Sunday, May 8, 2011

Amore Trattoria Italiana, 5080 Alpine Ave - 5/3/11

Searching for a fine Italian restaurant in Grand Rapids is not easy. We came across this name (too long to be a chain), and although we dislike Alpine Avenue as much as we do 28th Street, this place was worth it.

The exterior is unassuming and nothing that would attract attention. Parking is in the rear and the entrance is in the front, with no parking. Walking in, we were charmed by the replica of the La Bocca della Verita, known to us from the movie “Roman Holiday”.
A narrow hallway with nostalgic Italian photos on the walls leads past the bar and its dining area and into the main dining room, where we were seated. A couple of things we didn’t like immediately popped up: crinkly paper laid over tablecloths and seating the next arrivals immediately proximate to us. We soon forgot about the paper and got over the seating choices when we realized that we still had privacy in our high-backed booth, even with people in front and in back of us.

A few booths line the two side walls and nine tables fill out the middle. Abstract artwork is displayed the walls. It’s a subdued, comfortable, classy atmosphere and the service is just as fine.
The large two-sided menu is seasonal and we appropriately experienced the spring edition: appetizers; soups; salads; pizza, with and without tomato sauce; first course pasta; and second course meats. Unfortunately for us, Americans expect huge servings and the restaurant accommodates this predilection.

Unless you are used to bellying up at the Golden Corral Buffet, you cannot eat your way through the coursed menu. Choose between pasta or meat, and among appetizers, soups, or salads. And keep in mind that your server will promptly bring you delicious warm bread, made daily.

We asked for a recommendation for a couple of appetizers and our server suggested the Arancini, and the selection was seconded by someone in the kitchen. They didn’t steer us wrong. Risotto fritters stuffed with fontina cheese were topped with drizzled spinach aioli. We’ve never had as delicious a fritter.
The soups were too interesting to resist and we ordered the Lasagne soup and the Broccoli Parmesan. They were just alright and we should have passed on them and saved room for other courses. The Lasagne soup was enjoyable but nothing particularly special - it did taste like lasagne, however :) The broccoli soup was too salty and was in an uncomfortable place between chunky and pureed.
We both chose our main dishes from the pasta menu. The first was the Rigatoni Della Casa, smoked blue cheese cream sauce and smoked prosciutto tossed with rigatoni. The serving was large but beautifully prepared and presented.
The second selection was crespelle: homemade crepes with baked Italian vegetables, topped with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. If you think crepes are native only to France, this will expand your horizons.
To our surprise, we were brought an on-the-house tiramisu for dessert. If nothing else we’ve said will draw you to this restaurant, this delectable treat should.
Pastas are house-made and the restaurant looks for local sources for ingredients. There is a special lunch menu and an extensive Italian wine list. This is a well-run restaurant serving great food with superb service from knowledgeable servers. The next time you even think about going to a national chain Italian restaurant, head to Amore instead.  

They have a somewhat active presence on Facebook and very light activity on Twitter.

Post Script: We received a very nice response from the restaurant on our review and also an explanation that the owner/chef was not there the night of our visit and did not make the soups.

Amore Trattoria Italiana on Urbanspoon