Many of Amis’ small plates are straightforward renditions of classic dishes: turkey cutlet Milanese with peppery arugula, curls of parmesan and a lemon wedge; briny marinated sardines with pickled vegetables; pork sausage over sweet red peppers. The familiar flavors are satisfying and clean, if a little expensive for what they are. A smallish bowl of clams and strozzaprete (think short, twisty spaghetti) was $14 (it’s now $18) — and sandy on my visit. A thin piece of rib eye ($26) was slightly overcooked. One of the pastas I sampled (tonnarelli with cheese and pepper) was so undercooked that I could see a raw-flour center at the heart of each strand. Even small missteps in execution are conspicuous when your reputation — and prices — suggests perfection is the rule.
On my last visit, the buzz about the restaurant continued to crackle. The snow kept some people away, but die-hard food lovers milled about, soaking in the cozy room and the Marc-is-in-the-house vibe. There is a lot to love about Amis: the bold, rustic flavors, the sleek atmosphere, the presence of a celebrity chef. But how much can Vetri grow while keeping the tight quality control that has made him what he is in the first place? The execution of dishes must be uniformly excellent to ensure his continued ascent. He’s set the bar that high.