I've been a lucky bastard since I moved to my new place considering all of the awesome restaurants that are now a 5-minute drive away -- like Joe's Noodle House, Amici Miei, India Grill, Passage to India, Faryab, David Craig, Ray's the Classics, and uh...Hooters. The wings are really good, I swear! I've probably been to Amici Miei a lot more than the others. I'll usually go a little out of my way coming home from work to pick up some takeout.
It was about a year ago that I first went to Amici Miei. I'll admit that the only reason I ever went there was because they suddenly appeared on Washingtonian's 100 Best (Yes, I have read the latest 100 Best and like the rest of you I'm a little blown away by some of the restaurants that were included this year, but that's another topic and one of my favorite restaurants, Il Pizzico, was missing again). I don't remember much from one year ago, let alone one month ago, but one of the things I do remember was how good the service was.
The service never seems to suffer no matter how busy the restaurant is. One night when Amy and I stopped by sans reservation, the host was able to squeeze us in and despite the restaurant being almost completely full, our service was spotless and the server still managed to maintain an amicable attitude despite probably being overloaded with tables.
Amici Miei is a neighborhood restaurant. I say that because it's family friendly and inexpensive, and not necessarily because it's easy to get a table. During the week, you shouldn't have a problem getting a table, but in the weekend, you might wait a while and you're wise to make a reservation. But even then, sometimes you might find yourself out of luck depending on the size of your party. I tried calling last weekend with a party of six on a Saturday, and there was nothing available.
With Italian food, you all know that I'm all about the pasta. Amici Miei's standout pasta dish is their rich, homemade veal and chestnut agnolotti. At $14.95, it's the perfect winter dish, and comes served in a scant pool of veal and rosemary reduction sauce. Another favorite of mine is the gnocchi with pillow-y soft potato dumblings topped with a thick boar and tomato ragu. I also appreciate that most of the pastas on the menu are homemade. But that isn't always a good thing in the case of the lasagna, with homemade lasagna noodles that have a tendency to get lost with all the cheese because they're thin and soft -- it just comes off as overcooked to me.
I've found that the entrees can be a mixed experience. As a basic rule I have to add some salt, which is possibly because my palate is becoming more immune to the flavor of salt, and since there are salt and pepper shakers on the table I guess it's good for the more health conscious. There's almost always a seafood special available like a whole branzino or some other type of sea bass, which is good, but not much different than how I can make it myself at home. In general though, I've always found the seafood dishes like the trout and turbot to be fresh, flakey and flavorful. Sometimes the accompaniments just don't seem to have a lot of thought put into them, like in the case of the green lentils that come on the side of the turbot that just don't seem to belong on the plate.
Veal is done very well by the chef. Both veal dishes come with a creamy polenta on the side, which is bland on it's own, but when you mix it with the other ingredients on the plate, it can be heavenly. As any neighborhood restaurant should, the chef keeps things interesting with an extensive specials menu. There are usually 2 or 3 choices for specials for each course which keep the regulars coming back.
I regret to say that I typically steer away from desserts at Amici Miei. I've been able to try most of them, and they're usually either dry or lacking the sweetness that's needed to complete my meal. Good examples of this are the ricotta cheesecake which is more cakey than creamy and a pear tarte with a dry crust and bland filling. It's too bad because I so love desserts with pears! If you find yourself craving something sweet, you can't go wrong with the tiramisu which is a traditional version or a tiramisu and is bound to please just about anyone. (Or just take an alternative route and order the cheese plate.)
Our bills for the two of us are usually under $100 and that's usually with a mid-range priced bottle of wine, dessert, and coffee which makes definitely qualifies Amici Miei in the cheap eats category.
Mon-Sat: 11:30 AM to 2:30PM
Sun-Thu: 5 PM to 10 PM
Fri-Sat: 5 PM to 10:30 PM
Dress Code: Casual
Parking: Plenty of parking at the strip mall.
Closest Metro: You'll have to drive.
Reservations: Taken and recommended on weekends.
Baby-Child friendly rating: 3 Diapers. The restaurant is very child friendly and it's common to see people there with their children.