Food for thought is no substitute for the real thing--Walt Kelly

Our next target ended up being Amaroma, one of Moraga’s only fine-dining experiences.  We decided that we would get lunch at the Alimentari (we don’t speak Italian, but we assume that Alimentari means something along the lines of “cafe”) next door to the main dining room, as very few people are aware that Amaroma even offers lunch.  What we found was certainly worth sharing!

Atmosphere: Inviting and comfortable.  We sat at the copper-top bar, surrounded by shelves lined with bottles of wine for sale.  There is a TV above the bar, and the Spain-Portugal soccer match was on.  As we munched on fresh-out-of-the-oven bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, we felt as if we were getting a bit of a European experience!  Very pleasant.  It was quiet—we were the only patrons—but our timing was a bit odd (11 in the morning on a Tuesday isn’t necessarily a restaurant’s busy hour for lunch).  On the bright side, that meant absolutely no lines.  

Service: Our waiter was very good—friendly and personable.  We suspect he might’ve been the manager.  He made sure we were never short on bread as we waited for our food, and the food itself came in a timely fashion—in fact, it was the perfect amount of time to be able to call it a “leisurely lunch”!  He made valiant attempts at conversation that, while funny and engaging most of the time, sometimes became a bit bracing, as we wished to have enough alone time to critique our experience!  Better an overly friendly waiter than a mean one, though!

Food:  To test out this Italian joint, we decided that we would try out their sandwiches and salads.  We ended up getting two sandwiches with different side dishes, and our friend who came along with us ended up ordering one of the salads. The first sandwich was a grilled chicken breast on top of tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and bacon on a nice sourdough bun.  On the side was a caeser salad with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.  The sandwich was to die for, the chicken was nice and toasty inside its blanket of melted cheese, which was complimented nicely by the tomatoes and crisp lettuce leaves.  The salad was great as well, though it was covered in a quite a bit of dressing (which I don’t mind, I love salad dressing).  The second sandwich was comprised of roasted bell peppers, eggplant, and onions, layered with melted mozzarella, on a light-as-clouds bun that smacked of butter.  It was toasted to a warm perfection and the flavors combined beautifully.  This was served with a pleasant side of handmade fries, stained an orange color by the spice blend they were coated in.  Pretty good fries, not the best, but certainly a few cuts above fastfood level.  The entree salad—a combination of dressed spinach, pear, candied walnuts, and blue cheese—was not up to the standards of the food mentioned previously.  The toppings were scarce, chunky, and set to the side of the salad instead of nicely incorporated throughout (the cheese, for example, came as a large pate on top of the greens.  This made it difficult to eat). The dressing tasted good, but it was too thickly coating the spinach and felt a bit oily.  In conclusion: while lunching at Amaroma, order sandwiches, not salads!

Price: We payed a total of $38 with tip, $33 without.  That averaged out to roughly $11 per person.  Let’s do a price comparison with the other sandwich place in Moraga—the much-better-known Bianca’s Deli.  We’ll say that a sandwich from Bianca’s, just your plain ol’ cold cuts sandwich, would be roughly $6.50.  Then factor in the same amount of sides, in Bianca’s’s terms, as we received with our sandwiches from Amaroma.  Another $3.  That brings us to $9.50, which is a dollar less than what we payed for our sandwich and side combos—but the sandwiches at Amaroma—pardon our French, or rather, our Italian—whoop the ass of the sandwiches at Bianca’s.  They are seriously gourmet, and worth the extra buck or so.  

 The Rating: 4 happy Moraga cows out of 5.  Molto Buono!  This would make a great date destination—not too expensive, but its combination between a sit-down lunch spot and a casual deli make it feel mor upscale than just another deli.  And who doesn’t want variety in their lives?