January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

No. 65: Amici Miei

Walk in to this bighearted Italian restaurant for the first time and owner/manager Roberto Deias greets you like a long lost friend. Deias, who’s worked the front of the house at Cafe Milano, Al Tiramisu, and Galileo, is a natural at making diners feel at home—pouring wine, making menu suggestions, and striding up and down the wood-and-black-marble floors keeping an eye on things. Deias’s partner, chef Davide Megna, meanwhile, makes customers feel as though they’re eating in Rome or Amalfi or Sardinia—anywhere but a Rockville strip mall.

From grilled olive-oil-slicked sardines to al dente linguine with baby clams, the flavors ring as true as the welcome. The specials are full of finds, but even common-sounding neighborhood pasta-house fare is given new life. The arugula salads come beautifully dressed; the pizzas are thin crusted and scantily embellished, in the Roman manner, with a lick of mellow tomato sauce and dabs of salty buffalo mozzarella; a fettuccine with veal ragu loses none of its heartiness for not being buried by a blanket of sauce. Instead of the usual cheese-oozing rectangle, lasagna is almost napoleonlike in its delicacy.

The dessert cart delivers, too. Tiramisu and cannoli are fine, but the light pear-almond tart and the not-too-sweet Capri-style chocolate-and-nut cake make the best finishes to an uncommonly good meal.

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