By Ivan Moreno
Forget the suits and expensive dresses. If you’re tired of Italian restaurants where the atmosphere is so tight you feel like you’ll suffocate while you wait for your food, try Mici, where the atmosphere is lax, and the food comes fast and delicious.
The point is to serve high quality food quickly, with a hip, casual atmosphere that’s unlike restaurants where you’re there for two hours, says owner Jeff Miceli, who two years ago was selling pizzas en masse to Florida college students. When you enter the three-month-old restaurant, you might notice rap playing in the background. That’s Italian rap – yes, Italian rap. Miceli’s sister, Kim Vela, says she spends a lot of time picking the restaurant’s music, which also includes opera and jazz. It works. The music adds a lot to the restaurant’s crisp, relaxed feel.
“When you come in here, it doesn’t look like a mom-and-pop restaurant, but it’s family recipes,” Miceli says.
Miceli recalls growing up, every Sunday was “big meal time,” and says the dishes he cooks everyday now are the dinners that were served on those special occasions.
“These are the recipes we’ve been raised on,” Vela says. A great way to start the meal is with the Italian wedding soup, Minestra di Famiglia, a blend of chicken broth and tiny meatballs topped off with parmesan cheese. Then you can move on to one of the special-occasion dishes like the Tortellini alla Miceli, a creamy pasta with peas and bits of prosciutto di Parma, which is cured ham, but the best you can get in the world, Miceli and Vela say.
The average price for pasta, a panini or a 10-inch pizza is $7. You can have a traditional pizza with tomato sauce, or you can go sauceless and vegetarian with the Mediterraneo pizza. Don’t forget to appreciate the soft and flavorful bread.
Miceli says it’s “borderline ridiculous,” how much they spend buying the best ingredients, but the trick to keeping the food inexpensive is using just the right amount of what they’ve got.
The tomato sauce in the Cortonese Penne pasta, for instance, is just right, with just a touch of tangy sweetness.
Miceli says his parents help out with the cooking, too, and his father is there for quality control, making sure all of his recipes are being taken care of.
“We just feel that Mici is a reflection of our family, our personality, and our culture,” Vela says. “Because we pick everything, everything is a reflection of us.”
For quick satisfaction that won’t make your wallet lose weight and an environment suitable for jeans and a T-shirt, Mici is perfect. If you want wine or beer to go with your food, Mici has it: A killer happy hour that runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Get a pint of Stella Artois beer for $2 or a glass of house wine for $3.
Mici is located at 1531 Stout St.
By Ivan Moreno, www.ucdadvocate.com,