My friends from New York and Jersey are constantly bemoaning the lack of quality Italian food in this blessed hamlet. This comes as no surprise to me, as the Big Apple is the epicenter of all things Italian in this country, and practically every street has a little storefront dive that turns out quality fare that ranks with some of the best fare America has to offer. I have long been in search of such a place until recently when some fellow bloglodytes turned me on to Amici Signature located smack in the heart of booming downtown Carrollton. After checking out their menu online at www.amicisignature.com, I made reservations accordingly, and set out one rainy evening, accompanied by my lovely wife the Rock Star in search of the lost Sicilian chord of gastronomy. (Or something like that.)
Motoring down a busy thoroughfare, we soon discovered to our horror that we had missed our exit and had to double back, in which case there was no way we would make our appointed time. Not to worry, a quick phone call put us in touch with very efficient management, who assured us they would find us a table without delay when we arrived. Score one big customer service point for Amici, and we hadn't even set foot in the place yet. Also, before I begin with the review proper, let me tell you that parking in downtown Carrollton at night is a definite issue; please leave plenty early as the shop has no lot of it's own and you will have to search the streets and nearby community lot for a space to park your buggy.
Amici Signature is a tiny storefront New York style, with a downstairs foyer and little else but a restroom, with an old staircase leading up to the cozy dining room. (It seats only 48 patrons; plan accordingly.) Romantic low lighting and lots of wood, with an open kitchen, and not a lot of room between the individual tables. In short, very, very homey and inviting, much like dining in an artist's downtown loft. As promised, we were seated immediately and turned our attentions to the smallish menu, which featured an insert with the daily specials.
Like many people, the Rock Star likes all things cheese and all things bread, so we decided to start our meal with the cheese bread. In short order, Miguel our waiter brought us two delicious, crusty half-loafs topped with just the right amount of cheese and thinly sliced tomatoes. We quickly devoured every last morsel. Since this was an Italian joint, my wife was hoping for anchovies on her side Caesar salad, but none appeared, and therefore she was slightly disappointed. (Perhaps they are on the more pricey ala carte version; I didn't ask.) I was delighted by the cream of mushroom soup I selected as started, the rather gamy flavor mixing quite nicely with the cheese bread, and I realized that Chef Bartolino Cocuzza really knew his onions.
(No, there were no onions in the soup, it's just a figure of speech.)
Our repast was leisurely paced, which suited us just fine, and in due course, the entrees arrived. The Rock Star had been vacillating when making her main selection, but at my suggestion, she decided on the Shrimp Carbonara: Fettucini with proscuitto, ham, bacon, shrimp, eggs, garlic, and parsley tossed with grated parmesan cheese, a combination that left her positively high with Sicilian satisfaction. My own choice was the Veal Scallopini: wonderfully tender thin-sliced veal sauteed in a lemon butter sauce, which was heavenly in and of itself and really didn't need the two (undercooked) grilled shrimp presented alongside a dollop each of mashed potatoes, corn, and very good sugar snap peas. Amici is BYOB, which helps keep costs down, and the bottle of inexpensive French pinot noir (Burgandy: pinot is the premier red grape of that region) we brought paired well with our choices. Since we had dined on cheese bread and starters prior to our main course, we couldn't even think of making room for dessert.
Like most great restaurants, Amici Signature believes in the tag team approach to service, and Miguel and the ebullient Carol made us feel quite at home. In particular, Carol took the extra time and trouble to make us feel like we were the most important people in the place, the kind of personalized touch that can make the difference in a customers repeat patronage. (Having such a top-notch chef doesn't hurt either.)
I can't wait to tell my Northeast friends about Amici Signature, and feel certain they will beat a path to their door in search of a better gastronomic mousetrap. You should visit as well, and remember:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!