Amici is a decent, hard working Italian north of the outer ring road. As is the way with these things, it’s authenticity is effortlessly underlined by the fact all of the staff (at least the ones we saw) speak Italian, at least to each other. This only serves to ‘add to the vibe’, as it were.
Like most other languages from the Continent, Italian always sounds to me as though it is being spoken with great pace and passion and meaning, its pitch rising and falling, punctuated by abrupt, intense crescendos, accompanied all the while by bold gesticulation, which seems the exact opposite to the plodding indifference of the English language, especially as characterised by the northern the accent (of which I am very proud, by the way).
When we arrived at Amici just after 5pm on a Tuesday evening, the place was all asparkle and we were warmly greeted at the door by a very well dressed Italian man, who showed us straight to our table and smiled politely as he did so, gesturing for the waitress to begin service. Immediately after that, he launched into a prolonged speech (in Italian), which was directed at one of the other staff and which was full of all the verve and zeal already mentioned and which sounded to me as though it might be some kind of criticism, or perhaps that he was outlining some problem which needed addressing but in any case, he seemed to be conveying his meaning in no uncertain terms. After he had finished speaking, both he and the recipient of this monologue paused and looked at each other just long enough for there to be a certain amount of tension and eventually both of them just shrugged, pulled faces and went on with whatever they were doing.
Perhaps it was a criticism or perhaps they were just talking about the football scores. Who knows. My point (belaboured as you might think it) is this sort of stuff all adds to the theatre of the experience. And that’s precisely what we want when we go out to these places: excitement and frenzy and zest. This affirmation of all things European even extends to their website, where you will find sepia images of suited Italians wearing oversized sunglasses or riding mopeds without helmets and so on.
Before we even get into the details of the dishes we ate, I have to say this sense of passion was reflected in the food.
We began with the bread selection (£3.50), a large basket filled with a selection of thick cut slices, several flat breads and some needle-thin bread sticks, which the children loved. On this particular night, I was dining out with three of them (two mine), my partner being unable to join us.
We also ordered a dish of olives (£3.50), which gave us enough to pick at while we considered out options. Bottles of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar are provided on each table for pouring and dipping.
In addition, I ordered the chicken pate (£7.95), which came with Altumura bread and homemade jam and reminded me I need to start eating more of this stuff at home, because the jam alone was lovely: soft, not too sweet but with a nicely rounded citrus edge. The pate was a delight.
The children had an orange juice each (£7.20 for the three of them), while I felt the need to order a beer (Peroni, by the bottle, at £3.70), which I think should be obligatory for any parent taking three children out to dinner. In fact, if I were prime minister, I’d pass a law making it so.
Moving on, however, appetites well and truly whet, I ordered Vitello Pallard, which is thin-cut steak (£16.95), which came with lots of mixed salad cut through with broad shavings of parmesan and which is one of those alluringly simple dishes - my only criticisms being the steak was a little overdone in place and the salad, while nice and fresh, would have benefited from a little extra saltiness, perhaps some sliced anchovies.
The children ordered margarita pizzas from the children’s menu, which they all liked immensely and, having half-inched one slice, can testify they were more than good. The children’s menu option came it at £8.50 per head and included ice-cream as a dessert.
Usually, at this point in the meal, I realise my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I have, in fact, eaten way too much to even contemplate a pudding but being ‘on duty’, I went for tiramisu (£5.95), which was light and fluffy and layered in satisfying flavours of cream and coffee (and possibly a murmur of rum in the background). In any case, it was the perfect end to a great meal.
My other half being unable to attend, I decided to chance my arm and ask whether they would be able to plate anything up for me to take away and after a little horse-trading over which dishes might best lend themselves to this, I opted for a Pizza London: chicken, Greenland prawns, rocket and a touch of chilli (£11.95), which they boxed up just in time for us leaving, along with a generous slice of cheesecake (£5.95).
The final bill came to £101.36 but that included a 10 per cent service surcharge. We could argue all day long over service charges. I have to say that service was impeccable and so they probably deserved it. However, that said, in general, I am against service charges because it all but removes the act of rewarding good service, unless of course you want to pay extra twice.
That said, it’s a tiny grumble and one not directed at Amici but the restaurant trade in general.
Overall, it’s nice to know there’s life and passion beyond the outer ring road. Amici’s motto is ‘Good food with friends’ and it more than lives up to that.
Address: 592-596 Harrogate Road, Moortown, LS17 8DP
Tel: 0113 266 6231
Opening times: lunch available Mon to Fri noon-2.30pm/dinner 5pm-10pm; Sat-Sun 12pm-10pm