Pizza Perfect
[from December 2001 issue]

Already a smashing success in its relative infancy, this uptown pizzeria draws on the experiences of truly devoted pizza-heads, and is named after their wives, each an Amy, so the story goes. Because of that, if you have any passion for pizza, plan to indulge it--and yourself--here.

To understand what this place is all about, be sure to get the waiter to give you his spiel. I had to eavesdrop to get the low-down, but in fragments, this is what I learned, and apologies for any discrepancies in fact: The owners wanted to learn all about the art of making Neapolitan pizza. They traveled around the country eating, tasting, and educating themselves. They learned enough to earn an Italian seal of approval, as denoted by the initials "DOC" printed above the names of three different pizzas here. (He declined to translate the acronym, but he did say it meant something in Italian.) That means the pizzas with those initials are truly Neapolitan in quality and flavor. The other pizzas on the menu (why don't all the pies fall into the DOC category?) are almost authentically Neapolitan. All are baked in a wood-fired oven, quite visible in the open kitchen that dominates the front dining area.

The upshot is this: these pies are good, very, very good. In fact, comparing them to, say, a fast-food pizza is like holding up an antique rose to a scruffy dandelion. That said, you'd do well to make a three-course meal here, starting off with one of the appetizers or salads. And don't be a wimp, skimping by ordering a salad and sharing a pizza. Go the whole hog!!

Starters, or more appropriately, "little things," include fried potatoes, oven-roasted olives, and deviled eggs with a green sauce--the last is a pretty little temptation served forth on a small plate and easy enough to share. But astonishingly delicious is the offering of steamed rappini with garlic and crushed red pepper, dressed with a mix of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simplicity itself, this "salad" boasts of layered and competing flavors: fat wedges of garlic, tart/bitter rappini, and sweetly smooth balsamic-oil dressing. Rappini may not be altogether familiar to many Americans, and its bitterness makes it for many an acquired taste, but this composition is outstanding.

Then, of course, there are the pies. The DOC pizzas may be unequaled, but you won't fault the others, even the intense puttanesca. Usually anything puttanesca combines peppery flavors in a fallout of nuclear intensity. This version adds on the aggressive saltiness of anchovies (loads of them on this pie) plus the bitterness of rappini for a pizza that is at once earthy and robust--and as you may discover, thirst-provoking later in the day. Want something milder? Try the 2 Amys pie that pairs tomatoes and fresh mozzarella; the Etna, eggplant confit, olives, capers, and oregano; and the Calabrese, tomatoes, onions, anchovy, fresh mozzarella, and olives. Or, if you like your pizza as calzone instead, try one of the wrapped-up "ripienos" with ricotta, mozzarella, and other filling choices. You can add on your selection of pizza toppings, but all, except herbs, come at a price.

You can't skip out of here without dessert and thankfully, you won't find the very clichéd tiramisu as an option. Instead, desserts include cannoli, marsala custard, cookies and truffles, and ice creams or sorbets. For a very Italian change of pace, however, sample one of the cheese offerings, a taste sensation that few Americans know about. For example, goat cheese with fig jam, tallegio with a raisin compote, and my favorite, the gorgonzola with chestnut honey. The last, served with several slices of bread, makes a perfect companion for dessert wines (these may not be available here) or a potent cup of coffee as a satisfying conclusion for any kind of meal. If you love gorgonzola, rest assured that honey is its natural partner.

If there's anything negative to say about 2 Amys, it is this: You'll find that a three-course meal runs you more than you might think, making a pizza-focused repast rather pricey. On the other hand, you get what you pay for.

2 Amys, 3715 Macomb St.; tel., 885-5700. Hours: Lunch-Dinner, Tue.-Sun., 11am-11pm. Entrée prices: $7.95-$12.95. Credit cards accepted.

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