This Westminster destination was inviting before even stepping foot inside – al fresco diners chatted outside amid plant-lined windows in a mini oasis in bustling downtown. Once home to Flan y Ajo and then Sushi Yama, I was intrigued to see how the intimate space had been reconfigured into Amaryllis.
The answer is homey yet elegant. A tiny kitchen is tucked behind the wrap-around bar in the center, while a bookshelf scraping the ceiling is filled with cookbooks, dried and fresh herbs, an array of lemons, oranges, and leeks. Hanging baskets full of vegetables suggest a casual and seasonal approach to fine dining, like taking a seat in your best friend’s Italian kitchen.
Congregating at the bar with friends, I chatted with the lovely and welcoming co-owners, Tracy DeFusco and Deanna Marandola, who served as our hostesses, waitresses, and chefs (and, as DeFusco jokes, “dishwashers, too!”). Having spent years working in Providence restaurants and then offering pop-up events at local bars, the pair opened Amaryllis last June. With the return of warm weather comes the chance for guests to once again enjoy their lively outdoor patio.
Next door to this BYOB spot is ENO Fine Wines, where you can find a selection of bottles pulled specifically to pair with Amaryllis’ farm-to-table menu of shareable plates.
For our first course, we were tempted by the Cheese Plate and Charcuterie, but ultimately chose the fresh Beet Carpaccio and the Marinated Feta. The beets were roasted, sliced thin, and dressed in a delicious honey walnut vinaigrette. The feta was served with soft pita, and paired perfectly with watermelon radishes, sun-dried tomatoes, and a mix of olives.
Marandola pointed out a few options for mains: Local Grass-Fed Beef Meatballs, Sicilian Linguine, Braised Chicken Thighs, and their famous Miso Ginger Rice Noodle Bowl. We chose the meatballs to share, which were served hot in a small cast-iron skillet with a delicious house-made ricotta and braised greens. We couldn’t get enough of the lingering kick of the tomato sauce, soaking up every drop with wedges of sourdough.
Seeing the farm-fresh ingredients, I couldn’t pass up the ginger noodle bowl, which was loaded with local greens, veggies, and mushrooms and topped with house-made kimchi seaweed almond dukkah (a blend of spices and nuts), a miso ginger vinaigrette, and an optional house sriracha. Both nourishing and flavorful, this veg-forward noodle bowl is very much like a hearty spring salad.
Rounding the meal out with something sweet, the Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake earned its title as my favorite dessert in the city after a single bite. It’s dense yet moist, sweet yet not overly so, and beautifully plated with a shake of confectioners sugar and rose petals on top.
With tweaks to their menu reflecting seasonal harvests, a return trip promises more surprises, and yet a feeling of familiarity and warmth in Amaryllis’ snug kitchen and friendly owners.
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