Amici’s — out of sight, but keep them in mind
By Tom Baker
Finding Amici’s can be tough — if you ask around, you’ll probably have to mention the place that was La Pergola, then Barbie’s and finally the short-lived Millie’s Philly Cheesesteaks.
“You know — the place behind Sherwood Florist,” I say.
Some still look at me skeptically — “There’s a restaurant there?” Indeed, and in its fourth reincarnation in a decade, Amici’s, although hidden between a flower shop and a used car lot, may represent the best chance yet of success at a location that has struggled to firmly establish itself since the closing of La Pergola in 2008.
Opened this past summer by Kent Kumbroch, he and his crew have done a nice job of reinventing both the interior and exterior of the restaurant. Outside there is ample patio space with a fresh logo on the side of the building, and inside the fresh paint, updated bar area, and featured local artists with pieces available for purchase provide a cozy and modern feel. A varied and hip playlist helps seal the deal in regard to ambiance. To say that it’s cozy, however, is an understatement — the inside seats approximately 20-30, along with stools on both sides of the “L” shaped bar.
Amici’s serves breakfast on the weekends, and lunch and dinner seven days a week featuring a menu of sandwiches, appetizers, salads and pizzas. They do so with a combination of silver, china and compostable items — plates and coffee mugs are china, while cups (for wine, beer and water) and most carry-out containers are compostable (likely the result of having limited storage space or washing capacity that many larger restaurants enjoy). Amici’s takes pride in being as “green” as possible, and according to their website try to source a portion of their food from local purveyors. Nothing on the menu was readily identifiable as such, but it’s good to see the awareness. They’re also vegan and veggie friendly, offering cheese and meat substitutes on several items.
Service is friendly and adequate, however varying slightly depending on the shift. Evening service tends to be more accommodating, while at breakfast things are a bit less enthusiastic. Nothing has been problematic per se, however being given exactly one creamer with your coffee and having a check set down without even a passing glance is off putting. Breakfast is generally very good though, and they offer omelets, wraps, standards like Eggs Benedict and Biscuits and Gravy. You’ll also find special items such as their take on Huevos Rancheros, and the Baby Boy Stuffed French Toast, a peanut butter stuffed French toast topped with banana pudding. The Biscuits and Gravy were notable, featuring Italian sausage, which I think I now prefer. I also eagerly polished off my Huevos, although the crispy tricolor tortilla chips were a bit awkward to eat with fork and knife.
Our dinner experiences have been positive, with salads and pizzas both making the grade. Their Veggie DeeLite salad is all spinach with fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and house-made Dijon Vinaigrette, and their pizza is excellent. I’m a wheat/multigrain kind of guy when it comes to bread and Amici’s multigrain pizza crust is some of the best I’ve had — quite possibly the best around here period. The sauce is more substantial than some, with noticeable bits of onion and tomato, and you can go with red or white sauce, and vegan cheese if you so desire. Their Butternut Squash Appetizer had nice flavor but was a bit disappointing in regard to the presentation — I was expecting cubed squash and some color on the plate vs. the drab pureed squash and cheese on the slightly stale side and barely toasted “grilled artisan bread.” Luckily the pizza made up for the somewhat disappointing appetizer.
Dinner is further complemented by the full bar with impressive draft beer selection and small but worthy wine list that features a rotating higher-end selection — only $40 last time, certainly not cost prohibitive — for those looking to splurge. Offering beers with names like Left Hand, Dogfish Head, Breckenridge and Bells, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a nice pint, albeit in a plastic cup. Wines on the list are all on the lower end of the spectrum, but they include some unique labels like the bargain Spanish red, Evodia.
The biggest hurdle for Amici’s will be the temperature of both the food and the dining room. The small space gets warm and cold quickly depending on the season and whether or not the door adjacent to the dining room is locked. Their size also works against them in regard to food temperature. As far as I can tell, if your order doesn’t go to the table (or into your hands for carry-out) directly, as has been the case on a couple of morning visits and our lone carry-out, something will end up lukewarm.
Overall however, Amici’s is a laid back and cozy place for a few drinks and a pizza with friends. It’s contemporary, friendly, and offers a focus on quality as well as ensuring that winos, beer geeks, carnivores and herbivores all have something from which to choose.
Amici’s is located at 1122 E. Dorothy Lane in Kettering and is open 7 days a week. (937) 732-8356.
Reach DCP food critic Tom Baker at TomBaker@DaytonCityPaper.com.