The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis
Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen launches weekly Family Night
Grab the kids and head to Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen.
OK, I do confess. That’s a sentence I never thought I would type about this award-winning restaurant known for its innovative “Italian meets Southern” fine dining.
But family is something that is important to chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman. Their family plays a big role in each of their restaurants, and the duo (who each have small children) wanted to find a way to celebrate this sense of family in their lives.
A few weeks ago, Family Night at Andrew Michael was launched.
On Monday evenings only, the restaurant serves a special menu aimed toward being family-friendly.
Think a hearty, traditional Italian meal. Fried Mozzarella, Crispy Calamari, Lasagna and Italian Chopped Salad are just a few of the items you will find only on Family Night.
For the bambinos (translation: kiddos), dishes like Chicken Noodle Soup and Cheesy Buttery Noodles are featured on the menu.
I went on the second Monday night. I walked in for my 6:30 p.m. reservation
and was taken aback by how the restaurant was bustling at that early hour. Another sight not normally seen at Andrew Michael was small children seated throughout the restaurant. The vibe had shifted from upscale fine dining to what I envision a busy trattoria in Italy feels like on a Sunday night.
Adults were enjoying a glass of wine and a nice meal, while children contently played with wikki stix (craft time wax sticks that Ticer insisted they have for the kids) and enjoyed a bowl of buttery plain noodles.
The host told me that many families make reservations for as early as 4:30 or 5 p.m.
Now an empty-nester, I had a pang of jealousy wishing that we had had an option like this when my girls were little.
And, even if kids aren’t in your life, you should still make plans to go to Family Night. We dined with another “adult” couple and thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the new laid-back vibe for the night.
In typical Andrew Michael form, while the dishes were classic Italian fare, Ticer and Hudman had put their signature spin on the offerings.
Fried Mozz ($12) antipasti is not anything like a fried cheese stick you often find. Thick slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella are hand-breaded and fried until crispy. A homemade tomato sauce for dipping accompanies these cheesy bites (or should I better say “delights”?).
The Family Night Crispy Calamari ($14) may be my new favorite version of this dish in town. The calamari is lightly breaded and fried until crispy. It’s light, not greasy and with no hint of chewiness. Lemon, parsley and Parmesan brighten the fried dish. It comes served with a marinara dipping sauce on the side.
Of course, they included Andrew Michael’s Ravioli with Maw Maw’s Gravy ($16). But for Family night, they toast the ravioli. (Fun fact: Both Ticer and Hudman called their respective grandmothers Maw Maw. This gravy recipe comes from the kitchen of Hudman’s Maw Maw.)
To add a little “green” to the meal, we got the Italian Chopped Salad ($13). This chopped Romaine salad is tossed with Provolone, salami, celery, croutons and Parmesan cheese. After one bite, I was wondering how I can get them to start selling this salad for my daily lunch.
In lieu of entrees, pastas are the main course of Family Night.
The offerings were a bit “heartier” than pastas you find on a normal night at Andrew Michael. In fact, I felt the portions were a little larger.
Think elevated “comfort food.” These are traditional Italian dishes, but (like the theme of the restaurant) made with Southern ingredients.
Agnolotti ($22) was one dish we tried. This pillowy Italian pasta was stuffed with tender lamb meat and kale. It is served with a tomato sugo and Pecorino fonduta.
Cheesy cannelloni ($18) are stuffed with a tender and slightly smoky pork and braised collard greens. The pasta is slathered in tomato and béchamel sauces and comes to the table all melty and golden brown.
Fettucine Nero ($23) is a black pasta made with squid ink. It came topped with sautéed Royal Red shrimp from the Gulf Coast and tossed in what I can best describe as a Meyer lemon butter sauce.
I highly suggest you do what we did. Order a few pastas to be shared “familystyle.”
And save room for dessert. Andrew Michael favorites like Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding, Tiramisu and Gelato are on the menu.
The Family Night menu will change seasonally, based on availability of ingredients. But I predict Italian favorites like Fried Mozz and Toasted Rav will become mainstays … as well as those Cheesy Buttery Noodles for the bambinos.