For those who want a taste of old Italy, Amici Miei may be just what they are looking for.Chef Ivan Giansante, who has come here from Pescara, Italy, said there's a big differencebetween Americanized Italian food and the flavors of the old country. To that end, he's created a moderately priced menu of soups, salads, main dishes and desserts in the buildingthat was once Hugo's along Route 1 in East Marlborough Township.
Hugo's closed in August 2006 and sat vacant until last year when local businessman Remo Toto bought the place, gutted it and modernized the inside.
Visitors will no longer see the old posters of Longwood Gardens musicals, or drink their beer under multicolored Christmas lights.
The ambiance is decidedly subtle and tasteful, featuring cool beiges and off-whites.
Toto said he is particularly proud of the renovation of the restrooms, tiled in fresh colors and outfitted with makeup tables and lavish amenities. "One woman told me she wants her dinner served to her in the ladies' room next time," Toto said.
Toto has another plan in mind for the renovations as well. He said he is hoping to get the approval to put in a large terrace in the back, where people can eat al fresco. "They see deer going by all the time. We might as well take advantage of the great yard," he said.
Amici Miei has a full bar and a variety of wines. And while a diner can still get a simple bowl of spaghetti, the menu ranges to more ethnic dishes like gnocchi and minestrone with lobster. A Caesar salad can be had with or without chicken, and it arrives on a square tile reminiscent of the Latin countries. The lasagna is so popular, Giansante said, they can't keep enough of it around.
A dessert menu features the chef's favorite, a chocolate flan that melts out warm chocolate when it's cut into.
While Giansante specializes in dinners and big lunches, he is aiming to please a busy lunch crowd - people who have a half-hour or so for a midday meal. He reported he is developing 8-inch pizzas and smaller salads that people can order, be served and get on their way.
Amici Miei is open seven days a week, Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to kitchen closing time of 9:30 p.m.; on Sunday, the place opens at 1 p.m. and closes at 8:30 p.m. with no lunch menu. Giansante said he is working on a "bar menu" of light snacks that can be served later in the evening after the kitchen is closed for the day.
Reservations are accepted but mainly recommended for groups of five or more.
Amici Miei is on Route 1 north in East Marlborough Township just south of Long-wood Gardens.