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Posts Tagged ‘antipasti’

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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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.

http://www.birminghamrestaurants.com/guide.asp?action=menu&rid=142197

Where The Locals Eat featured blog

GianMarco's on Urbanspoon

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