: D’Amico’s Italian Lunch Market Café, 5510 Morningside, 713-526-3400
What $13 gets you: A dream come true
This Rice Village trattoria has such an adorably clichéd décor, it feels like something out of Epcot’s Italian Pavilion. Complete with Lady & the Tramp style red & white gingham tablecloths, plates on the walls, and olive oil and grated parmesan on every table, you’ll be happy to walk out with a full belly and no (Mickey) mouse-sightings.
Although there is an extensive menu with a variety of tempting low-cost items including paninis with smoked mozzarella or prosciutto di Parma ($5.95 to $7.50) and ten-inch thin crust pizzas with similar toppings ($6.95 to $10.95), for a mere $6.95 (weekdays only) you can choose any three items from the “Steam Table Special.” All of the dishes on this list change daily, excluding the house salad, meatballs and Italian sausage. It should be noted that although they are sectioned off TV-dinner style, all three items are served on one plate, so as tempting as that flan may sound, you may re-think it when it starts to slide towards your snapper Milanese. I was surprised to see so many of my fellow patrons going for the house salad (clearly not getting full-value), and opted instead for a trio consisting of meatball, pasta pesto, and, since there was no more chicken Vesuvio, crab cake.
The largest section of my plate held a heaping portion of the bowtie-style pasta pesto decorated generously with pine nuts. I was also pleasantly surprised to find pieces of chicken breast scattered throughout (though I will give a quick warning to vegetarians, ask before you order). Presented with a simple wedge of lemon, the lightly battered crab cake was simple and delicious. Next to the crab sat the hearty and flavorful meatball in a tangy red-sauce with a sprinkling of parmesan on top. After one bite, it was easy to see why this remains a house staple. Considering the amount of food D’Amico’s offers up, half way through my meal I realized the house salad option probably would have been a nice break.
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Still a far cry from the $13 it was suggested I spend, I took a gander at the dessert menu. Given that the selection of cakes were in the $4.00 range, I looked towards the homemade cookies – a selection of three for $1.25 - and instead went with a small pistachio gelato, for a very reasonable $1.50. The creamy treat was a perfect end to the meal.
The wait-staff were all very friendly, appearing at just the right times to check-in or re-fill my iced-tea, and I walked out of there having spent a grand total of $12.42 (tax and tip included). Customers are certainly not treated as if they are robbing the place, when for these prices, clearly they are.
Recommended? Most definitely. If you can’t afford a trip to Italy (or Disney World), this is the next best thing.
Bonus point: Shop while you eat at the locale’s incredibly charming all-inclusive Italian grocery. D’Amico’s makes it easy to recreate the experience at home, selling its fresh pastas, homemade desserts, sliced deli meats, and various Euro-treats ranging from canned anchovies and jarred artichokes to summer-backpacker must-haves like Orangina and Nutella. – Sophie Rosenblum