That's Amore satisfies the hunger for Italian cuisine in Columbia

Year-old establishment 6th location for Md. chain

Restaurant Profile

Howard Live

November 04, 1999|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

When That's Amore opened last November, the market for an upscale, family-style Italian restaurant was wide open in downtown Columbia.

The Tomato Palace, nestled on Lake Kittamaqundi next to the ever-popular Clyde's of Georgetown, has an audience that appreciated its laid-back ambience and pizza and pasta specialties.

And with Piccolo's -- another popular Italian restaurant -- a few miles away, Columbia seemed about as far from Naples, Italy, as any place could be.

That's Amore's -- across the street from The Mall in Columbia and Merriweather Post Pavilion -- is the sixth location for the Rockville-based chain. With others in Towson, Vienna, Va., and the club level of Redskins Stadium in Prince George's County, That's Amore is also planning additional expansions in Fredericksburg, Va., within the next year.

The owners, longtime restaurant partners Fred Berman and Artie Altschuler, brought That's Amore to Columbia after the American Cafe closed last year. After a lengthy renovation, That's Amore opened and quickly became one of the most popular lunch destinations in Town Center.

Gross sales are about $100,000 a year, says co-owner Fred Berman.

"We knew from experience that a restaurant takes about 18 months to a year to find its customer base," Berman says. "And even with the Rouse Co. planning to add a couple of restaurants at the mall, we'll be fine. Of course, they've promised us that they wouldn't do an Italian restaurant, but we can't count on it."

Another proposed expansion at the mall -- a high-tech cinema multiplex -- could bring many more customers to That's Amore, Berman says.

"Being in downtown Columbia isn't quite the same as being where the big-box restaurants are along Route 175," he says. "But the movie theater will really attract more people. There's always more room for more restaurants, especially if the you keep adding more residents and attractions."

In less than a year, That's Amore has garnered a reputation as a restaurant that offers a large menu specializing in southern Italian cuisine. It also doesn't skimp on portion size.

In the spirit of traditional Italian family-style hospitality, That's Amore's dishes come in two sizes: "solo" and "famiglia." The latter is appropriate for one person, while the former seemingly serves a small army or a table of very hungry diners.

Appetizers include baked stuffed mushrooms, fried or grilled calamari, clams Napoletana and various salads.

Prices go as high as $22.95 for a family-size portion of antipasto with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari and chicken.

Pasta entrees tend to be standard fare of the southern Italian school: spaghetti Bolognese, tortelloni stuffed with four cheeses, and chicken parmigiana.

There is lighter fare in the pasta department, starting with risotto Milanese with porcini mushrooms and penne marinara.

There are chicken and veal dishes, many done in the classic Marsala, lemon and parmigiana styles. Seafood comes with or without pasta, and New York strip steaks and filet mignon are mainstays.

Homemade desserts are offered, and what would an Italian restaurant be without steaming cups of espresso and cappuccino for a shot of after-dinner caffeine?

A generous lunch menu offers a few additional items, among them fettuccine primavera, baked stuffed eggplant and various Panini.

That's Amore

Where: 10400 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia; 410- 772-5900.

Hours: Open daily at 11: 30 a.m. Open until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; until 9: 30 p.m. Sunday.

Prices: Appetizers, $3.95 to 22.95; entrees, $8.95 to $31.95.

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Diners Club.

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