Sunday, January 27, 2008

Amici



Amici
Location :
Corner Arnais and C. Roses Ave, Makati City
Cuisine :
Italian
Menu Price Range : Php 150.00 - Php 250.00
Service Charge: none
Rating : A

I admit having a long-time love affair with the amazing Italian eatery known simply as Amici. Formerly called Amici Di Don Bosco, Amici used to resemble a school cafeteria more than a restaurant: amateurish designs, budget aluminum chairs and scant decor lined the eatery's interior. To make matters worse, you had to order food in three different stations: one for pasta, another for pizza, and yet another for soups and panini (Italian sandwiches.) Yet, despite its humble operation, it served affordable, incredibly delicious authentic Italian dishes with impeccable service.






But, just last year, the reins of management were handed over to a commercial group: a fact that raises certain doubts. After all, with a commercial company at the helm focused on profits, it could only mean that prices would skyrocket while food quality and service would deteriorate, right? Fortunately, this was not the case here. The trappings of the shift of management were visible, but remained mostly positive.

The most obvious change can be seen in the establishment's interior. The cafeteria aluminum chairs were replaced by stylish, wooden ones, and the shoddy designs were replaced by trendier accouterments.


Even the logo underwent a face lift, going from a somewhat stiff and formal look to a sharper and friendlier appearance. Examining the interior of Amici, it is now more reminiscent of a high-end food court rather than a school cafeteria. There are, however, still visible signs of the transition including empty menu boards and brand-new fixtures that are hardly used.

The biggest improvement, however, were the store hours which were expanded to Mondays through Sundays 7:00 AM until 9:00 PM. Another great improvement was the networking of the POS (Point of Sale) system. Now, you only needed to approach one counter to make your entire order and have it all delivered to you. Amici now also offers a delivery service, although the minimum amount of Php 400.00 is somewhat steep.

All these changes were done without making Amici appear pretentious or overbearing - it was still the corner bistro where you could have a nice lunch or dinner with friends. The big question now was whether this transition impacted their cuisine.


Cannelloni Agli Spinaci
Price: Php 165.00
Rating: A

For me, this is, bar none, the best pasta dish on Amici's menu. It consists of light cannelloni pasta stuffed with delicate spinach baked with tomato sauce and mixed cheese then smothered in bechamel sauce. It's truly delightful and fluffy flavor stays with you. Although the serving isn't quite as generous, it's still a astonishingly delicious meal.

My only complaint with this dish was that I felt they didn't put enough bechamel sauce on it which made it somewhat dry. Despite this, it retained the flavor that I've come to know and love.

Pasta Montanara
Price: Php 165.00
Rating: B

Home-made spinach fusilli (corkscrew-shaped pasta) with Italian sausage, cheese sauce, pepperoni, and salami, Pasta Montanara is a hearty concoction that's sure to whet your appetite and satisfy your cravings.

On the whole, however, I think this dish declined somewhat since the transition of management. The pepperoni and salami seem sparser and the colorful fusilli pasta turned monochromatic green. The pasta wasn't exactly consistent either - some bits tasted a tad undercooked.

Despite these minor criticisms, this dish is still a very good value and remains a delightful symphony of flavors that won't leave you wanting... except for maybe one of Amici's famous deserts.

Al Quattro Formaggi (Four Cheese) Pizza
Price: Php 250.00 (Php 260.00 Take Out)
Rating: A

If you have never tasted authentic Italian wood-fired thin crust pizza, you're in for a treat with this dish! The crust on this pizza is nothing short of divine: soft, crisp and flaky - something that can only be achieved with an authentic Italian oven. The cheeses are strong but not overpowering, providing a kaleidescope of savory flavors.

Easily able to feed two to three people, you can't go wrong with this pizza. For its price and authentic taste, it's an incredible value. This is one pizza that shouldn't be missed.

Gelato
Price: Php 45.00 (scoop)/Php 400.00 (1 kilo pack) Rating: A

Nothing compares to a silky smooth Italian gelato, and no one I know does a better job at making them than Amici. Creamy and light, it's a far cry from the usual ice cream that bombard you with artificial flavors and sweeteners. It's a dessert to be savored, and, at Php 45.00 a scoop, it should be.

Although the price can be disheartening when compared to other, more inexpensive options, there's no substituting for taste - and I guarantee that this is one desert you will be craving for. Some flavors are better than others, but my favorites are the Mint with Chocolate Chips, Nocciola (hazelnut), Vanilla with Nuts, and Cioccolato (special house chocolate.)

CONCLUSION

Food: Amici continues to use genuine Italian ingredients in their dishes and it shows. The taste is authentic and the flavors, unforgettable. Many of their dishes are unique to Amici and can't be found in most Italian or pseudo-Italian eateries, and the portions are quite generous. No doubt, this is one of the best places to go if you're craving for authentic Italian pastas or pizza.

Ambiance: Ever since management changed hands, the ambiance has improved tremendously. It may not be the best place to take your significant other on a romantic sojourn, but the interiors have improved to the level of a fine casual dining establishment. The eating area was also expanded to include a small outdoor area for smokers or people who just want to enjoy the night air.

One concern that I did have during my visit was the noise level. They had some Josh Groban vocals playing in the background, but it was easily drowned out by the din of the establishment's patrons.

Value: At an average of Php 165.00 a dish, Amici seems to be a bit on the expensive side, but taking into account that there is no Service Charge and the quality of the food, it remains a very good value. Other eateries that offer the same quality cuisine easily charge twice what Amici does for the same menu items.

Service: Although the first dish was served quickly, the rest were somewhat delayed. The servers were very friendly and accommodating despite the packed house, however. One thing that concerned us was that we didn't recognize any of the staff.

When we spoke with one of the people we did recognize, however, he explained that most of the new staff were OJT's. Taking this into account and the sheer quantity of the patrons, it's not unusual that service would take a slight hit. Despite these slight hitches, however, I was satisfied with their service and the friendliness of their staff.

Overall: Amici is one of the rare eateries that you must truly experience to fully appreciate. No other Italian restaurant in the Philippines to my knowledge compares to it in terms of quality and value. True, the ambiance could still stand some improvement, but if you're looking for authentic Italian food that won't burn a hole in your pocket, you can't get much better than Amici. Bravissimo!

© 2008 Pablo Bairan
01-28-2008

1 comment:

Sakai said...

if u look closely at the pizza.. the cheese is quite scarse... it wasnt that way before.. so sad