Amiccis opened in Little Italy in 1991 with a recipe for success. It was a bright, casual, almost funky restaurant that still served those Little Italy favorites: the beloved pastas with red sauce, chicken parmigiana, shrimp fra diavolo.
Its slogan was "A Very Casual Eatery." (Translate: you can wear your cut-offs.) Prices were reasonable, partly because Amiccis didn't even offer dishes with such expensive ingredients as veal.
People started lining up to get in. (No reservations were taken.)
Pretty soon -- actually four years later -- Amiccis was doing so well that owner Roland Keh decided to expand. Not in Little Italy, but in Canton.
You could never advertise the new Amiccis as a piece of Little Italy in Canton. To begin with, Amiccis is completely unlike everyone's stereotype of Baltimore's favorite ethnic neighborhood.
Who knows? Maybe k. d. lang will be playing on the sound system. You'll be greeted by a cheerful neon sign in the window, and inside, the room is decorated with arty black-and-white photographs and bright floral tablecloths. You'd never guess this is an Italian restaurant until you catch sight of the food.
What won me over was seeing a large, flat white bowl filled with fettuccine, jumbo shrimp and emerald green broccoli in a cream sauce. I never got a chance to try the shrimp and broccoli alfredo (because my guest ordered the shrimp in creamy garlic as a first course, and it would have been too repetitive). But just looking at it made me happy.
For the appetizer, Amiccis' kitchen takes those big shrimp and a generous hunk of lightly toasted Italian bread and drenches them with a deliciously garlicky cream sauce. It's prettily garnished with a thin slice of lemon and lots of chopped parsley. The bread, which absorbs the sauce wonderfully, was so good that the shrimp were almost an afterthought.
A lighter beginning was a fresh mushroom salad, with quartered cultivated mushrooms in vinaigrette tossed with bright green romaine lettuce, green onions, olives and tomatoes in another of those handsome flat white bowls.
Maybe I didn't get to try the shrimp and broccoli alfredo, but the chicken and broccoli francese was equally appealing. The boneless cutlet was sauteed golden in a light egg batter, then it and al dente broccoli florets were bathed in a lemony butter sauce.
Amiccis makes its own pastas; we had tender cheese-filled tortellini baked with a creamy tomato sauce and provolone cheese. It was good, but not exciting. Other choices include gnocchi, lasagna and various pasta and shrimp or scallop combinations.
Desserts, except for cannoli by Vaccaro's, aren't at all standard. They run mostly to elaborate varieties of cheesecake and dense chocolate cakes.
All in all, it was a fine meal in the reasonably priced category -- with one important exception. The bread in the breadbasket was too stale to eat. True, it was a Sunday night, but that's no excuse. You can't have a good Italian meal without good bread.
Amiccis in Canton
Where: 2903 O'Donnell St.
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, noon-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon-11 p.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m.-9 p.m.
Credit cards accepted: Major credit cards
Features: Italian food
Non-smoking section? No smoking allowed
Call: (410) 675-3207
Prices: Appetizers, $2.50-$7; entrees, $7.25-$11.90