Wednesday, April 06, 2011

My New Friend - Amici Miei Restaurant

“The best meal I’ve had since we lived in Italy,” was how I described my lunch at Amici Miei to my husband, making him extremely jealous that he hadn’t been with me. Instead, I dined with a friend who’d noticed gluten-free pasta was on the menu of this Potomac, MD neighborhood Italian restaurant, and she immediately thought of me.

Amici Miei, which means “My Friends,” does not have a gluten-free menu. Instead, the menu states they offer gluten-free pasta (for an additional $2.00), and a big sign in the window announces the recent addition of gluten-free pizza that is cooked in the traditional wood-burning oven.

Many of the lunch specials, antipasti, insalate, and secondi are naturally gluten-free or easily modified. For example, when my friend lamented that we couldn’t share a Calamari e Gamberetti (shrimp) appetizer because the squid was fried, our waiter said it could be grilled as an alternative. Presented atop a mound of deep green arugula and sprinkled with parmesan cheese, my first bite of the flawlessly seasoned seafood transported me to the small northern Italian town where my husband and I had lived for two delicious years. The flavors were that true, that fresh. So authentic was the experience of that first mouthful I even imagined I heard my fellow diners speaking Italian. Turns out they actually were.

Restaurant Manager Roberto Deias and Chef Davide Megna both trained in Italy. I didn’t ask, but I think they are both also from Italy because it was Manager Roberto who I overheard speaking Italian with several lunch guests. Roberto studied restaurant management in hotel school on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, an autonomous region of Italy, while Chef Davide studied at a cooking school in the northwestern Piedmont region of Italy. Their menu at Amici Miei embodies tastes from several of Italy’s diverse regions.

For my pasta plate I ordered Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Bucatini is thick-stranded pasta; I was served gluten-free pasta twists in its place. The dish is often associated with Rome in the Lazio region, though the town from which it gets its name, Amatrice, used to lie within the borders of the region of Abruzzo to the east. Its simple tomato-based sauce is traditionally prepared using salt-cured pork jowl. Amici Miei uses bacon that added a rich smoky depth, and tiny bits of hot pepper pleasantly contributed to the customary zing.

Roberto appeared genuinely pleased that I commented about the restaurant’s gluten-free offerings and was aware of the pervasiveness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance. He has a pastry chef brother in Italy who’s told him of the gluten-free demands for products there. Amici Miei serves one gluten-free cake, which sadly I was too full to sample during lunch. My friend’s lunch special included Panna Cotta, which is a cooked cream dessert from the Piemonte region that is naturally gluten-free, though it’s best to always check with the server and/or chef before assuming any menu item is gluten-free.

Amici Miei may easily become my new best friend. I’m making dinner reservations there for next week. Maybe I’ll even take my husband!

Amici Miei
1093 Seven Locks Rd.
Potomac MD 20854
Tel. (301) 545-0966

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