Pictured here are Pat and Kim Nicholl, owners of Amici in Graham. Photo by Joe Barrentine/The News Tribune
EDITOR'S NOTE: Drop-In Dining is a restaurant dining report where reporters drop in unannounced and sample the food, on TNT's dime, then report what the scene and the food were like. Have a suggestion for a Drop-In Dining feature? E-mail us at email@example.com.
Amici Italian Eatery
Where: 9807 224th St. E., No. 100, Graham
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays
Price range: $-$$ Entrees up to $24
Contact: 253-847-1500, www.iloveamici.com
By Craig Hill
It's probably a safe bet that Graham is one of the few places in the Northwest where you can find Italian cuisine with a taste of Alaska.
At Amici Italian Eatery, tucked away in the Graham Town Center shopping plaza, you'll find everything from brick oven pizza to pasta to prime rib to fish and chips.
That's right, fish and chips.
"I know, fish and chips isn't Italian," owner Pat Nicholl said. "But there's a reason we serve it."
Fish and chips is a nod to his family's restaurant heritage.
Nicholl and his wife, Kim, used to be minority owners in a seafood restaurant and a steakhouse in Juneau. They sold their shares and moved to Graham, where they opened Amici in April 2005.
The Nicholls recently added the fish and chips ($11.95) to an already robust menu using the same recipe as their former Alaska restaurant.
While Nicholl says the fish and chips have been a hit, when we dropped in last week we stuck mostly to the trademark Italian fare.
The scene: Not quite half full and dimly lit, Amici proved to be a quiet and peaceful place to enjoy the dinner. An open view into the kitchen gives diners a chance to watch the chefs at work.
Menu highlights: Nicholl says the most popular menu items are the tortellini ($13.95), the garlic chicken alfredo ($15.95) and the prime rib ($18.95 for the 10-ounce petite cut or $23.95 for the 16-ounce full cut). The prime rib is roasted in Italian herbs for more than 24 hours. It is only available Fridays through Sundays after 4 p.m.
Dining notes: Unfortunately for our party of four, we dined on a Thursday night, so the prime rib wasn't an option.
We started with the Sampler Platter ($13.95) and Garlic Lovers Turnovers ($7.95). Both appetizers were too big for us to finish, especially since our meals also came with bread and a salad.
The sampler included fried mozzarella, chicken wings, fried chicken wings and, our favorite, spinach artichoke dip. As for the turnovers – pizza crust stuffed with kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes and cheese – if our party was any smaller they could have served as an entire meal.
The entrees not only supplied a tasty and filling dinner but plenty of leftovers.
The Frutti de Mare ($16.95), or fruit of the sea, is a linguini alfredo loaded with scallops, clams and prawns. Our other pasta order was the cannelloni ($12.95), stuffed with ricotta cheese and sausage.
The best bargain appeared to be the house special ($19.95), a flat-iron steak with coconut crusted prawns and one of the 13 house specialties. We chose the gnocchi – potato dumplings smothered in a tomato cream.
The only disappointment was the 9-inch brick oven Islander pizza ($9.50). The pizza was undercooked robbing it of traditional brick oven pizza attributes such as a crispy crust.
Redemption: The next morning, in a phone conversation with Nicholl, he told me his pizza recipe comes from his father-in-law's Alaskan pizza parlor.
"The best pizza I've ever had," he said.
Considering the sign hanging over the kitchen states "The Chef is Always Right," I decided to give the pizza another shot. I returned a couple of days later and tried the Amici Combo and pepperoni pizzas.
This time the pizzas were prepared perfectly, and delighted everybody at the table.
Dessert: We capped our first visit with raspberry cheesecake and tiramisu ($5.95 each). The decadent slice of cheesecake with a pastry crust was passed around the table impressing each of us.
Nicholl said the cheesecake and tiramisu are made by a local mother-daughter duo and that they plan to open a bakery in Graham.
All you can eat: While we learned that almost all of the dishes at Amici's can put stress on your belt, a wide variety of menu options allow you to put various degrees of pressure on your wallet.
While you can spend $45 for prime rib, an appetizer and an "Amici-tini," you can also get a cheese pizza for $8 or build your own pasta dish for as little as $9.95. And the "Bambini" menu offers mac and cheese, corn dog nuggets, pizza and spaghetti for kids 10 and younger for $3.95.
Amici even offers an all-you-can eat pizza, pasta and salad buffet for $7.95 ($5 for children 10 and younger) daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.