling snow and ice, getting more things done, etc., Mr P and I finally decided to fire up the big damn diesel truck and crawl down the icy slope that is our driveway, in search of Something Different for dinner.

After much discussion, we decided to be good citizens and not attempt to park the behemoth on the probably overcrowded and poorly plowed streets of Cleveland Park, even though it's been ages (months) since we've eaten at Palena cafe. So we headed north into Rockville to try Amici Miei again.

It's been two years since we had a thoroughly mediocre meal there, but another board member is constantly defending the place as a good neighborhood joint, so we figured we outta try it again.

Seldom do I write bad things about restaurants on this forum. My guiding principal has been "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". But I feel a duty to warn the rest of you that Amici Miei is not worth the money.

Tonight, $57 (post tax, pre tip) bought us the following:

four pieces of something that looked like focaccia

one glass dolcetto

one mushroom flan in fontina fondue :o (it sounded better at the time)

one plate of gnocchi in wild boar [trite alert!] ragu

one plate of veal and chestnut agnollotti in red wine reduction

one piece ricotta cheesecake.

The bread like substance in the basket was insipid, both in flavor and texture. Something oily in which to dip it or with which to spread it would've helped.

The wine was not bad, nor was it good - just average wine. But it was served in a dirty glass. Something yellowish was stuck to the outside. eew

The mushroom flan thing certainly sounded better than it looked or tasted. The lack of contrast between the basic custard and the cheese-flavored sauce made it seem like baby food.

The gnocchi? I was almost in tears thinking how we could've been eating Frank Ruta's gnocchi. Amici Miei's were big, yellow, textureless, and almost flavorless but for the sauce, which reminded me of nothing so much - so help me God - as the canned stuff I used to heat up for lunch when I walked home from school at age eleven.

The dim (soft? romantic?) yellow light might have shined more favorably on my plate of agnolotti, had it not instead reflected off the greasy fingerprints all over the plate's broad rim. (Yeah, big pet peeve.) The wine reduction sauce was overwhelmed by rosemary. The pasta itself was thick and chewy rather than thin and supple. The veal filling was bland and heavy. But the chestnuts had flavor and provided a nice contrasting texture.

At one point I reached for the salt shaker, with the thought "maybe this'll help", then I stopped mid-shake, wondering if bringing out more flavor would actually be a good thing.

So, silly us, we went ahead and got the cheesecake for dessert. I have never had a cheesecake so dry. More often I complain about cheesecake being too creamy and rich - I prefer it to be more cakelike - but this was not good. Alongside it was a soft mound of something reminiscent of zabaglione, which helped, but also [rant] squiggles of raspberry coulis! I hate that! This is my number one dining pet peeve - you go and order a tasty sounding dessert and they f***ing go and ruin it with raspberry sauce. It's not that I don't like raspberry, but Jesus Tapdancing Christ, must it annoit everything? At the very least print it on the goddamn menu or otherwise tell your customers that it's going to be there, because it is a very strong flavor that fights with almost every other flavor, and usually wins (chocolate can stand up to it, but not much else). And, squiggles of colored goo on the plate was trendy in the, what, 80s?! C'mon! This is '07! Pick a new triteness with which to ruin dessert. [/rant]

What a stupid way to blow the diet.

[note: for an infinitely more entertaining write-up, may I suggest post#165 ?]

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After four days of staying in, cooking, getting things done, shoveling snow and ice, getting more things done, etc., Mr P and I finally decided to fire up the big damn diesel truck and crawl down the icy slope that is our driveway, in search of Something Different for dinner.

After much discussion, we decided to be good citizens and not attempt to park the behemoth on the probably overcrowded and poorly plowed streets of Cleveland Park, even though it's been ages (months) since we've eaten at Palena cafe. So we headed north into Rockville t

What a stupid way to blow the diet.

Next time, remember you can always pay a few bucks to park in the Magruders lot next door to Palena. I HATE to pay for parking and long ago decided the Palena fix was worth the money rather than trying to game it so I arrive at exactly 6:30 when the street parking opens up again.
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... another board member is constantly defending the place as a good neighborhood joint ...

Howdy. :o

We went a couple of weeks ago for a special night out with the kids. I won't bore with the details (actually, I don't remember what we ordered) but we had exactly the opposite experience as you. Great food, wonderful service, and clean dishes.

Sorry this place just doesn't do it for you.

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Howdy. :o

We went a couple of weeks ago for a special night out with the kids. I won't bore with the details (actually, I don't remember what we ordered) but we had exactly the opposite experience as you. Great food, wonderful service, and clean dishes.

I am happy for you. :lol: Really. No ill wishes for Amici Miei, though I'll never go back. Next time I'm out at an Italian restaurant I will lift a glass to you, Daniel, and be thankful we have so many places from which to choose.

BTW, I would be interested in the details of your dinner. I'd consider it a public service and a kindness to the restaurant. Mulitple perspective is one thing I look for on sites like ours.

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Honestly, I don't completely remember what we ordered. I know that we went on a weeknight around 7:30, and it was busy but no wait for a table. I remember that we tore through the bread basket (and got olive oil, without request.) The 9-year-old ordered an individual pizza with sausage (spicy - very good), and the 7-year-old a half-order of pasta with butter. No drinks other than soft drinks. I think we shared a salad and another starter (mussels or clams, maybe?). We usually get either a meat or fish dish and a pasta dish and share. No desserts.

I don't think of it as special-occasion dining - just a couple of steps above red-sauce neighborhood italian, and it's literally the closest restaurant to my house.

FYI to Rocks or other patrolling admin - the restaurant is in Potomac, not Rockville.

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I would also have to disagree with Porcupine. I have had very good experiences at Amici Miei. My wife and I have been there many times and generally we get the baby octopus appetizer, which has a nice smokey flavor, the pizza, made in a wood burning oven, is again very good. The pastas are all excellent and homemade. The mushroom ravioli is my favorite though I have not tried them all. I will say that sometimes the food could use a bit of salt, but that's pretty easy to rectify. I have found service to be friendly and good.

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At one point I reached for the salt shaker, with the thought "maybe this'll help", then I stopped mid-shake, wondering if bringing out more flavor would actually be a good thing.
That is harsh. :blink:

I ate there once with some friends and found it average, which is a damn sight better than the meal you had. It's preferable to Amada Amante, but that's not saying much.

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Nine of us were seated for dinner last night with mixed results. I think the service issues got to some of the peeps at my table and lowered their perception of the meal. I'm not positive, but it seemed that there was one waitperson for the entire place and she was backed up by several busboys, the management, their accountant, the mailman, their produce vendor, a couple of Jehovah's witnesses, the thief, his wife, and her lover. It was chaotic and confusing. Everyone was nice and all and they were doing their best, but it made the meal stressful.

If you can get past all that, which I did, but the others I fear did not, most of the food here is excellent. Grilled octopus was tender, flavorful, and it went well with the chickpeas in a sort of pesto dressing underneath. Osso Buco hit the spot on a cold and windy night. It was fork tender with just the right amount of pan sauce to mix in with the polenta. I tried my ma-in-law's grilled sardines which were okay. They didn't seem as fresh as they should have been. My wife ordered a pizza margherita-- the outer 1/3 of the pie took me back to Naples, the soggy inner 2/3 took me back to my college dining hall. A plate of veal raviolis looked wonderful, though I passed at the chance when my sister-in-law offered one.

If I lived close by I'd put this joint on my regular rotation. The service was a little hard to swallow but the food was not. The chef and owner certainly have some pedigree, but it is, after all, an Italian restaurant in a shopping center in Rockville. It ain't trying to be Maestro, so take the good with the bad and enjoy yourself.

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<--- Click the smiley!

Yeah, okay, so I did go again. :angry: And in all fairness I must report that dinner was much better than my previous meals there. Service was fine. Bread was decent, and we were offered (so-so) olive oil. The pasta in Bolognese sauce, fettucine with mushroom sauce, and gnocchi with asparagus and peas were all good flavor combinations and reasonably well-executed. The margherita pizza, though, was pretty dismal: soft, flavorless crust with an excess of runny sauce and a smattering of gooey cheese. An appetizer of goat cheese and peppers was extraordinarily plain, but otherwise fine (that is, decent ingredients, competently prepared).

Ricotta cheesecake with candied citron was probably the standout dish of the evening, nicely balanced between cakey and creamy, subtly flavored. Tiramisu was nothing to write home about, a little soggy in texture and wan in flavor.

I take issue with the Washingtonian's placement of Amici Miei at number 65 on the Best Restaurants list. It's a sometimes-competent (at last night's level of performance) little neighborhood Italian restaurant that would be fine for a casual "I don't feel like cooking" evening out if you live within a fifteen minute drive.

Again, in fairness to the restaurant, I must point out that my previous dinner at Amici Miei (see post #1 in this thread) was right after a major snowstorm, when the restaurant might have had all sorts of employee and supply issues.

But still, it's only twice the time for me to drive to Cleveland Park, where there is

1) a far superior Italian restaurant that's very friendly and accessible, only a block away from

2) one of DC's finest restaurants, also very accessible*.

Looming on the horizon: a long-overdue visit to Il Pizzico.

*accessible: you can get in without a reservation, and you don't have to dress up.

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I went into Amici Miei with high expectations, despite mixed reviews and stern warnings to the contrary. Despite ordering very "safe," the meal was decent at best. The dried-out bread basket was served with thin, pale-green olive oil that tasted more of oil than olive. Though I don't have the menu in front of me, I remember being seduced by the description of the Tartufi di Caprino ($8.95), 'goat-cheese truffles,' the translation said, which were nothing more than three melon-ball sized scoops of nondescript goat cheese, the primary side being a mound of green and red peppers, diced to the size and cooked to the consistency you'd find in an order of sweet-and-sour chicken - while not "bad," it was certainly a disappointment, especially for the price. The Margherita Pizza ($9.95) was awful: four-slices-worth of tomato sauce and cheese blots, all on a miserably textured crust that - as one poster described above - reminded me of something from a high-school cafeteria. One single leaf of wilted basil sat in the middle of the pizza. Two-thirds of the way through the appetizers, the wine - which we had ordered awhile before - finally arrived, a 2005 Marcarini Langhe Nebbiolo "Lasarin." This is a great bottle of table wine, and one which I'd heartily recommend except that it's $50 at Amici Miei - MacArthur Beverages currently has it on sale for $14.99 - enough said? Homemade fettucine is often a safe thing to order, and makes a good test vehicle for sauces. Fettucine Bolognese ($11.95) would have been an excellent dish had the very good pasta not been overcooked, the sauce being meaty but subtle - it was an honorable dish, and I would get it again. The impressive dessert cart (all $5.95) featured a very good-looking Tiramisu, which was just too soggy for my tastes, and the Tartufo seemed purchased from a wholesaler although Amici Miei does say they make all their desserts in-house. The star of the dessert show was the Torta di Ricotta, one of the better ricotta cheesecakes I've had. My overall impression from this one meal - which was not a suitable test for the kitchen - is that Amici Miei has the potential to be a good neighborhood Italian restaurant, the problem being that there's no neighborhood: It sits in a tremendously ugly strip mall wedged right into the middle of Seven Locks Road. Is Amici Miei a little mom-n-pop oasis, or is it part of the accretive sprawl? I favor the former, and I'd give it another chance if I were in the area for this reason alone.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Any recent reports on this place. My wife just informed me that we are going there tonight with friends (their choice, not mine).

Don't. My last time there the waiter wiped a drop of wine of the bottle with his finger. We are appalled!! Service was poor.

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Maybe we just keep getting lucky, but we've had some very nice meals there, and never any service problems.

Grilled baby octopus and grilled whole fish frequently find their way to our table. Also the house-made ravioli (or other house made pastas, but ask, because not all are) and lamb chops.

We go with the kids more than without, and the only negative I can say about the service is that unless you warn them up front, service is a bit rushed; we can be out the door in an hour with 3 courses unless intending otherwise.

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Any recent reports on this place. My wife just informed me that we are going there tonight with friends (their choice, not mine).

Get the Lasagne, drink 3-4 glasses of wine so you can get by the hit or miss service. The food/pasta dishes are very .....very good. and you'll be sleeping in tomorrow till noon..... sounds like a great plan!

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I was there about two months ago with the kids. I thought the food was very good and pasta done perfectly. On several occasions the pasta specials seemed very overpriced compared to the menu. This is one of those restaurants that you have to be sure to ask the price of specials so you do not get sticker shock when you get the check.

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Dinner turned out fine - nothing special but I don't think they try to be special. Service was fine, no complaints from any in our party. Had a couple of the pizzas which were cooked perfectly with nice char on the crust. Pasta dishes were slightly undercooked but nothing worth complaining about. Wine list was workable. We will probably return with the kids but not for an adults only night out.

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My sense is that one needs to appreciate well made and authentic Italian food. I have had nearly universal good service and meals here. Once in a while the service seems lax but I am willing to put up with it to get great food most of the time. Make sure that you let the owner/host know if you find something amiss. Recently I hosted an even on a Sunday evening for some 25 persons. We each ordered what we wanted and each and every meal was delivered to the person that ordered without have to be asked "who gets the Lasagne" and all with a very short period of time. Try that most place and I bet that you will not get satified. I have eaten here over 20 times with customers and with friends.

So go for the authentic food, moderate wine list and mostly great service. :D

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