Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar
BY MIKE PUCKETT
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Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar is located in West Houston off Westheimer, not far from the Galleria. Amalfi has had its fair share of accolades and press and many people have told me about this wonderful Italian restaurant.
When you first walk in, the first thing you notice are the beautiful colors. They have done a very good job with the design. Everything here – from the art to the beautifully-tiled fire-brick oven – puts you in the mood for some authentic Amalfi Italiano.
We head over to the bar and immediately start talking to the well-versed bartender. She explains that the chef/ owner, Giancarlo Ferrara, is originally from Salerno, the largest city on Italy’s Amalfi coast. This is where Amalfi’s gets its inspiration for fresh seafood, vivid citrus, and lovely olive oil. I can’t wait for my first visit to the beautiful Amalfi, even if it is just through the spirit of food!
We got a couple of Peroni’s to start and looked over the vast selection of specialty cocktails. We ordered the Amalfi Sunset: Grey Goose Vodka, Aperol, ruby red grapefruit juice, and agave nectar seasoned with dashes of old-fashioned bitters. So good and perfectly mixed! We also sampled the Sensazioni al Limone, made with Limoncello liqueur, Hammer & Sickle Vodka, fresh lemon juice, and mint leaves – all served in a sugar-rimmed glass. Both cocktails were highly recommended by the bartender and now they come highly recommended by me.
We sat down at our table and it was like the chefs table. From there, I could see a kitchen area where they were rolling up some bread sticks and cooking our pizza at the same time. I always enjoy the Chef’s table environment.
To go with our small plates, we ordered a glass of a special wine recommended by our server. The Terra de Lavoro was divine: deep purple in color, smoky aromas of earth and black fruits complemented with undertones of tobacco and graphite.
Our first small plate was delivered and it was not small at all! The Mozzarella Di Bufala E San Daniele, always a favorite of mine, consisted of imported Buffalo Mozzarella served with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and prosciutto.
Just after, we received the second app and my jaw just dropped! The Tagliere di Salumi Creminelli is a selection of Artisan Creminelli salami, including Sopressa Veneta, salami with truffles, Wild Boar Cacciatore, Coppa, Prosciutto San Daniele, Bresaola, Bocconcini di Mozzarella di Bufala, and veggie pickles served on a cutting board. Need I say more? Definitely order this and thank me later!
We decided to put Amalfi to the test to find out just how fresh the seafood was, so we ordered the Crudo al Taglio: a selection of sliced raw fish including tonno (Pacific big-eye tuna), dentice (Texas Gulf red snapper) and riccola (Hawaiian amberjack). This irresistible medley was served with capers, lemon, oregano, olive oil, and parsley. Another must-order dish! The fish was super fresh, and along with the oregano and olive oil, tasted unique to my palate but amazing! Giancarlo, buddy, you passed the test with flying colors!
If you have been following me for awhile, then you know I have a deep love for pizza… but who doesn’t, right? So, we ordered the Diavola Pizza, a gorgeous pizza pie made with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, hot Soppressata, basil, and served with extra-virgin olive oil. We got to watch it get made – part of what makes the experience here so great. And look at the photography! The thinly-sliced pizza was delightfully rich and crispy. Each bite was followed by another and another. Truly intoxicating. If you’ve never had gourmet pizza, then order one of these. You may never look at a slice of pizza the same way again.
Now, I can’t say that octopus is my favorite dish, but our server highly recommended it. And boy, I tell ya what! I have been proven off, once again. This is why I like to let the servers and chefs decide my meals – I get to try new things that I would not even consider otherwise. And many times, I have enjoyed things that I never thought I would. Come to find out, the people who work at the restaurant and cook the wonderful food actually know what the restaurant does best. Who would have thought?
So, enough of my preaching, the Polpo Arrostito Con Patate e Peperonata is a Mediterranean octopus roasted with rosemary, garlic and fine herbs served over sautéed fingerling potatoes, peperonata, and arugula pesto. Simply amazing! The octopus had absolutely the freshest taste and a smoky flavor that was simply delightful.
Dessert anyone? Yes, please. We decided on the Tortino al Cioccolato Fondente: a rich, dark chocolate cake with a white chocolate heart and Recioto wine sauce – sweet sweet, sweet! You have to be kidding me!
We also enjoyed the Babà al Limoncello, a rich cake soaked in Limoncello and filled with Zabaglione Cream. I think it’s one of my new favorite desserts – the Zabaglione Cream is out-of-this-world!
Well, I admit I had high expectations when I made this journey to this beautiful coastal paradise. And Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar is everything I had been told and more. Everything – from the cocktails to the small plates to the desserts – was beautifully presented and the flavors were a step above the rest. If you love Italian cuisine, then Amalfi’s is definitely a must-try.
PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE PUCKETT
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