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Volume 69, Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Arts & Entertainment

D'Amico's authentic on the go

Feeding frenzy

Bjorn Gudmundsson

With its red-checkered tablecloths and perfectly organized clutter of imported Italian foods, DiAmicois Italian Market Cafe´ is the kind of Italian restaurant that could exist anywhere in the world except Italy. This isnit to say that the food is inauthentic. Whatis served here at this popular Rice Village eatery is authentic Italian-American cuisine at its best.

A combination restaurant/deli/gourmet grocery store, DiAmicois concept is just one of the things that set it apart from other places, according to owner Nash DiAmico.

"Weire one of the few places around town that make our own fresh pasta in house every day," DiAmico said.

Clients seem to appreciate the unique atmosphere, coming from West University and surrounding areas to pack into the small space. They come here primarily for lunch and dinner, but also to buy the fresh pasta by the pound and to shop the shelves for boxes of biscotti, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and everything else needed to stock a pantry with Italian specialties.

Many regular clients choose to dine al fresco in the patio out front, under the sea of yellow umbrellas that shades the tables. Inside, the rather claustrophobic section between shelves of canned goods gives the impression of having dinner in a convenience store. The main dining area is a narrow stretch of tables where bottles of olive oil stand in lieu of Chianti-bottle candleholders. Travel posters paper the walls on one side, while on the other, a rustic wood-fired pizza oven is inset into a terracotta-toned mural of a vineyard. 

At lunchtime, the patio usually overflows with soccer moms sopping up marinara sauce and Medical Center office workers having a quick meal. They all gather here for the daily steamtable specials available only at lunch. Consisting of your choice of three of the assortment of 12 items which might include chicken lasagna or pasta primavera, lunch at DiAmicois costs only $5.95. Sandwiches like the Italian sub, or the Milano Panini with grilled eggplant and sauteed mushrooms on focaccia bread, ($6.95 each) are popular alternatives to the steamtable lunch. Also popular are the pizzas, made in the wood-burning oven. Topped with ingredients like smoked mozzarella and sliced artichoke hearts, they feature a thin, crispy crust and range in price from $6.95 to $10.95.

The dinner menu is more traditionally Italian, with a wide selection of pasta dishes and house favorites. Appetizers such as the antipasto plate ($6.95) and Crab Claws DiAmico ($8.95) make excellent starters. Pastas range from simple, homey dishes like spaghetti and meatballs ($6.50), to more complex dishes such as Capellini Sicilian Style ($7.50). Angel hair pasta is topped with marinara sauce, ricotta cheese, sauteed eggplant and capers. Most pasta dishes are good bets here. 

However, steer clear of dishes like Wild Mushroom and Walnut Tortellini ($9.95), which is larded with a heavy sauce of butter and cheese. 

DiAmicois is a fixture on the Rice Village dining scene and a neighborhood favorite, featuring hearty Italian-American fare in a casual, old-world setting.


5510 Morningside Dr.

The verdict: Have a nice meal on the patio, or take it home and cook it yourself.

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