When I heard that Amaroni’s was going to set up in Xinyi District’s Breeze Songgao, I was happy. I was even happier when I was invited to come in the week of their Grand Opening to check out what they’re bringing to the table, both literally and figuratively.
In a nutshell, they’re bringing the Italian-American dining experience to Taipei, without pretense, without ridiculous pricing, but with quality, fresh ingredients, culinary flair and this is important to note, with American-sized servings.
But first things first. Amaroni’s is located on the 3rd floor of Breeze Songgao, down a hundred meters or so from Texas Roadhouse. A classic Vespa is parked outside the entrance, a great signifier that yes, this is an Italian experience.
The restaurant is spacious, with seating for 150 people. The focus on a comfortable environment allows for a large open kitchen, a bar area that acts as a natural buffer to the rest of the mall area, lots of plants, and eclectic art choices inspired by Picasso, Kandinsky, Warhol, etc. Seating can be as intimate as round, café-style tables for two, to family-sized booth seating, to larger tables for groups.
I was accompanied by three friends, whom I had told to “come hungry”. After being seated, we were greeted by the waiter, and presented with well-illustrated menus. A brief discussion and we unanimously decided that we would eat communally, sharing all the dishes. (Amaroni’s large portion sizes are well-suited for this style of eating. )
It’s worth mentioning that Amaroni’s is offering a FREE Cauliflower Parmesan to any customer who A) orders more than $1000 worth of food and B) “checks in” on Facebook. . We were informed of this ahead of time, so with that in mind, we selected our appetizers, starting with Amaroni’s Signature “Mulberry Bend” Salad – fresh greens, feta cheese, sliced strawberries, crisp slices of pear, candied walnuts, and a raspberry vinaigrette. This was actually better than I expected; the freshness of the ingredients, and the tart vinaigrette offset the sweetness of the walnuts and strawberries nicely.
We also opted for two “cup-sized” portions of the Minestrone and Zuppa Di Pollo (Chicken Soup). Both soups were substantial enough that we were glad we hadn’t ordered the large size, especially considering how much food that was yet to come! Both soups also paired nicely with the complimentary basket of warm breads and rolls, fresh out of the oven, provided to every table. Amaroni’s Minestrone Soup (left) and Zuppa Di Pollo (right)
The Cauliflower Parmesan, normally priced at $390, is available gratis, but in limited numbers every day, until the end of February, and only to tables with consumption over $1000, and the de rigueur FB check-in. This was a nice treat on a cold winter’s evening. The golden florets, slightly crispy on the ends and tender towards the middle, were seasoned with olive oil and pesto and covered in melted Asiago and Parmesan cheese and then sprinkled with more Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. With some fresh roasted lemon juice squeezed on top, it was a great experience, and strongly recommended!
At this point we could have already gone home with full bellies, but now it was time for the mains. We had ordered the Lamb Chops “Hot Fingers” Scottadito, the Pan Seared Salmon, Amaroni’s Lasagna (a signature dish) and the Italian Feast Platter.
The lasagna was classic, exactly what you’d expect and want in a lasagna: Rich, chunky Bolognese sauce, layers of pasta sheets, and lots of mozzarella and parmesan cheese – comfort food for even the most troubled soul. It comes in two sizes too, Regular, pictured below ($490) and Grande ($890).
The marinated lamb chops were nicely complemented by the balsamic mint sauce and the accompanying oven roasted carrots and potatoes. We were in agreement that this dish was an excellent choice for someone looking for something beyond the classic Italian dishes. This also comes in two sizes, Regular ($980) and Grande ($1890).
One of the biggest surprises was the Pan-Seared Salmon, which was absolutely delicious, and had everybody ooh-ing and ah-ing. The skin was crispy and crackling, but not dry, and the flesh was firm and succulent. Served with a white wine sauce, peas, asparagus, and flakes of crispy pork, this dish actually put a momentary stop to the conversation while we just enjoyed it. Offered in two portion sizes, Regular ($680) and Grande ($980).
Last up was the Italian Feast Platter, consisting of a braised veal shank (Osso Bucco), beef on the bone, meatballs, sausages, and asparagus and vegetables. The veal was gorgeous, and melt-in-your-mouth tender, the sausages were tasty, the beef on the bone absolutely satisfactory. But what everyone really remarked upon was the meatballs. Rich and meaty, with a robust flavour, these made me think that a return trip to Amaroni’s would definitely include that simplest of Italian dishes, spaghetti and meatballs. The accompanying vegetables were good, with the exception of the mushrooms, which were REALLY good. The Italian Feast Platter comes in only one (very large) portion size, $1490.
We polished off two bottles of wine over the meal, the red was a Gabbiano Chianti ($980), which paired with the lamb perfectly and was an adequate accompaniment to the lasagna. The white was a Gabbiano Promessa Pinot Grigio ($980), and was pleasant, if unremarkable.
Finally, it was time for dessert. Of course by this time, we were already completely full, but the pictures looked enticing, and we were enjoying our evening, so we finished with three desserts split amongst the four of us: the Little Italy Cannoli ($250), the Italian Orange Pound Cake with Gelato ($280), and Amaroni’s Famous Tiramisu ($380). They were all fantastic, but my personal favourite was the Orange Pound Cake. These desserts are sized for sharing, so unless you’ve got an exceptionally capable appetite, I recommend one dessert for two people.
My friends and I left that evening with happy hearts and full stomachs, and already plotting a timely return.
Amaroni’s New York Italian Restaurant & Café
Hours: Sunday to Wednesday, 11:00 am to 9:30 pm, Thursday to Saturday, 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Phone: (02) 2722-7126
Address: No. 16, Songgao Rd, 3F, Xinyi District, Taipei