This week, Rule No. One Hospitality Group — known for spots like Merchant + Lucille — opened its newest eatery in Madison. City Editor Ryan dropped by for opening night “for research purposes,” and a little taste of the food too. Here’s what to know about Amara.
🌺 It’s all in the name
Amara comes from the Ancient Amaranth plant — ‘Amáranthos’, in Greek — meaning “everlasting flower.” It also plays on the Italian meaning of ‘Amara’ — bitter. Together this creates a bitter + sweet balance, one aspect of the restaurant’s ethos.
📝 Know before you go
The eatery offers shareable small plates, handmade pasta, and dishes sourced from local farms. Check out a few of the menus:
- Lunch + brunch | Thurs.-Sun., 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. | Smaller portions + unique lunch offerings.
- Aperitivo happy hour | Every day, 2-6 p.m. | Up to 50% off snacks, cocktails, wine + beer.
- Dinner | 5-10 p.m. | Full service, dinner entrees + dessert and digestivi.
🍽️ Contemporary coastal Italian fare
Amara’s menus — both food + bar — aim to evoke the feel of Italy’s coast. The restaurant has curated an oceanic feel that pairs quite well with its contemporary twist on Italian eats. (Think: pastel blue tones and wooden design elements.) A few favorites of the night included the eggplant bruschetta + the 83-layer lasagna.
👤 608’s pro-tips
Parking at Hilldale can be a bit tenuous, however, Amara’s location positions it directly next to the mall’s parking garage + other outdoor lots. Additionally, valet service is available, if that’s more your speed.
With a bar stocking hundreds of bottles of spirits, study the drink menu before arriving. The bar program is built to celebrate classic Italian libations. (Think: Negronis + spritzes.) City Editor Ryan tried the Rose Sbagliato — you know, a negroni sbagliato, with prosecco.
Look out for your wallet + stomach during Amara’s cheap date night on Wednesdays from 5-10 p.m.
Ready for a taste yourself? Make a reservation.