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Vibrant Food and Atmosphere at D'Amico's

The second conclusion I came to after dinner at D'Amico's Italian Market Cafe is that "bustling" and "relaxing" aren't mutually exclusive descriptors for a restaurant environment. The first conclusion was that D'Amico's provides its patrons with painstakingly crafted Italian food and fastidious service at shockingly reasonable prices. But I knew that already.

I've flitted in and out of D'Amico's to try their terrific, stuffed homemade pastas but up until recently I had never lingered. Perhaps some of my hesitance to do so stemmed from the establishments's "market component," which I worried made the environment less suitable for a leisurely meal.

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I was wrong. Indeed, on most nights D'Amico's packs a hearty, chatty crowd of diners that includes boisterous families, loquacious couples, and medium-size groups. And, because the dining room is small, space is at a premium, so you're likely to hear snippets of your neighbors' conversation and if you stand in one place too long, you're likely to be in someone's way. In the midst of what some might call "chaos" is some unseen font of soothing energy that makes you feel warm, assured, and completely confident all your needs will be met. You almost don't even need a glass of wine to forget that long day (though teetotaling means you miss out on trying some of their well-priced varietals).

Though tempted by the voluminous antipasto platter, my friend and I opted for the bruschetta and calamari. These starters are mainstays Italian cuisine and while seemingly straightforward in construction, are easy to screw up via less-than-fresh ingredients and ill-timed preparation. D'Amico's nails both, delivering evenly battered, well-seasoned squid that is fried just long enough to produce a crispy yet supple texture and oval toasts bursting with summer flavor thanks to fresh tomatoes, basil, and goat cheese.

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Joanna O'Leary