Monday was our eighth anniversary, so Lynda met me at Amerigo for our anniversary dinner after work. Amerigo is located in the building where the much-missed Harper’s Restaurant used to be located. When Harper’s closed its doors last year, we were apprehensive about what was going to replace one of our favorite restaurants — it was a restaurant we took out-of-town friends to — and were puzzled when we heard that Amerigo was going in there. This was a restaurant neither of us had heard of before, but research showed it was a chain out of Nashville, TN specializing in Italian cuisine and had been around for awhile, so we at least were hopeful that it would turn out OK. Shortly after Amerigo finished its remodeling of the property and opened their doors in July, 2007, we tried them out and were pleased with the results. While serving a different cuisine than Harper’s and being slightly more expensive, the food and service in the new restaurant was certainly on par with what we had come to expect from the old.
I had arrived at 5 PM to secure a table — they DO take reservations — and there was only 1 car in the parking lot and that patron was sitting in the bar. Usually, the restaurant is on its way to being filled at 5, and I found it a little disconcerting to be sitting by myself in an empty dining room. When they remodeled the interior, they opened it up a little bit with larger booths, spaced farther apart, and covered the booth seats with a slippery, red (so Lynda tells me) naugahyde that is plushly padded. The formerly open ductwork ceilings of Harper’s are still open, but are better concealed by the suspended polished-wood beams and large, colored light panels. The cobbled floors are now carpeted and the partitions now serve double-duty as wine racks. The bar is still at the front of the restaurant, separated from the dining room as you can see in the photo below, with a brick and wood wall and open glass shelves for the bottles.
The dining room was very quiet, with soft jazz playing in the background when Lynda arrived 10 minutes later. After she had time to check out the menu — while nibbling on piping-hot, herbed focaccia bread — we both started off with a pair of side salads ($4); a field green salad which had the enviable distinction of not including that vile and bitter weed, frisee endive, that other restaurants have started to add in the last few years to their salads, to their great detriment. The salads also had a single wedge of tomato, a ring of red onion and several pieces of roasted sweet bell pepper. Lynda opted for a rich, creamy parmesan peppercorn dressing and I tried their balsamic vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was the thickest and richest I have had so far in Louisville, with the flavors delightfully blended, with neither the sweetness or the bitterness dominating.
For our main courses, Lynda chose the Chicken Margarite with scallion cream sauce ($11.50) and I went for the Oven Roasted Lasagna ($11.50). Lynda’s dish had a large fire-grilled chicken breast on a bed of angel hair pasta with Mozzarella cheese and basil and a choice of three sauces; tomato, garlic butter and the scallion cream sauce that Lynda picked. I sampled a little of the sauce and it was rich and not unlike a very good Alfredo sauce, but still quite delicate, without the strong overtones of garlic one would expect in an Alfredo. She said the chicken was done to perfection, tender and full of flavor.
My lasagna was wonderful. The previous evening, we had stopped at Rafferty’s on Dutchmans Lane on our way home from the St. James Court Art Show in Old Louisville and I had ordered their $13.49 Lasagna. It was a small, dried out, doughy mass, swimming in a sauce that Chef Boy-ar-dee would have been embarrassed to have served. Since I couldn’t eat that order Sunday night — and why do they insist that they will bring you a fresh order to make it right, when you know it will be from the same pan? — I was in the mood for some good lasagna. They served it in a large bowl and the square of lasagna was probably three times the size of what I had received the night before and swimming in rich sea of tomato sauce. Where the dish I had the night before had oozed grease from the meat inside it when I cut it, there was no grease from the lean ground in this lasagna and the only thing that oozed was the Ricotta cheese that it was absolutely loaded with. The tomato sauce was light and delicate and tasted incredibly fresh. Quite a turnaround in 24 hours, from the worst lasagna to some of the best I have ever had.
Although we were somewhat stuffed, we were intrigued by the dessert choices, finally settling on the Pecan Butter Crunch Cake ($6.50). It was a pudding cake sitting on a crunchy crust and smothered with slices of Granny Smith apples that had been caramelized in a cinnamon glaze and the whole was topped by a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream. Hardly a dish for our diets, especially after such a hearty meal, but a delightfully sweet note to end the repast.
It was a nice evening in a restaurant that was quiet enough that we could actually carry on a conversation without raising our voices to where we could be heard by people driving past out on Hurstbourne. Our server was pleasant and helpful and took the time to talk with us while checking to see if we needed anything else. On the whole, one of the better dining experiences we have enjoyed lately.
10 out of 10 stars.
Menu (it’s a .pdf).871 South Hurstbourne Parkway 502.426.4040