|Amore's Cozze bowl|
I don't take anointing a restaurant with "the best" title of anything lightheartedly. Sure, West Michigan is not Chicago when it comes to a myriad of good selections for authentic Italian food, but, we do have a few options. It took me several trips to the restaurant's website to finally convince myself that this place could be worth the twenty minute drive
from downtown Grand Rapids. First of all, its location is not exactly a hot spot for good eateries in the area. In fact, N. Alpine is not even remotely close on my foodie radar screen.
Right across from the "landmark" Oasis hot tub resort on the barren stretch between Five Mile and Six Mile Road on Alpine Avenue, lies the restaurant that serves up the best Italian food in the area. Hands down. The place is Amore Trattoria Italiana. Forget the fact that my kids were appalled when we drove up to to this restaurant that looks like it had it share of former identities including a pub and a former Brann's Steakhouse. Amore, from an architecture and interior design standpoint is between a charming dive joint and nice family restaurant. The chef/owners have done everything they can within their budget to bring life into the place, from the colorful paintings for sale in the dining room to kitschy Italian memorabilia on the walls. The dark bar/lounge with mostly high tops occupy the southern half of the restaurant while the dining room with banquettes and four-top tables on the built-in dance floor reside on the northern half. But get past all the physical aspects of Amore and get down to the real reason for visiting - the FOOD!
We visited Amore twice in the last month to make sure that our first dining experience wasn't a mere fluke. In fact, this was just the beginning of our love affair with Amore's food. Both times, the food were simply the best tasting Italian food we'd experienced in the city (the former Tuscan Express on 28th St. and Cascade used to hold this distinction for me). From the mussels with a sauce worthy of bread double-dipping, to the decadent home-made pastas to the pizza crust that tastes exactly like it was right off the ovens in Rome to the friendly servers, and even more hospitable hosts, Chef Jenna and her husband, Maurizio Arcidiacono.
What differentiates Amore's food from other Italian restaurants in West Michigan is you get this sense that the chefs actually eat this at home. For most part, theses are recipes from Chef Maurizio's family back in Busto Arsizio, Italy. Their plates are simple Italian dishes done very well and with lots of "amore." That is perhaps the big difference. Food cooked with a lots of love and history cannot be replicated by a line cook or even a chef. Just like grandma's cooking; there's just something about them that makes it come out perfectly. It's the Italian umami.
Here are my favorites: The pizza crust is impeccably Italian. The four-cheese with arugula is wholesome. Any of the homemade pastas are irresistible. I personally love the Bucatini alla Amatriciana. My wife adores the Polpette Della Nonna - one of the best eggplant dishes she has ever had. Portions are West Michigan sizes; so come hungry or be prepared to share plates.
Jenna loves her desserts. Her tiramisu is succulent though a bit sweet for my own taste. I prefer tiramisu with just mascarpone. Jenn adds some cream for a richer cake.
The wine list is purely Italian and all very reasonable. We tried the Savini Riserva (DOCG) and the Brunello di Montalcino which were both incredible wines for the price.
Any recommendations for the restaurant? I can say that some of the plate presentations could be simplified and cleaned up; more specifically, too much lettuce for decorations. Also, I prefer lemon wedges I can squeeze easily versus lemon wheels which are really for decorative purposes.
I highly recommend Amore if you are looking for authentic tasting Italian food. Amore is also a big proponent of using as many local farms and purveyors. If you can get past the appearance of the building, you might just fall in love with this place as much as my family did.
Amore Trattoria Italiana
5080 Alpine Avenue
Comstock Park, MI.
|Special Blossoms from Chef Jenna|
|Large Caprese order|
|Bucatini alla Amatriciana|
|Spaghetti with Mussels|
|House-made Ravioli Del Giorno|
|Gnocchi di Patate|
|Polpette della Nonna|