A Superb Dining Experience:
Traditional Italian Dishes, Elegantly Prepared
By Lillian Abbracciamento
Chef/owner, Giovanni-Lavorato, ambles from table to table at III Amici Ristorante, located at 1700 W. Elizabeth Ave. in Linden, and asks his loyal customers for an on-the-spot critique of the dinners before them. And Giovanni is not just asking. He feels the presentation and the accent must be just right. “It’s a matter of pride,” Giovanni explains. “Because, basically, this is not a job. It’s an art.” Hidden away in a half-industrial, half-residential portion of Linden, III Amici is a friendly, warm establishment that features an elegance and sophistication in its atmosphere, cuisine and wine cellar, but is simultaneously casual enough for the entire family to enjoy.
The skylights and greenery lend a sunny Italian glow to the very spacious dining room. Due to the skill and artistry of its charming and knowledgeable chef/owner, the establishment has a special reputation. Word-of-mouth has attracted a regular following to Amici III, including area corporate patrons and the local mayor, a frequent visitor. But the main reason for the excitement is the food. The menu is diversified with unique as well as traditional presentations from throughout Italy. I was informed that the restaurant has become known for its Hot Italian Peppers, which are not on the menu. Those in the know have come to expect them, however, the peppers were hot, but not incendiary, the delicate sweetness still tantalizing the palate. They were sensational.
The breads, actually two kinds, were a perfect complement to the hot peppers. See if Giovanni will divulge the names of the bakeries where they pick up these marvelous breads. The Baby Clams and Linguini, one of the evening’s five or six specials, were a gourmet event, a first, that I would be hard-pressed to forget. Call ahead to see if the baby clams, flown in from Italy when available, are on the menu. These alone would be worth a special trip to savor. They were tender, moist and flavorful; a delicate food for the gods – that’s as close as I can come to describing them.
Giovanni has a rare gift: He brings greatness to his preparations. Even a simple chicken breast was transformed into Chicken Amici, served with artichoke hearts and vinegar peppers in a light garlic sauce. The Salmon Picatta, with lemon and capers, and the Vitello Principessa, veal sauteed with eggplant, prosciutto and peas, were two other specials that deserve prominent mention. The steaks are prepared with many inventive collaborations. III Amici also offers a wine bar concept in that some of the best wines are served, if desired, by the glass.
The sweet finale was the perfect conclusion to this heavenly experience. It included an excellent, traditional Tiramisu, and, the best of all, a fresh fruit presentation set aglow in a blue flame, caressed by Sambuca di Romana. From appetizers to dessert, Giovanni, pride intact, has all the details just right.