Open Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 5-11:30 p.m. Sunday, 4-10 p.m. Closed Monday. Major credit cards accepted. No reservations except large groups. Customers in wheelchairs should call ahead for accommodations.
The Amalfi Italiano Ristorante, reputed to be a friendly place of considerable charm and good cooking, sounded like a sure bet for a family Sunday supper. It was. But getting there was not half the fun.
We snaked our way through the treeless commercial district east of Rockville Pike before coming to the Amalfi, incongruously located among supply firms and bland, one-story office buildings.
We forgot the colorless neighborhood the moment we entered the restaurant, which is small, informal and electrically decorated wtih wine bottles, ship wheels, tulip-shaped ceiling fixtures and an Old World map. The newness of the place is softened by candlelight coming from every table.
We learned that the Amalfi has been in business for several years, but came under new management last February. Now operated by two Italians, the menu has changed considerably to include some authentic dishes.
The service - attentive but not fawning - made us feel at home from the start. The waiters were professional and calm, and ours had a sardonic sense of humor that even the kids appreciated.
The appetizers, ranging from a dollar to $3.50, included several tempting things like mussel soup, white beans and fried zucchini. We stayed with more mundane items.
My 8-year-old will never be satisfied with Mom's baked picnic hams after tasting the paper-thin Prosclutto that accompanied her cantaloupe. My husband and I shared an antipasto - a wise move, as it turned out, since the portion was a meal in itself. The antipasto included salami, artichoke hearts, olives, tuna, ham, anchovies and onion, but I thought the dish was spoiled somewhat because it was served on a bed of iceberg letture. The extra cost for Romaine or Boston lettuce would have been worth it.
One of the girls' salads was also made with iceburg lettuce, but since most kids seem to prefer it, she was happy.
Never did I would rave about pizza. But the children, depsite our urgings to try something "interesting," wanted to split a large pizza with peperoni, at $4.50. It was wonderful - no gluey gobs of tomato sauce, just lots of cheese, garlic and other well-blended spices on a light, crisp crust.
It was so different, in fact, from the usual pizza, that the kids didn't care for it too much. But we took home what they didn't finish and ate it the next night.
My husband took a gamble when the ordered veal parmigiana, at $4.75, since this dish at other restaurants often turns out to be a tough piece of veal floating in tomato sauce and canned grated cheese. The Amalfi veal was delicate and flavorful, altogether a rewarding meal.
My own choice was mussels - still in the shell - in a clear, herby white sauce over linguine, $4.50. Another gold star for the Amalfi for this beautifully simple dish. Dipping Italian bread in the sauce after the pasta and mussels are gone is strongly urged.
A list of specials of the day were attached to our menus, but most were not available, perhaps because it was Sunday. This was probably just as well since the prices were higher - lobster diavolo cost between $10 and $12, roast veal and soft shell crabs were about $7.
We could tell the kids are growing up because they now like connoli for dessert a little better than popsicles. They declared the Amalfi's connoli - a multi-layered pastry filled with creamy custard and little bits of chocolate and citron - to be the best yet.
Our meal, including tip, came to $32.35.
The Amalfi, 12307 Wilkins Ave. 7707888. Open Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m. Saturday, 5-11:30 p.m. Sunday, 4-10 p.m. Closed Mondays. Major credit cards accepted. No reservations except large groups. Customers in wheelchairs should call ahead for accommodations.