Sometimes, driving across town to try out a hidden restaurant pays off in a big way. But sometimes, the pain of the effort far outweighs the rewards. After two visits to the funky A'meretta in East End, I'm hoping far Eastsiders find it eclectic enough to keep it in business. The inconsistency of the dishes and lackluster service have convinced me it's not worth the drive for me.
A'meretta is housed in a renovated building on Eastern Avenue along a strip of small, local bars and commercial businesses. Fortunately, a bright red sign marks the way. Inside, the décor is a mix of trashy chic and flea market finds, like tacky vintage lamps that fill up the bar and an old kitchen hutch that's become a server station, spray-painted silver with bright polka dots.
The dining rooms are dimly lit, so much so that my dark corner seat, shaded even more than my dining companions', made it tough for me to read the menu.
At my first visit on a slow weeknight (my friend and I were the only diners), we were told by the bartender that weekends are packed, usually with a lengthy wait for a table. But when we returned on a Friday night, we found the place nearly empty — with only a few other tables occupied with diners.
The menu is fairly extensive and includes primarily Italian-influenced dishes.
Sandwiches, like the Con Dindo ($6.95), which consists of tomato focaccia bread, topped with smoked turkey, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese, are served with steak fries or pasta salad. Pizzas ($7.95-$9.95) or Calzone ($8.95) include gourmet ingredients, like pesto sauce, artichokes and prosciutto.
On my second visit, four of us sampled two appetizers. The Bruschetta ($5.95) was soggy from too much olive oil, falling apart off the plate. The accompanying risotto cake was so breaded and deep fried that it was tough to distinguish it from a hush puppy. Calamari A'meretta ($7.95) was heavily breaded and a little too chewy to make it memorable.
Our soups and salads (your choice with an entrée) received comparable reviews. Although our server highly recommended the Bay Clam Chowder, both who ordered it thought it was too salty. The Crema di Pomodoro, a creamy tomato with basil, was better. House salads were the standard mix of field greens and baby spinach, tomatoes and onions.
Entrées were a chore to order. Not only are there more than a dozen choices among several categories, the descriptions are somewhat confusing (Saltimbocca as New York Strip?). And, our upbeat but extremely unorganized and slow server rejected many of our choices, telling us we wouldn't be happy with certain dishes.
Fortunately, most of us were pleased with our selections. One guest raved about her Filetto A'meretto ($19.95), a juicy, tender filet topped with a portabella and a creamy gorgonzola and white wine sauce. The Pasta Gamberity ($15.95), a mildly spicy dish of linguini and sautéed shrimp in a sauce of garlic, tomatoes, basil, browned butter and red pepper, also was a good choice. The Saltimbocca alla Toskana ($18.95) was really a New York Strip steak, which needed a little more time on the flame. The Pollo Romano ($15.95) was a moist and flavorful stuffed chicken breast, full of spinach, mozzarella and pine nuts, breaded and baked, served with creamy risotto. All were very large portions for the buck, and nicely presented.
The atmosphere is fun and funky, and it's not too difficult to grab a table. If the East End is close, then the place might be worth a chance for a decent dinner. Avoid the appetizers (at least the ones we tried), save room for the large entreés, and be prepared for slow, oddball service. The bar looks like a fun place to grab a cocktail and listen to music.
Go: 4652 Eastern Ave., Linwood (East End)
Hours: MondayThursday 610 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 611 p.m.
Prices: Reasonable to Moderate
Payment: Major credit cards
Beyond Red Meat: Seafood choices, poultry dishes, plus pizzas, salads pastas, with and without red meat.
Other: Live music in the bar most weekends.