Pizza and beer; it’s a natural combination, right? Like love and marriage, law and order and Laurel and Hardy. But truth be told, it’s been years since we’ve indulged in those particular American secular sacraments at the same time. On the occasions that we do eat pizza, we’re more inclined to open a bottle of Sangiovese or Zinfandel, but last week, we broke away from our norm with a visit to Amici’s Pizza and Living Room in Berkeley, Michigan. (Click image to enlarge)
Amici’s has been earning accolades for some time now, including “Best Gourmet Pizza” from the Detroit Free Press in 2002, “Best Martini Bar” from the same publication in 2004 and “City’s Best Pizza” from the AOL City Guide in 2005-2007. Our friends Martha and Gary Shea have been raving about the place for ages, so last week, the four of us took a drive over to 12 Mile and checked it out.
Divided into two rooms that were quite likely separate store fronts at one time, the kitchen side looks pretty much like most pizza joints across North America, a little shabby, but clean and functional. The “living room” side is a not-so-snazzy little lounge that nevertheless has a certain charm about it, where a variety of pizzas (“Traditional” and “Gourmet”), salads and sandwiches are served up, along with a long list of martinis, a rather pedestrian wine selection and beers that range from the mundane to the hop-head’s delight. The space doubles as an “art gallery,” with the work of different artists hung on the walls on a monthly rotating basis. There is also a nice little patio for outdoor seating behind the lounge, but unfortunately, it was a bit too rainy to be open on this occasion.
We opted for a 14-inch pizza on a traditional crust, topped with fresh, homemade herb tomato sauce, Mozzarella cheese, anchovies, Italian sausage and roasted garlic. The anchovies REALLY dominated the flavor profile of the pie, and brilliantly so for my tastes; the sausage seemed somewhat tame by comparison, and the garlic added solid, pungent support. There’s a very good reason that these folks are getting such high praise, if this one is any example. Further investigation is certainly in order.
Because the wine list consisted of a rather boring bunch of the usual suspects from industrial grade wineries, we ordered beer instead, with three of us choosing Bell’s Two Hearted Ale on draft and Gary going with a bottle of Bell’s Amber Ale. (To be fair, the menu did make mention of a “Reserve wine list,” but we didn’t inquire after it). Now, I’m very familiar with the Two Hearted Ale in particular, and with Bell’s in general. I’ve sold them at retail and enjoyed them at home. As lovers of India Pale Ales, Two Hearted is always a welcome friend at Adams-Heritier and Associates, but in the past, only as a 6 pack of 12 oz. bottles. This was the first time we’ve had the pleasure of trying one on draft, and we were very impressed indeed. Much fresher and with more of everything than you get in the bottle, it’s one of those “hop head’s delights” I referred to above. One could safely characterize it as aggressively hopped, so if you don’t like bitter in your beer, you probably won’t like this. The hops are so effusive, they bears some aromatic resemblance to their cannabis cousins, and there’s a dash of something like lavender in there as well. It takes an ale like this to stand up to those anchovies, and it performed admirably in that regard.
It bears mentioning that Kim and I did in fact have one previous encounter with Amici’s in the form of a take-out order, and it wasn’t entirely pleasant. A few months back, we ordered an Artichoke Gourmet Pizza with fresh plum tomatoes, fresh spinach, walnuts, Fontina and Ricotta cheeses. I drove over to pick it up, brought it home and the pie was under-cooked, which is never a good thing. A call of complaint was placed and they graciously drove another one over at no charge, but artichokes and pizza do not mix well for either of us. Happily, we were willing to give them another chance, and this recent experience was much more to our liking, so we’ll be happy to go back for more pizza and beer. Maybe we’ll even ask to see that reserve wine list…
Footnote: A few days later, Kim and I stopped by the Western Market in Ferndale to pick up a few items and as we were waiting in the checkout line, I happened to look immediately to my right and there was a display of 1.3 gallon kegs of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. I looked at Kim, she looked at me and gave me a nod and we added one to our cart. We brought it home, chilled it down and poured ourselves glasses later that evening, and if it’s not quite as tasty as what comes in the big kegs, it’s not very far off at all. Frankly, I may never go back to bottled beer.
Reporting from Day-twah,