Thursday, March 19, 2015

Feeling the love at Amore 2.0

The original Amore Restaurant was a classic, old-school Italian joint on Hope Street in Springdale that served great pizza and pasta.  The Stamford Pizza Tour even crowned it the best pizza in Stamford in 2009!  So what happens when a six-time World Pizza Champion takes over a championship restaurant?  Freaking food magic, that's what.

Bruno DiFabio (not pictured: his World Pizza Championship belt)

That champion is Bruno DiFabio, who is also a Chopped judge and international restaurateur.  He made his very first pizza at Amore years ago, and he's now come full circle.  After buying the establishment from the retiring original owner, Bruno rechristened it Amore Cucina & Bar and did a full renovation, giving it an updated, modern feel and expanding the bar area.

But you're not here to read about interior design, are you?  Let's get to the food!  I was fortunate enough to be invited to a media tasting dinner where Bruno and his executive chef Jared showcased their inspired creations, starting with Bruno's claim to fame: pizza!

Amore offers two distinctive categories of pizza, square and round.  The round pies are cooked in the wood-fired oven while the square ones are cooked in the gas-fired oven.

Wood, fire, cheese, crust, yum.

This is the Juliet: house mozzarella, gorgonzola doce, fig jam, prosciutto, agrodolce.  It was delicious.  I love anything fig, so when you throw fig jam together with savory, salty prosciutto, I'm a happy camper.

Next is the Pitt Master (no relation to Brad).  It has pulled pork (another of my favorite things in the world), red onion, mozzarella, BBQ sauce, and agave nectar.  This one was a little sweeter than I personally prefer, but it was still delicious.

Moving on to round pies, first up is the New Haven White, featuring little neck clams, Amore bacon, house mozzarella, and smoked lemon juice.  Despite the name, this isn't an attempt to copy the signature pie at Frank Pepe's; it doesn't have the classic oily, charred crust or the same cheese blend.  It's just a delicious white clam pie.

This pizza is For the Queen, and it features San Marzano tomatoes, flor di latte mozzarella, pecorino romano, basil and, yes, a sunny-side-up egg in the middle.  It was a little runny from the egg, but so rich and delicious.

I also tried the Holy Cheesus pizza, which had burrata, ricotta, pecorino, mozzarella, parmigiano, and black pepper.  It was so delicious and peppery that I ate it before I could take a picture.  I guess I'll just have to go back and try it again!

I was getting full by this point, but I pressed on in the name of blogging about delicious food.  The sacrifices I make for you, my loyal readers!

The next round of dishes were cichetti, or small plates.  Pictured above is the Polenta, which is topped with a pork and wild mushroom ragu and shaved parmigiano reggiano.  I love all of those things, and when you put them together...oh yeah.

OK, I'll admit it: this was the first time I'd ever tried octopus...and I'm glad I did!  Jared roasted these, so the outside was perfectly crispy while the inside was tender and meaty.  They came in a puttanesca sauce with crispy capers and shaved olives.  I did cut off the suction cups, though.  Baby steps.

Is that sushi?  Yes, sort of.  It's Tuna Crudo with calabrian chilies, parsley, dehydrated pancetta, and red onion.  I love raw tuna, and this had spicy chilies to boot.  So awesome.

It's like they read my mind.  I love goat cheese on salad, and the Beet & Rucula adds it to braised red beets, arugula, and candied walnuts.  Yum.

I forgot to take a picture of the carrots agrodolce, which came with spicy pickled raisins.  As you can imagine, they were delicious, too.  Did I mention the spicy pickled raisins?  I couldn't stop eating those bad boys.

Round 3!  Pasta!

Spaghetti e Pepe has black pepper, blacked artichokes, pecorino, and shaved parmigiano reggiano.  Yet another dish I couldn't get enough of.  Gimme that black pepper!

More clams!  This time they were over linguine, with pancetta, garlic, green onion, dehydrated bacon, and lemon zest.  Another winner.

And finally, the main events of the evening...

In this corner, chicken scarpariello with house sausage, pickled and sweet hot peppers, and duck fat finger potatoes!  Oh my goodness, this dish was amazing.  I could eat the finger potatoes for days.

And in this corner, pork osso bucco with broccoli rabe, warm potato salad, pancetta, and parmigiano reggiano.  The osso bucco was like buttah - it fell off the bone.  All the trimmings were just icing on the delicious pork sundae.

Feeling full?  Lean back and unbutton those pants because we're not done yet!  It's dessert time!

Beignets?  Nope, fried Oreos!  I'd seen these at county fairs, but I just couldn't bring myself to indulge...if only I had known what I was missing.  These warm little bundles of joy are doughy (with just a hint of crunch) on the outside, while the inside is all melty, gooey chocolatey goodness.  They came with a shot of pretzel milk, which I didn't try, but it did smell delicious and very pretzel-y.

And, finally, a waffle with tomato jam and whipped cream.  Tomato jam might sound strange, but it's got just the right amount of sweetness to nicely complement the waffle and whipped cream.

With so many amazing dishes to choose from, it's hard for me to pick a favorite. I guess there's only one way to decide a winner - Bruno, if you're reading this, I'm ready to go title-for-title and put my World Waffle Eating Championship on the line in a no-holds-barred winner-take-all waffles-vs.-pizza steel cage match! 

Or I'll just keep going back to eat at Amore until I can make up my mind.

But the challenge still stands!  Name a time and a place and I'll be there!


Social media stuff:
Amore Cucina & Bar on Facebook
Bruno DiFabio on Instagram
Executive chef Jared Falco on Instagram
MaxEx Public Relations on Facebook