WATERVILLE — In Waterville’s fast-growing foodie scene, going out to dinner means having a friend in the kitchen.

In keeping with the trend, Italian restaurant Amici’s Cucina — Italian for “friend’s kitchen” — is this year’s Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year.

Mary and Angelo Carpinito and their daughter Shannon Mitchell opened the Italian restaurant on Main Street five years ago, bringing Angelo Carpinito’s authentic cooking, which he learned from his mother — from scratch — while growing up in Italian East Boston, and Mary Carpinito’s front-of-the house managing skills to the Elm City.

“Having our friends and family come in and watching them enjoy Angelo’s cooking and the cocktails and the desserts — you can just see someone when they go into their happy place as soon as they take a bite,” said Mitchell, 32. “It’s just awesome to see, and that’s why they keep coming back and that’s why they deserve their award. They worked hard for it.”

The Carpinitos first met in 1989 at a restaurant in Peabody, Massachusetts, that Angelo Carpinito’s cousin Mario owned. He cooked and she was the manager. They would come to Maine, vacationing with friends every summer in the Belgrade Lakes region and wanting to move here permanently.

They married in 2000 and moved to Winslow the following year, their hearts set on opening a restaurant. They opened Amici’s in December 2010 with the help of Waterville’s Charlie Giguere, whose management group owns the building.

“I was working for Charlie over at Champions and when this building came up for sale, I went to Charlie and I asked — kind of told him — go buy the building so I can open a restaurant.”

And he did, and they did.

Amici’s Cucina seats 90 people for dinner Tuesday through Saturday and about 10 to 12 more at the bar.

“It feels great; it feels great, yes,” Angelo Carpinito, 49, said of the chamber award.

Mary Carpinito, 53, agreed, saying “we’re very honored” by being recognized by the community.

Angelo Carpinito’s specialties are veal dishes, such as saltimbocca, veal marsala and the grilled Mona Lisa; but house favorites also include fettuccini alla maria — a seafood medley Alfredo style — hot and cold antipasto, shrimp scampi and meat lasagna. Some of the items on the menu are gluten-free.

So … about that meat lasagna.

“It’s thick and it’s huge. It’s your own personal loaf,” Mitchell said of the dish. “We have to warn people what they’re getting into when they order it. And then when the dish gets in front of them, it’s like ‘Can I have a box?’ automatically.”

Christian Savage, the chamber’s program director, said Amici’s is not just a local eatery; its owners and staff are committed community supporters, he said.

“They are happy to host dozens of wine tastings per year to raise funds for local charities, including the Travis Mills foundation, the Waterville Skate Park and Hospice Volunteers of Waterville, to name a few,” Savage said. “They always donate to community projects and events and try to get involved and have fun while doing so.”

That fact is illustrated at the Taste of Waterville, Savage said. What started as a fun new event for Amici’s has turned into a crowd favorite at the Taste, he said. The Amici’s Annual Meatball Eating Contest draws hundreds of spectators who come to see contestants stuff their faces with the area’s best meatballs, Savage said.

“It’s quite a show,” he said. “As crowds dispersed during a rainstorm two years ago at the Taste, not a single spectator budged from watching the meatball eating contest. This is just another example of how a small business can make a big impact on a community. Whenever asked, Amici’s will help. It’s wonderful to witness such a sweet family do so much for their community. They are very deserving of this award.”

So how did they come up with the name Amici’s Cucina?

“My father, who has since passed, used to always shake hands and always say ‘Hello, my friend,'” Mary Carpinito said. “So that’s why we said ‘friend’s kitchen.’ He was a very big part of this. Our conversations always revolved around family, friends and food.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow