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Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Southern Italian Flare in Birmingham!

Posted by bhamfoodscoop on May 29, 2012

Recently I met some local foodies at Bettola Restaurant, which is located at Pepper Place in the Lakeview District. This quaint, dynamic, & eclectic eatery serves up authentic Southern Italian food. Several of their classic dishes include the signature Neopolitan pizzas that are cooked in a wood-fired Neapolitan pizza oven— which was handcrafted in Naples, Italy and shipped to Birmingham. This oven is capable of cooking a pizza in 90 seconds.

This was my first visit to Bettola and I had no idea what to expect, but let’s just say that I’m so glad that I visited. Upon arriving to dinner, I saw my guests sitting on the outdoor patio and I began to greet each and every one. And as we slowly began to trickle in, the atmosphere seemed to liven up and greatness was being created. On this warm evening, I met a diverse group of people that seemed to be a wonderful reflection of this great city and community of Birmingham. More specifically, my large party consisted of people of different races, ages, occupations, perspectives, and many more various characteristics. Earlier in the day, I was wondering how would I get all of these people to converse amongst each other because I thought that these various differences would be a hindrance, however, I was completely wrong. The conversation just flowed throughout the entire night.

I was amazed to see that the restaurant had assigned just one waitress to take care of 14 people, but she did an amazing job. Our experience was truly personalized by the restaurant and the customer service that we received rivaled that of many others. Everyone started out with drinks, homemade bread & marinated olives (contain pits/seeds). Not long after, the staff surprised us and brought out complementary antipasti’s for the entire table. These antipasti’s included a calamari dish, prepared by the owner especially for us; it consisted of squid, arugula, garbanzo beans, and thinly sliced ginger. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, but a few other people felt differently about it.

The next antipasti was served to us on a long wooden board, which had prosciutto, capicola ham, house sausage, salame mostrano (salami), two special types of cheese, pickled vegetables, & dried apricots in a housemade glaze. Everyone loved at least one thing from this special dish.

After enjoying the drinks and antipasti’s, I discovered that this was going to be a long night because I still had to order an entree and a dessert, but I definitely wasn’t complaining. For an entree I ordered the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese (pasta) which was made with House-Made Tagliatelle Pasta, Ragu Bolognese, Two-Year Aged Parmigiano Reggiano. This dish was delicious and filling; I would order it again.

Everyone else ordered a variety of dishes, but the main dish that our group ordered were the variety of signature pizzas. For example, here is the Quattro Stagioni which is made with Cotto Ham, Artichokes, Mushrooms, Black Olives.

Not everyone got a dessert, but I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. So I got the Torta di Mandorle which consisted of Burnt Butter-Vanilla-Almond Cake, Mascarpone Cream, Toasted Almonds. It was scrumptious but there was no way that I could eat it all. The cake was moist on the inside and had a wonderful vanilla almond flavor.

The lady sitting next to me ordered the Torta Cioccolata Warm Truffle Chocolate Baked in Toasted Almond Tart, Espresso Gelato, Toasted Almonds. She really enjoyed this dish and I sampled it; it was good but I’m not a big fan of coffee flavored ice cream and it was really rich.

Overall our entire restaurant experience was phenomenal and I can’t wait to return. The owner and chef James Lewis has definitely created a gem. The prices range from $15-$25 per entree. So I encourage you to visit Bettola Restaurant and sample the authentic flavors of Southern Italy, without even having to leave Birmingham. Grazie!

Bettola on Urbanspoon


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SLICE is at it again!

Posted by bhamfoodscoop on January 22, 2012

Slice Pizza & Brew is at it again!! They have a new appetizer for a limited time only. The Burrata Caprese Salad will be offered while ingredients last. The artisan cheese used in the salad, burrata, is a unique and seasonal mozzarella cheese that is available only during certain times of the year and shipped in from Vermont. As you cut into the firm outer layer, the smooth filling of mozzarella and cream slowly melt onto your plate providing your taste buds with a rich buttery flavor. The burrata cheese is paired with tomatoes and fresh basil leaves, with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette on top to create the flawless taste of the Burrata Caprese Salad.

Slice Stone Pizza & Brew on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bars, Downtown Eats, Italian, Pizza | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by bhamfoodscoop on November 16, 2011

So I’m just getting in from the grand opening celebration at VINO in English Village (Mountain Brook), they specialize in Greek/Mediterranean/Italian cuisine. The atmosphere was fresh, funky, and modern, and I enjoyed every minute of my visit. There was a buffet that had a few food items from the menu, and one of my favorites were the Vino Apple Fritters, it tasted like a cinnamon roll with pieces of fresh apple, yummy! (There are also some brownie pieces in this pic covered in powdered sugar)

I also made reservations for dinner, and for my entree I ordered the Prime Ribeye Steak with brussel sprouts & butternut squash and skinny fries tossed in a hot sauce.

The two highlights for me were the Vino Apple Fritters and the skinny fries tossed in a hot sauce; the fries only had a hint of spice, not too much. I highly recommend this restaurant because you get tasty quality food and reasonable prices, considering the facade & location.

Vino on Urbanspoon

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Classic Italian at “GianMarco’s”

Posted by bhamfoodscoop on November 13, 2010

Classic Italian food, in an intimate setting. This is what I experienced at GianMarco’s, when I had two special friends visit Birmingham. They wanted to try a local Italian restaurant, not a chain restaurant, and this was one of the first places that I thought of.

GianMarco’s is located in the neighborhood of Edgewood (near Homewood).

The interior almost reminds me of a “classic mob scene” in New York, specifically the movie “The Godfather”. However, a more modernized version. It’s a white table-cloth restaurant, but yet the atmosphere is casual. The expansive bar is in the small half of the restaurant, and the dining room is in the large half. All of the seats, in the dining room, allow patrons to view the cooks preparing meals in the kitchen.

I was the first person to arrive at our dinner, at GianMarco’s. The host took me to our table, which was in the middle of the restaurant; allowing me to see everyone and everything. Not long after I sat down, our waiter came over and placed a black cloth napkin in my lap, and asked me what I wanted to drink. Despite being at a fine Italian restaurant, I wanted an alcoholic beverage other than wine, something classy & unique, but I didn’t see anything on the menu. So the waiter had the bartender make me a special drink called a “Washington Apple”.

It reminded me of a “Sour Apple Martini” except it was red in color, and had more of a fruity/apple taste. I really enjoyed it, and the waiter made me feel extra special; this definitely gave him some points in my book.

Eventually my friends, from Auburn & Huntsville, arrived. The waiter placed the black cloth napkins in their laps as well, and took their drink orders. When he came back with the drinks, he brought a basket of freshly made warm Italian Bread, a vase of olive oil, and a bowl of salt.

We put a little olive oil on a plate, and sprinkled salt & pepper in the olive oil. This became the dip for our Italian Bread. We enjoyed dipping our fresh bread in this mixture.

Next the waiter took our antipasti (appetizer) and entree orders.

For an antipasti, we ordered the Spinach & Artichoke Dip with Parmesan, basil and crostini.

The dip was served warm, and the crostini (bread chips) were crunchy & salty. I enjoyed the subtle garlic taste of the dip, and I’m glad that it wasn’t filled with too many artichokes; I’m not a big fan of them.

After catching up with each others lives, it was time for our entrees to come out. My friend Katherine, ordered the “RIGATONI AI QUATTRO FORMAGGI asiago, fontina, gorgonzola and mozzarella; simmered in cream with prosciutto and fresh sage .”

She said this dish, itself, was worth the drive to Birmingham. I was so pleased to hear that excellent complement.

Her mom had the “LINGUINE CLAM SAUCE littleneck clams steamed in garlic, evo, white wine and Red chili flake finished with parsley and basil .”

She really enjoyed this dish. Furthermore, she said that his was some of the best Italian food that she has ever eaten.

I kept it simple and ordered the “FETTUCCINE ALFREDO with Shrimp”. I wasn’t in the mood for anything too complicated.

This entree was so delicious, the Alfredo sauce was extremely creamy, the noodles seemed to almost be homemade because of their tender/yet soft texture. And even though there weren’t too many shrimp in this particular dish, they were large enough to make up for the lack of; these shrimp were freshly caught from the Gulf of Mexico. I’m also pleased to say that this whole dish was seasoned to perfection, allowing me to enjoy every minute of it. Even though this was a trite dish, it definitely didn’t have a trite taste. For a special touch, I had the waiter add some fresh Parmesan cheese on top.

Since we were all satisfied with our entrees, we wanted to get dessert but we were each too full to order one per self. So we shared the “APPLE CROSTATA WITH CINNAMON GELATO AND CARMEL.”

It was “bellisimo” at its finest! This was a perfect twist to the standard apple pie with vanilla ice cream. The dessert was served warm with cinnamon gelato on the top and caramel drizzled all over. I must admit that it was really sweet, but we enjoyed every bite.

GianMarco’s was the perfect destination for my out-of-town guests; they enjoyed the ambiance, the impeccable customer service, and the succulent food. I would say that the price point is moderate to expensive, however, what we had was well worth every penny. And if you plan on visiting,  please make reservations ahead of time.

Where The Locals Eat featured blog

GianMarco's on Urbanspoon

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A “Pizza” of Italy in Georgetown

Posted by bhamfoodscoop on July 11, 2010

One hot day while in D.C., we decided to go sightseeing and shopping in Georgetown. The area is home to “Georgetown University” and has the feel of a large, yet quaint college town. The area is filled with old money; many prominent politicians and other people live in this neighborhood. Many of the buildings are old and rugged on the outside, but modernized on the inside.  The main street that runs through Georgetown is “M Street” and it is filled with various shops and restaurants; we spent a lot of time here. Before we started shopping, my uncle took us to one of his favorite pizza restaurants, “Pizzeria Paradiso”, located on “M Street”.

“Pizzeria Paradiso” is known for making authentic, quality pizza that is cooked in a open wood-burning oven. They are also known for serving some of the best beer brews in the nation. The restaurant is committed to quality and to using the finest ingredients. I went here thinking that it would be the same as any other pizza place, but I was fooled. When I arrived at the bright yellow front door, and saw that it had been highly rated by “Zagat”, I knew that this was the place to be. For those of you who don’t know about “Zagat”, it consists of a group of world-renowned food critics that rate only some of the finest restaurants in the world. Furthermore, I thought to myself that this place has to be excellent if “Zagat” came here.

“Pizzeria Paradiso” has a true Italian flair and this is shown in the authentic flavor of the pizzas. The restaurant isn’t that big and it was packed with people, but we waited only five minutes for a table.  While we were waiting, part of my family saw the menu and said no, this won’t be good, but I convinced them to stick around and try it out. Boy, am I glad we stayed!

To drink, I had the “Sparkling Lemonade” which is their signature lemonade mixture, that is added to sparkling water. It had an equal blend of sweetness and tartness; it was very tasty!

All of us ordered something different, and while we waited on our entrees, my uncle and I ate a small bowl of complimentary olives that were rubbed in olive oil and a little salt.

When the food arrived, I had the “Bianca Pizza” which came with basil, fresh tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. I added pepperoni and zucchini on the pizza for $3.00 extra. The tomato sauce wasn’t pureed like all of the others I’ve had; I could actually taste pieces of tomato in the sauce, it was chunky and had a unique taste. My pizza was the smallest size on the menu, I think a 9′, and it was one of the best pizzas that I have ever had.

My grandmother and my uncle had a pizza, my mom had an Italian salad, and my aunt had a unique selection of Italian meats, cheeses, and crackers. They all enjoyed their food and our modern rustic Italian experience!

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La Dolce Vita

Posted by bhamfoodscoop on June 10, 2010

Last night, I had dinner at “La Dolce Vita” on Highway 31 in Hoover. It’s a small restaurant with a true Italian feel. Furthermore, it’s so small that I walked in and walked out because I only saw a bar and four tables, and I was expecting something larger. I thought I was in the wrong restaurant, so I went outside and read the sign on the door again, to make sure I was in the right place. When I went back inside and looked around and saw that there were more tables in the back, that is where I spotted my god-father waiting on me. Immediately, the waiter came over and began reciting the specials of the night, and I was so impressed by him because he had a heck of a lot to remember. I just had to compliment him on practically remembering the whole menu.

Once we ordered drinks, the waiter brought two pieces of “Bruschetta” to the table. “Bruschetta” consists of a small bread chip that is covered with chopped tomatoes. Once we finished the “Brushcetta”, the waiter took our order, and the rolls came out. These rolls were massive and they seemed to have been homemade, they were served golden brown with a little garlic butter on top, and they were so good! While we were waiting on our entrees, my god-father and I had plenty of time to catch up and talk. Finally, the entrees came out, I ordered the “Pecan Encrusted Salmon” and it was served with garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables. My god-father had the “Grilled Grouper” and it came with risotto and sauteed vegetables. Both of our dishes tasted like the chef put his heart and soul into the food, the only complaint was that the risotto was a little too gummy. Other than that, everything was great!  Also, they gave us large sized portions, so I ended up taking the majority of my food home.

Once we finished our entrees, the waiter told us about dessert. We couldn’t make up our minds about what to order so the waiter surprised us and brought two desserts on one plate. The plate consisted of the “White Chocolate Bread Pudding” and “Tiramisu”. Both of the deserts had a special strawberry topping on top, and the strawberries were really sweet. My favorite dessert was the bread pudding because the taste reminded me of a vanilla pound cake with strawberries on top, classic! Maurice says the “Tiramisu” was good, but I’m not a huge fan of it.

Wow, what a fun night we had and the food was excellent. I would recommend “La Dolce Vita” to anyone who loves authentic Italian food in a small family oriented atmosphere.

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Posted by bhamfoodscoop on March 16, 2010

Today was cloudy and dreary outside, but inside my life the sun was shining as bright as ever. I met up with a friend who is helping me find a nice suit to wear to my aunt’s huge birthday party, next week. My friend is a designer who just moved here from Denver, so she took me to some hot spots in town to find a cool outfit. Of course you know I got hungry during the process, so we decided to have lunch at “Bottega Restaurant and Cafe”.

Upon arriving on the front patio, of the restaurant, I felt like I had been transported to some chic European town. The hostess sat us in a prime location to people watch and enjoy the view. I’m so happy to almost always get great seats in restaurants. Our waiter was knowledgeable about every item on the menu because I asked numerous questions since I wasn’t sure what to order. FYI:  When I go to a restaurant, I can put on a show because I like to know the waiter’s favorite menu items, how things are prepared, what’s popular on the menu, and other things; my guests are always entertained by me! Ultimately, I got the Spaghetti Bologonesse and my friend got the Bottega Burger. We both enjoyed the entrees, and for desert we ordered the Pecan Coconut Cake covered in a vanilla sauce. All of this food was so good, simple as that!

Frank Stitt is the owner of this restaurant and he is a home-grown world renowned chef, so that explains why the food is exceptional and why there is so much attention to detail. The customer service was excellent and was complemented when one of the waiters opened the door for us to leave the restaurant. I’ve never been to a restaurant where the workers run to open the door for someone to enter or exit, lol! This experience filled my VIP Treatment meter to the max today and I am so happy.

Furthermore, if you want a classy European experience filled with good food and quality customer service, go to Bottega, and you will probably see me there!

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