Monday, August 15, 2011

Amico's: Sorry, Nolensville, I'm Outing Your Secret Pizza Fave

Posted By on Mon, Aug 15, 2011 at 5:51 AM

Amicos-Home_07.jpg
Last Friday night, we cranked up Guy Clark and Tracy Nelson on the car stereo, packed the little Pinks in the back seat, and braved Nolensville Road for a venture into the rapidly developing Lenox Square area. Mrs. Pink had seen a sign for a Godfather's Pizza, a touchstone of our Rutherford County childhoods, which these days amounts to a unicorn sighting. Alas, we pulled in only to discover this Godfather's is part of a gas-station convenience store. It was an offer we could refuse.

But Mrs. Pink's sister, Madame Rouge, said her husband had raved about a pizza place somewhere in Nolensville. He couldn't remember the name but thought it started with an "A." After minutes of fruitless searching, we were about to turn around in metropolitan Nolensville and head back when the kids spotted a sign in a little strip mall on the right: Amico's.

From the outside, Amico's New York Pizza & Italian Restaurant is nothing special: You may well drive past it unless you look for the handful of tables out front. Inside — that's a different story. It's less the decor than the warm, welcoming mood: Everyone we encountered, from the greeter to the servers, was as inviting as could be, as if fate were steering us toward our true destination instead of Plan B.

The food cinched that impression. Mrs. Pink's cheese calzone ($8.50) arrived as a huge, golden, neatly folded half-circle, crisp on the outside, a torrent of gooey ricotta, mozzarella and Romano cheeses inside. The meat lover's special ($15.50 medium), which Mme. Rouge was taking home for several meals this week, was distinguished by spicy sliced meatballs on top: I didn't try the crust, but everyone else said it was pleasantly crunchy on the bottom and slightly chewy above — my favorite.

I went for chicken wings (20 for $13.99), something I rarely order at pizza places because they're usually an afterthought, and hence lousy. These, however, were terrific: the sauceless mild had that essential pop to the bite and sweet, juicy flesh underneath, while the hot wings leaned heavier on flavor than heat — some of the best I've had in months. Good thing I went for the 20-piece order, as my junior wingman left a heap of denuded bones next to his kid-size pizza (which could have fed an adult).

Amico's had much more to explore — not just pies such as a Pizza Gia (eggplant, ricotta and mozzarella) and a fresh tomato-sauce pizza made with crushed plum tomatoes, but also a full menu of checkered-tablecloth favorites such as manicotti, chicken francese, baked ziti, and penne with vodka sauce. The owners, Julie and Anthony Amico, came to Middle Tennessee about a year ago from South Florida, where they previously ran an Italian restaurant. Amico's has only been open since January, but we heard other customers greeted by name as they arrived to pick up their takeout.

As if the night couldn't get better, we almost swerved off the road when we saw a sign for — what? Could it be? Right here, in Middle Tennessee? Indeed it was. But that's a post for later this week ...

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