On Amici: Part One – Torti di Gelati

My boss celebrated his birthday yesterday and had a serious spread of goodies served up in one of the conference rooms at the office.  Along with several humongous Four Seasons pizzas from Yellow Cab, there were two trays of pasta – a massive lasagna and an equally huge spaghetti Bolognese – and these two incredibly pretty torti di gelati (ice cream cakes), both of which came from Amici.

Amici – previously known as Amici di Don Bosco (It.: Don Bosco’s Friends) started out as a cafeteria run by the members of the Salesian Order for the people working at their printing press (Salesiana Publications) in Makati (smack between St. John Bosco Church and the Don Bosco School, to be exact).  Over the course of the past several years, it has developed a reputation for excellent Italian food at reasonable prices.  The fact that Amici was purchased about a year ago by the Red Ribbon group was a cause for concern for many of its fans as buy-outs usually spell a marked deterioration of standards.  Mercifully, this has not been the case with Amici and its various branches still sell wonderful dishes.  I’d rave about the pasta, but not today.  Having their torti di gelati yesterday after being unable to eat anything cold or sweet for two weeks running was more than a reward: it was an epiphany!

The thing about gelato is that it is creamier, smoother, and far denser than most commercial ice creams, even high-end ones like the stuff from Haagen-Dasz and Theobroma.  While it is made with both full-fat milk and cream (No low-fat rubbish for Italians!  You have to love them for that!  ), there are no eggs used and it has less than 50% air incorporated in the process of whipping.  The resulting texture is like silk on one’s palate: smooth, no ice crystals.  This sheer gorgeousness is, of course, tempered by the fact that is isn’t as sweet as other ice creams.  All that said, Amici doesn’t skimp on quality and richness and really goes in for the kill as far as gelato excellence is concerned.

The cake on the right was made up of layers of mango and vanilla gelati sandwiched between wafer-thin meringues made with cashews.  It gives off something of a fruity sans rival sort of vibe (the whole cream + meringue + nuts thing).  Strangely enough, it was deliciously light and was the sort of cake that people definitely had second portions of.  The only thing off about this, alas, were the mango fans on top.  Sure they were pretty, but they were still tart and made too sharp a contrast with the creamy sweetness.

The cake above, however, was everyone‘s favorite, no holds barred.  This particular confection was a fabulous variation on the Neopolitan theme of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry: there was a fourth layer – a thick one of pistachio gelato!  It was, truth be told, a thing of beauty: the white surface of the cake decorated with a drizzle of dark chocolate, strawberry fans glistening with sugar, crisp chocolate sticks, and dotted with whole pistachios.  We felt bad about breaking up such beauty – but the darned thing was edible and threatened to melt if we didn’t start dishing it up!  I am glad to say that we did not regret doing so.    The whole cake was a harmonious symphony of flavors: dark chocolate played against sweet vanilla, the fruity strawberry marrying well with the toasty, nutty flavor of the pistachio.

Coming up tomorrow: a review of Amici’s pasta!