I'm a big proponent of local business. From the contractor, to the repair shop, to the salon. But above all there lies a special place in my heart for the local restaurateur. I have seen the hopeful look in a new owner's eyes on opening day, been one of those that trickled in and been one of the very first to try its food.
I have seen excitement as a place buzzes after a recent pickup in business. I have seen the mistakes, growing pains and the baffled reasoning for why someplace isn't seeing the business it anticipated. Few things warm my heart more than finding that local place that serves good food from people who are passionate about providing you with a great experience.
Because of that I was excited when I was invited by Andiamo Italian Restaurant to visit with my family. My wife often joins me on my adventures, but bringing along my daughters was a rare treat. I checked out its reviews on the various sites balancing the overwhelmingly good, with what mostly seemed to be a small handful of impossible-to-please people's bad, and knew we were in store for a treat.
Upon arrival to a strip mall I spotted the center's standard signage with the word Andiamo just above the door. I often get a little more hopeful when I spot a place like this. No kitschy faux Italian villa exterior — just another space with a door that I hope escorts me into another dimension. It did not disappoint on this.
I walked in and was greeted by the restaurant manager, Mimoza. This pleasant lady escorted me to my table while I waited for the rest of my tribe to arrive. I met Daniela,the former hostess and now owner of this beautiful little place. Clean, romantic, and open is how I would describe the dining room. The local art, available for sale, on the walls gives a sense of community and longevity to the place.
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Very shortly thereafter my family arrived and joined me. We ordered a few appetizers while we tried to narrow down our meal choice from the myriad of delicious entrées. Upon arrival our appetizers consisted of capesante dello chef — a seared scallop dish that was balanced and flavorful with a wonderful brandy cream sauce; polpete — meatballs in a WONDERFUL red sauce (we'll come back to this sauce later); and insalate caprese — tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with basil and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
The star of this round was definitely the polpete, especially the red sauce. I loved the balance and freshness of the sauce and if you are ordering anything here with this sauce, the answer is yes. Next came our entrées. I tried a shrimp pasta dish named after a frequent customer Luci Johnson, the daughter of former President Lyndon B. Johnson. This dish was solid, but not impressive, with ingredients like crushed red pepper and garlic I anticipated it would sing with flavor, but in my opinion it fell somewhat flat. Unfortunately my wife had the same verdict in regards to her roasted chicken.
She felt like the rosemary was used as a garnish after the fact instead of part of the actual flavor profile. That being said my daughter's both ordered much better meals. My youngest ordered the lasagna which I really enjoyed, especially the bechamel and red sauce mixture along with the sausage, while we felt it was priced slightly high for lasagna at $18 for one smaller sized piece, the flavor itself was outstanding.
Now comes the star of the entrée round the filetto alla griglia ordered by my teenage daughter. The fillet was cooked just right, but the balsamic reduction they cooked it in gave it a very unique flavor that I would go back for- sweet, savory, meaty, and delish. We all agreed that dish alone saved any shortcomings we perceived in some of the others.
Lastly we ordered dessert. When taking out my family, we don't often order dessert, we might grab ice cream on the way home or something, but my ladies were all dressed so beautifully for their special night at a nice restaurant I had to concede. The creme brulee, with it's perfect sugar crust was divine. Zabaglione was the most beautiful plate of the course and the contrast of fresh fruit with the custard was a pleasant finish to a meal.
We also had profiteroles, a lemon curd filled puff pastry that we also very much enjoyed. No one had their own, we all traded bites; which in my opinion is the only way to truly enjoy dessert. All things considered, Andiamo is a place I wouldn't steer someone away from. I would say stick to items with red sauce as part of the ingredients, it seems that salt, garlic, and other flavor profiles seem to be applied very lightly here.
It left me wondering if the place catered primarily to an older demographic that typically doesn't want “overseasoned” food. The high points of this place were VERY HIGH and the low points justify at least acknowledging perhaps we ordered wrong for our particular palates. I'd try them again, I'd meet a friend here, I'd even go back on a date night for that filet. I can't say this is the hidden gem of an Italian Restaurant in ATX I often get asked if I'd found yet, but I would go here 100 times before I end up in some national chain Italian place.
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