There’s a restaurant in Oro Valley that has some of the best Italian food I’ve had in a long time, which is complimented by a sophisticated atmosphere and friendly service.

After a recommendation from Wake Up Tucson radio hosts Joe Higgins and Chris DiSimone, The Explorer decided to put Amarsi Ristorante to the test.

The recommendation was a good one, as several members of The Explorer staff have tried the food over the last two weeks.

The first visit was just a lunch date for myself and my husband, Jon.

While we couldn’t make it that day for dinner, we did our best to try everything on the menu that we possibly could.

First, we had the Bruschetta ($6.95) as the appetizer. Bruschetta is one of my all-time favorite appetizers, and I find myself ordering it, and comparing it at every restaurant we visit.

I will say that Amarsi’s was the best I’ve had in a long time. With fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil on toasted baguettes with shaved Romano cheese, it was a perfect start to the meal. While the menu doesn’t say it, the dish also had sliced red onion.

The onion is usually my least favorite part of Bruschetta, but in this case it wasn’t overwhelming. The seasoning was perfect, the bread was toasted to perfection, and I could have had another dish of this for my meal.

Instead, we went onto the lunch menu. I had the Chicken Parmesan sandwich ($9.95), and Jon had the Hot Italian Combo ($10.95).

When it comes to Italian, you can’t beat good chicken Parmesan, and Amarsi does not disappoint. The chicken Parmesan is a freshly breaded chicken breast topped with Amarsi’s signature marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese on a crusty baguette.

As a sandwich, I loved that the baguette was not too crunchy. The chicken was tender, and the marinara sauce is fantastic.

Jon had no complaints about the Hot Italian Combo, which consisted of Italian roast beef and sausage simmered in a warm “au Jus,” and served on a crusty baguette.

While we were full, after some urging to “window shop” the dessert menu, I could not resist ordering the lemon cake, which was covered in a fantastic blueberry sauce. The cake was moist and just what I needed to make me not want to go back to work.

With coworkers hungry back at the office, we ordered the Eggplant Parmesan ($8.95), and the Classic Hero ($9.95).

As Explorer Business Manager Jaime Hood put it, the Eggplant Parmesan was the “best I’ve ever had.” The sandwich consists of breaded fresh eggplant cooked to a golden brown and topped with Amarsi’s signature marinara sauce and baked mozzarella cheese.

Publisher Ryan Kedzierski also was pleased with the Classic Hero, which consisted of Capoccolla, Prosciutto, hard salami and imported provolone cheese, topped with onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, pepperoncini and Amarsi’s house vinaigrette on a crusty baguette.

On the second visit, I went with two other coworkers, and tried the fish and chips. The portion of fish is huge, and not too fishy, which is something I appreciate.

Fish and chips doesn’t appear on the regular menu, but was offered as a special both times we went.

While Amarsi is known for their extensive dinner menu, which has a little bit of everything, owner Julie Vlahakis said not everyone knows they offer a good lunch selection as well.

Whether for dinner or lunch, from the food to the service, Amarsi is a place we are excited to get back to with the family.

Amarsi Ristorante

12152 N. Rancho Vistoso Blvd.

Reservations – 297-9491

Hours: Closed Monday

Lunch: Wednesday – Friday – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dinner: Tuesday through Sunday – 4 p.m. to close

Cocktail Hour:  Tuesday – Sunday – 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the bar only

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