Review: Amedeo's in Little Italy
After a long, self-imposed hiatus, Midnight Sun contributor Owl Meat is back with Tipsy Tuesdays.
Psst ... I found an oasis among the dining hubbub of Little Italy. Don't tell anyone.
Osteria da Amedeo popped up on my radar a few months ago. It's referred to as a wine bar, but it isn't really. it's an osteria, an Italian tavern that serves simple food and wine.
So much of Amedeo's charm is about what it is not. Not an oenophile snobfest. No oo'ing, cooing, or gurgling over Chateau Loutre Songeuse. If you wanna get your Jäger on with your brahs, go someplace else.
Wanna troll the skankosphere? Not here. Wanna slip into an appletini-induced coma? Nope. It's a normal bar that feels complementary to the LI scene, one where there are no gimmicks, forced vibe, or cliché decorations.
When fellow Little Italians recommended it, I asked, "that place where Pepino's was?" That was the last osteria in the neighborhood. I put it off because I couldn't see how they could do much with that dive bar.
But I dropped by and was blown away by the transformation. Then I did something selfish - I kept it to myself. For a while.
Owner Ahmad Ebrahimpour has stripped the nicotine-colored walls painted with nicotine and the grim sooty ceiling. Instead, he has restored a handsome white tin ceiling. There is much exposed brick and dark wood. And there is even a charming little backroom suitable for conspiracies, trysts, and hullabaloos.
On my first visit Ebrahimpour was bartending. He was friendly, unpretentious, and laid back. The three regular bartenders have a similar demeanor. The crowd, never throbbing, skews younger than the hip-impaired bocce ballers you might imagine.
Conversation can happen here. People pop in for a drink and move on home or to another destination in the neighborhood. It's not a tourist joint. The scene at Amedeo's is whatever people bring to it on a given night.
I've watched Roy Halladay throw a no-hitter, listened to a woman talk about her baby's enormous head, kept up with Michigan (or was it Minnesota?) football, and ran into some old friends, all while on a grappa safari.
Grappa is a brandy made from pomace - what's left after grapes are pressed for wine. Bad grappa is often justly compared to kerosene. But these grappas are good to excellent. Banfi is smooth and reminiscent of many Balkan brandies like rakia. It even resembles Slivovitz in aroma.
Nonino is a real treat, with a pleasant seductive aroma of exotic fruits, like passion fruit and watermelon Starburst.
I also tried their liqueurs. The Sicilian limoncello at Amedeo's had an uncommon creamy taste and texture. Among the best I have ever tasted. Cynar is an Italian bitter liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants, with artichoke as the dominant flavor. Fernet-Branca is unforgettable, like a mule kick of bitter pleasure.
The wine selection is respectable, focusing on affordable Italian wines. They plan to keep the food selection basic. Panini are $7 (there are seven combinations in all), a plate of olives and cheese is $4, and bruschetta is also $4.
Ebrahimpour said that he is planning to increase his stock of eccentric liquors. I hope he does. Other suggestions: a printed list of wines by the bottle and glass. (Currently they are going through a process of natural selection, listening to customers before making a set list.) Wi-Fi, while not essential, would be nice.
And some better beers. I know it's not a beer bar, but how about an IPA at least? Until then, Moretti la Rossa will have to do.
Amedeo's is part of a gentle metamorphosis in Little Italy. The addition of Isabella's, Max's Empanadas, and now Amedeo's adds variety for residents.
And tourists seem to love it too, if only because they feel it's the total Little Italy experience - rubbing elbows with locals and getting that East Coast ethnic experience that you don't get at the Olive Garden in Omaha. As one said to me, "I always wanted to hang with some pie-zones."
Amedeo's is at 301 S. Exeter Street. It's open from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. weekdays, and from 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call 410-727-8191.