Happy Hour: Due Amici

From the April 26, 2012 edition

The booze

Let’s start with the “bad” news: Due Amici doesn’t slash prices on any drinks, any time. Except (aha!) on Mondays, when bottles of wine are half off. Maximize your happy hour haul by showing up then — you’ll also be treated to live jazz starting at 6 p.m. — or mine the fun cocktail and by-the-glass wine list other days of the week.

Glasses of wine are $7-$13, and there are excellent options at the lower end of that spectrum. The list is California- and Italy-heavy, with a couple of surprises thrown in. We tried a Vesper, made with local vodka, Beefeater gin and lillet and garnished with a sliver of lemon. And the hefty, not syrupy, Manhattan was a hit.

The bar makes a few of its own vodka infusions — ask for the pepper vodka in a bloody Mary or martini.

The food

Happy hour? Dinner hour. From 4-7 p.m. weekdays, the bar menu and pizza menu are buy-one-get-one. Portions are generous — a pizza and one of the heavier appetizers would make dinner for two. But the price cut is a good excuse to dig deeper into the menu.

I fell hard for the Italian Greens ($8), escarole braised in veal stock with roasted garlic and a roasted Hungarian pepper. We were told the chef (who’s been at the restaurant a few months) is making his own stock, and it really showed in this dish.

We tried the Prime Beef Carpaccio, Crispy Calamari and Stuffed Peppers, too. Each dish had something that pushed it above the regular happy-hour fare fray. The carpaccio ($9) is topped with a frizz of spicy arugula. Calamari ($11), neither rubbery nor greasy, is tossed in the fryer with threads of zucchini and carrot, which made the dish fun. And the peppers ($10) bite back pleasantly, with their Rife’s Italian sausage stuffing and rich red sauce.

Pizzas are on the thick side of thin-crust, with a crisp skin and soft interior. Try the Meatball and Sausage Pizza ($16), where the Rife’s Italian sausage is again a star. Or go veggie with the Brier Hill pie ($13), with confit bell pepper, fresh oregano and parmesan and romano cheeses.