Sunday, March 18, 2007

Luck o' the Italians (or Amicci's)

My big plans to go Irish pubbing just never came to fruition. My plans for St. Patrick's Day would have taken me to An Poitín Stil (an pot-CHEEN still), the big Irish pub up in Timonium. Well, I drove a good distance to get there. And I drove by to see one end of the parking lot blocked off with cones and the other end shut by a gate (I think that's the parking lot). So, scratching my head, with the Garth Brooks song Ireland churning on my MP3 player, I called An Poitín Stil to ask if there was any seating:

Maitre d': It's first come first serve seating tonight, sir.

Me: Okay, and is there any parking?

Maitre d': Well, there's a shuttle that picks people up from the...

I sort of tuned out after she said "shuttle."

Giving up on An Poitín Stil, I set my next destination for the James Joyce Pub, on the outskirts of Little Italy (it's hilarious, there's an Irish pub practically
in Little Italy). Parking by Whole Foods - the meters there absurdly run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, just to warn you - I walked over toward James Joyce. I stopped when I saw the loooong line out the door, and decided, "Hell, I'm Irish - okay, Irish-American - year-round! Let the silly people in the shiny green shamrock necklaces have their fun for one night, I'll go some other time when there's breathing room."

So, with Little Italy, like, right
next to me, I decided to finally try out Amicci's, which was only about 10 minutes from my car and about 5 minutes away from me.

Amicci's is a lovely place. It's not the Ritz, and compared to places like Villeggia's or Sabatino's it's pretty Spartan. But I think the decor is charming in a country kitchen sort of way, but if that kitchen had lots of Italian and Italian-American movie posters all over the place (I had Joe Pesci staring at me from his
GoodFellas poster all night). Amicci's seemed not to be that busy. This makes sense, since everybody in the area was stuffed into James Joyce! There was no shortage of tables, and I even got a table immediately, a big round one that seats five. When I got my menu my eyes went immediately to the mussels, for only $12 and 9/10 (Amicci's lists its prices as mixed fractions). Adding calamari for $8 more and (yes) a Guinness - the tall bottle is served here - for about $4 brought my total to around $25. But more on that near the end.

If I was seated quickly, I certainly didn't give my order quickly. My waitress admitted that she actually didn't
see me (I was in a corner, after all). Whatever, but most people did get served faster than I did, so maybe. But I was still a little irritated. The waitress did bring me a basket of bread - very soft inside with a chewy crust, which wasn't too easy to spread the rock-hard cold butter patties onto - and my Guinness in sort of a hurry and then went off.

It's strange, really, how well the Guinness went with the calamari, served on a
big plate with a dish of chunky marinara sauce in the middle. I thought this was an easier presentation than at Sammy's Trattoria, who gives you a separate plate of tomatoes. These calamari were about as good as it gets. The squid was not chewy and the breading was crispy, light and tasty. Topped with the tomatoes and washed down with the Guinness it was filling and almost a meal in itself.

Then the mussels came out. OMG, way too much food! But they were good, about, oh, 30 or so mussels bathing in butter, sitting on top of a hearty pasta. Not sure what pasta it was, just long and thick. I could not finish these mussels so I got the rest to go. I left about a $4 tip for a total of $30 - the service, again, wasn't that great, but the women behind me did get served by the same waitress much faster than I did, so again, maybe a one-time fluke. But I am definitely looking forward to my next trip!

From there I went searching for more Irish beer, not too much more lest I get arrested. Knowing I would never get into an Irish pub that night I looked for any non-Irish bar I could find, - neighborhood, cantina, dance, gay, whatever. I wound up at the Eagle, where the bartender recommended yet another Irish pub the next time I went looking, Mick O'Shea's on Charles Street (that I will look into). And of course, all this information was delivered over - duh - a Guinness.


Kaimor said...

Hi ! Nice blog. I've got one myself: Piggy Bank Check it out and let's exchange links.

Fairfax said...

Hey... I learned the coolest way to eat mussels in Wales... You eat the first one and then use those shells as sort of tongs to pull out the rest and eat them. Get it?

danielle said...

Whenever my parents came to visit me when I was in college, they always wanted to go to Amicci's. Huge portions of solid Italian-American comfort food. Not fancy, but not bad, except for your service. That's a shame.

Mick O'Shea's draws a lively crowd, has good food, great beer, and oftentimes very enjoyable live music. It's one of my favorite bars, but for a real Irish experience try J. Patrick's on Andre St. in Locust Point.

verity said...

Oh no! You were going to the Still, too!?? Patrick's would have been a better parking issues there...but any pub would have been packed. Glad it sorta turned around for you. ;)

Baltimore Snacker said...


K: Thanks, I'll check out the blog.

F: Ah, those Welsh and their innovations! Good idea for theirs, though with so much butter all over them at Amicci's I wouldn't have enjoyed doing that with these mussels.

D: A second recommend for O'Shea's! And next time I'm around Locust Pt. I will look into Patrick's.

V: Thanks, and a second recommendation for Patrick's, too! Perhaps the ones I was going to try are just too commercial...?

Malnurtured Snay said...

The Still, and St. Patty's Day in general, is well overrated.

verity said...

The Still is very commercial. A 'pub' for the yuppies, I say. They have a iron-on image of a hole in the wall placed on the ceiling. I know a place downtown that actually HAS a hole in the wall. Much more authentic! ;)

Dan said...

LOL, I could have saved you the trip to The Still. We live about five minutes away and it's ridiculous around St. Patty's Day, especially if it falls on a weekend. Not sure if you've been before but I don't think you missed anything special. I've been and wasn't all that impressed.

Glad you finally got to Amicci's but sorry to hear the service was bad. I've never had that happen before but hey, it happens to the best of us.

I'll also throw in a recommendation for Mick O'Shea's. I wrote about it here and I heartily recommend the shrimp in Guinness.

Kaimor said...

So do you want to exchange links ?

Baltimore Snacker said...

MS: The way we've trivialized St. Patrick's Day - taken a celebration of Irish culture and transmogrified it into National Green Beer Day - is irritating, I admit. But with all this lackadaisical press about the Still, I'm intrigued enough to go see for myself how overrated it is!

V: So, which place has this hole? Is this Patrick's again?

D: Looks like three votes for Mick O'Shea's! I must go here soon.

K: Didn't we already trade links? I just posted a comment on your blog with a link here. You meant something else, didn't ya? Like a posted link?

Fairfax said...

J. Patrick's used to be my local when i lived in LP. Being british, it took me about 3 years before i could go in there, what with their Noraid meetings there and all... Once i finally went, i liked it - cheap to eat and drink there. i like their small boneless chickens, you don't see them on many menus. they're actually devilled eggs!

they actually have pimms on the rail, which is unusual, even though the royal warrant is inked out as the beefeater on the gin and queen vicoria on the bombay sapphire.

the decor is early 60's club basement and they have locals pricing. but it's way more of a real pub than the still or ryans daughter.

danielle said...

I don't know what hole in the wall V. is referring to, but J. Patrick's (at least the last time I was there and for at least the 4 years preceding that) had about half of the ceiling covered in black plastic. If anything , it adds to the ambience (and I'm not being sarcastic.)

Now that I think of it, I was there for St. Patrick's Day in 2002. It was great. They'll teach you a haymaker's jig.