LITTLETON -- It's not only the taste of Porcini Dusted Scallops that makes the dish one of Alison Carnahan's favorites, it's the preparation -- the grinding of the dry, imported porcini mushrooms, the searing of the scallops, the simmering of the cream sauce blended with spinach, truffle oil and truffle sea salt.

"The dish as a whole is wonderful ... the cream sauce by itself is wonderful, the pasta by itself is wonderful, the porcinis by themselves are wonderful," she said.

Carnahan and Chef Don McHale lead the charge in the kitchen at Tre Amici, which means "Three Friends" in Italian. The 102-seat eatery, which first served as an old farmhouse and apple orchard from the early 20th century, opened on King Street in Littleton in August 2010.

Each room has distinctive characteristics whether it be a fireplace, large windows or wooden-framed booths, yet each table is adorned with a white tablecloth. Server Jonathan Goulas said while the restaurant may seem large, guests get so caught up in its atmosphere that the space is able to lend itself to an intimate dining experience.

Carnahan grew up preparing traditional Italian dishes and noted that each region of Italy has its own signature ingredients.

"We find that the best Italian food is not complex, but has three to four ingredients that are high quality," McHale said.

Tre Amici, Carnahan noted, focuses on dishes from both northern and southern Italy, and has integrated classic Italian-American dishes, such as chicken parmesan and veal marsala, to appeal to a broader audience. Daily preparations at Tre Amici include pounding chicken and making homemade breadcrumbs.

"We try to do it the right way," McHale said in agreement. "We cook as if we're making it for someone at our house."

Tre Amici

529 King St., Littleton, 978-339-5275, treamicirestaurant.com

  • Hours: Lunch served Tues.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Dinner served Tues.-Wed., 4-9 p.m., Thurs.-Sat., 4-10 p.m., and Sunday, 2-9 p.m. Brunch is also served on Sunday, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Monday.
  • Parking: Plenty of it in two lots
  • Reservations: Accepted. Also available on OpenTable.com
  • Atmosphere: "Casual ... with elegance," said general manager Laurajean "LJ" Silva.
  • Menu: Traditional Italian and Italian-inspired dishes. Early bird specials offered Mon.- Fri., 3-6 p.m. Brunch served on Sunday mornings. 
  • Cocktails: Tre Amici has a moderate list of signature cocktails including the Italian Margarita (tequila, triple sec and orange juice, with a float of amaretto, served with a sugar rim), and the Amore Amici Chocolate Martini (vodka, Bailey's and Godiva Dark Chocolate, garnished with chocolate shavings).
  • Try this: Braised Beef Short Rib Ravioli (served with red wine demi-glace and horseradish cream), Butternut Squash Ravioli (with a maple honey glaze and crushed Ameretti), Frutti di Mare (sautéed shrimp, scallops, calamari and mussels in a saffron tomato sauce served over linguine), Porcini Dusted Scallops (pan seared Scallops served with baby spinach and truffled pappardelle pasta topped with shaved Parmesan cheese), and Grilled Lamb Chops (served with lemon, thyme and goat cheese risotto, accompanied with lightly dressed baby arugula and a Zinfandel wine sauce).
  • Upcoming events: Tre Amici will host a wine tasting on Wed., Jan. 23, 6-8 p.m. Tickets cost $25 and reservations are required.