It’s a place that’s been around since the 1990’s, but I only just ate there a few weeks ago. I don’t know anyone who’s been there, but a lot of people know about it as “the place where they sell great gelato.” Indeed, this restaurant’s greatest claim to fame (at least one of them) is their gelato ”“ but more on that later. It’s called Amici (a-MEE-chee), Italian for friends. It’s along A. Arnaiz Road, which everybody still calls Pasay Road, right beside the Don Bosco school.
Amici’s proximity to a school for elementary and high school boys may partly account for its mess hall-meets-cafeteria look. You enter and then you can’t help but stop smack in the middle of the room, trying to make sense of the system that makes this place work. There doesn’t appear to be any waiters and you wonder why on earth people are forming lines on both sides of the room! There’s a large gelato display case, but wait, you have to quell your stomach’s growls first. All around you, people are walking by with steaming plates of pasta and large pizzas that just beg to be bitten into.
Then it begins to make sense. One side of the room is for ordering pizzas, and the other side is for ordering pastas. Don’t worry about the long queues ”“ the cooks move fast and are more than used to the frenzy. Basically it works like this at the counter: scan the paper menu while in line, give your order to the person behind the counter, fork over your money, and then move back! There’s no time for dawdling. There are too many hungry people behind you. You can hang on to the paper menu, it’s yours to keep as a souvenir so you can study it for what you want to eat next time. Really.
After you’re done ordering, snag a table and wait for your food to arrive. Amici’s décor is kitschy Italian ”“ plenty of knickknacks, food posters, a quasi bar (ooh, let’s get tipsy before class!), pendants and trophies (no doubt from Don Bosco), and really cute plastic chairs in red and yellow (hmm, the colors of the pizza).
When I went to Amici, my party of two and a half adults (me, Bin, and Boo) dug into our four-cheese (4 Formaggi) pizza that consisted of mozzarella, taleggio, parmesan, and brie, which just hit me with its fragrance and taste: a winner which you must order when you come here. Our other pizza was the Piccantina ”“ tomato, mozzarella, spicy salami, black olives, oregano, and olive oil. Each pizza is about 10-inches in diameter, large enough for two confident women or one he-man. Amici’s pizzas are super crispy with thin crusts and plenty of that cheesy trail that gets left behind when you take a bite. Alright, all together now: Mmmm!
Amici offers 25 different types of pasta sauces and about six different kinds of pasta noodles. I nosed my way into the kitchen and found out that they also make a special pasta with roasted red peppers, and one with lemon and olive oil. All the favorites are here, so just choose what you fancy or be adventurous. We tried the Tagliatelle con Salciccia, a red wine sauce with tomatoes, Italian sausage and Parmesan. Our other pasta choice was the Spaghetti Don Bosco, also in tomato sauce, but with plenty of ham and mushrooms. Boo went wild for that. All the pastas are served with garlic bread that is impossible to bite into, so let them be.
Okay, so it was a lot of food for two and a half adults, I admit. But we packed up the leftovers and had them for lunch the next day. There we were lingering over our meal when this waiter (yes, there are a few of them here), came up to us and said, “Last order na po.” Amici closes at 9 am, which is unheard of in this city, I tell you. Of course we refused to leave without having the mightily famous gelato, so we took our place behind the ever-growing line of people who like us, were only half-finished with dinner.
Here’s our gelato, all in a line. One for Papa bear, Mama bear, and Boo bear. Amici’s gelato is unforgettable, and I’m not even talking about the cheap P35/scoop price tag. It’s rich and creamy, with subtle yet concentrated shots of flavor. Ice cream as we know it, turns most flavors into lighter, tamer versions of themselves, a myriad of ingredients drowning in cream. Gelato, a combination of milk, eggs, sugar, and the chosen ingredient (nuts, chocolate, coffee, fresh or dried fruits, alcohol, etc.), is softer, less firmly frozen.
Gelato is also very light compared to ice cream. There is less than six percent of fat per 100 grams. Less fat, but no lack of flavor?! Woohoo! Although freezing often diminishes flavors, somehow gelato tastes more intense than the main ingredient or fruit from which it has been made. The best milk-based gelato is flavored with all-natural ingredients and has a silky consistency. The flavor in gelato comes out because of the composition and harmony of the ingredients. The flavor is not just in your mouth, but also in your throat.
Amici also sells their gelato to go. Half a kilo of gelato is P150, while a kilo is P250-P300 depending on the flavor. My favorites are pistachio, hazelnut, and strawberry (and in that order, please). Bin and I have already bought about 3½ kilos of gelato from Amici since we ate there two weeks ago. Boo loves it too.
All I can say is, if I had a son, I’d send him to school in Don Bosco so that I’d have an excuse to eat at Amici everyday.
Arnaiz Ave. cor C. Roces Ave (Pasong Tamo Ext.), Makati