Thursday, December 31, 2009

Due Amici (Columbus, OH)

Due Amici boasts a modern rustic feel the first second my mother and I stepped inside. A classy atmosphere with an interior design to boot, I was mildly suspicious at the lack of patronage (i.e. being the sole customers) on a Saturday night. We were immediately taken care of by our server -- who remained attentive all throughout the evening -- and daily specials were recited.

Disappointingly enough, the starters menu at Due Amici was less than enthralling, which led my mom and I straight to the entrees instead where many wonderfully sounding dishes were listed. A nice change from the mediocre lineup of appetizers, I must say.

For myself, the cioppino ($23) was a no-brainer. As a seafood and orzo fiend, I simply cannot say no to a dish that listed mussels, clams, fish, and shrimp over a bed of orzo pastini. The parmesan focaccia that topped off the dish was a different story, as I soon learned that it had the same consistency as Texas toast. The plate itself was teeming with fresh shelled molluscs, plump and flavorful shrimp, and tender fish slices all cooked in a tangy tomato broth. The scattered grains of orzo lended a good contrast and chew to the seafood stew.

My mother, on the other hand, opted for the Grilled Coffee and Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin ($23) after much convincing from yours truly. Being slightly wary of having anything espresso related on my meat, I could sense her hesitance upon ordering. However, the tenderloin itself was served juicy and bursting with a range of spices (and absolutely no detection of an espresso taste whatsoever) despite having requested it prepared medium-well. The pine nut-goat cheese barley risotto was generous in serving but light on the creamy department, with the salty undertone of goat cheese providing most of the flavor. And while I didn't care much for the broccoli rabe due to its bitterness, my mom enjoyed it and felt that the bitterness, in fact, rounded the entire entree nicely.

Much like the appetizer menu, the dessert menu didn't exactly shine in the way that would lead me to decide between two or three possible options. The one dessert that particularly stood out, however, was the Zeppollis ($8). Now, after my dining experience at DeepWood, one of my rules was to never order donuts (or anything that resembled donuts) at restaurants ever again. But these zeppollis sounded far too good, and I needed something sweet to clean my palate after all the seafood. The five balls of fried dough encased in cinnamon sugar could honestly be the best donuts I've had in a long time. With a slightly crispy exterior but a warm and soft interior, I could have easily inhaled all five as presented, but the accompanying chocolate ganache sealed its deliciousness.

Truth be told, I did not walk into Due Amici with high expectations after seeing mixed reviews and the lack of eye-catching menu items. Moreover, I was forewarned of the restaurant's reputation as a place "to be seen" and less so a place to actually enjoy the cooking. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the winning mixture of flavors and ingredients that the chef and the rest of the kitchen staff put out. Even though portion sizes should never be a factor to take into consideration while dining at a place like Due Amici, I was equally impressed by the amount of food that was placed in front of us. A highly satisfying meal -- to say the least. An eatery I can see myself returning to sometime in the near future as well.

Rating: ****

Due Amici
67 E. Gay St
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 224-9373

Due Amici on Urbanspoon

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