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Posts Tagged ‘calamari’

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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“Michael’s Restaurant”: A modern-steakhouse in Birmingham

Posted by bhamfoodscoop on October 1, 2010

One of the last restaurants that I went to for Birmingham Restaurant Week was Michael’s Restaurant. Michael’s is a well-known steakhouse in Birmingham that caters to the customer who enjoys the taste of high-quality food and impeccable customer service. Michael’s Restaurant is Alabama’s exclusive restaurant for Certified Hereford Beef, which is rated at the top one percent of all beef available today.

Michael’s Restaurant has been around for 55 years, and the steaks, seafood, and service only get better with time. Over the years, many sports stars and celebrities have graced Michael’s with their presence and autographs. The original Michael’s used to be located in Downtown Birmingham, however, today there are two locations. One location is outside of the Galleria Mall.

The other location is inside of the Aloft Hotel in Homewood. Both locations offer on-site party planning, catering, and a private dining room.

I would consider the Homewood location to have a modern-sophisticated flair. The theme is very versatile because it is appropriate for business meetings, parties, dates, and just casual dining. I would feel comfortable being casually dressed and just sitting at the bar watching a football game.The color palette for the restaurant is bright earth tones and this is reflected on the walls, in the decor, and on the booths.

The funky tiled bar is large, well-stocked, and gives one plenty of breathing room. It is also located in between two flat screen televisions.

I met a friend at the Homewood location, inside of the Aloft Hotel. I made reservations, earlier in the day, for 7:00pm ( I would recommend making reservations before you arrive). Stefan was sitting at the bar when I arrived, and once he closed his tab, the waitress took us to our table which was next to the bar, but it overlooked the entire restaurant. The focal point of Micahel’s Restaurant is the spectacular illuminated mural of the Birmingham skyline, which was taken at sunset atop Red Mountain. And I had a good view of this mural.

The waiter came to our table and told us about the house specials and the Birmingham Restaurant Week menu. Of course, we didn’t know what we wanted to eat yet, but we did order a bottle of the Maso Canali Pinot Grigio from Italy, which had a sweet, sharp, and bitter taste. I enjoyed it!

We ordered three appetizers, the first was the “Seared Rare Tuna Sushimi”. It consisted of Ahi Tuna seasoned and served Rare with Asian Slaw, Ponzu Soy, and Wasabi Créme Fraiche. This was my first time ever having this dish, so I didn’t know what to expect, however I was pleased. The Ahi Tuna had an excellent soy flavor, but sometimes my nose would be overwhelmed by the strong taste of the wasabi. (strong wasabi is a good thing)

The next appetizer was the “Pepper Pot Calamari” which was fresh Calamari fried and tossed with Cherry, Jalapeno, and Pepperoncini Peppers served with a housemade cilantro and basil dipping sauce. The only obvious peppers in the dish, to me, were the Jalapenos which were not spicy; it seemed like they had been soaked in vinegar. The calamari was fairly large and I ate it with the jalapenos, this created a delicious sweet/spicy flavor on my palatte.

The rest of what we ordered came from the Birmingham Restaurant Week Menu. Here it is:

First Course: “Jumbo Blue Crab Claws” – Fresh jumbo Blue Maryland Crab Claws lightly dusted and Flash Fried served with the housemade Cocktail Sauce.

When we originally, placed this order, the waiter said that they had ran out of the crab claws, and I became disturbed because I love crab claws. However, a few minutes later he came back to the table and said that a fresh shipment had just arrived from Maryland. I was excited to hear this! Another way that I could tell the crab claws were fresh, was because the meat slid off of the claw easily. Oh, by the way, the crab claws were excellent and I really enjoyed the cocktail sauce. It had a sweet taste that I couldn’t get enough of.

The second course came with the House Salad which is a mix of iceberg, romaine, and spring mix. Topped with cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries, fresh shaved Parmesan cheese, and spiced pecans. The house dressing is a roasted shallot and feta vinaigrette.

I enjoyed this salad so much that I ate it throughout the night, instead of sending it back before the second course arrived. It was simply delicious, and I enjoyed all of the sweet flavors.

Second Course: “Filet Mignon” – 9 oz Center Cut Filet.

I ordered my Filet Mignon medium well, and was very pleased. I don’t speak the “steak language” yet, but I do know a good steak when I taste it. My Filet was very tender, juicy, tasty, seasoned, succulent, and satisfying. Heinz 57 and A1 Steak Sauce was definitely an afterthought; I didn’t need them at all. The Filet Mignon also came with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes that were homemade and served hot. I could tell they were homemade because the potato peel was still on pieces of the potatoes. The potatoes mixed with Parmesan cheese complemented my steak well. It seemed to have been only a hint of Parmesan cheese in the potatoes but it was just enough. Even though I only had the 9 oz Filet, it was still enough for me to have leftovers.

Third Course: “White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Bread Pudding”

The bread pudding had pecans in it, it was served warm, and topped off with housemade whipped cream & a sweet tasting strawberry on the top. I definitely enjoyed the bread pudding and it complimented my dessert drink ( a White Russian) very well.

While I was basking in all of this wonderful food, I couldn’t help but enjoy the mixture of R&B/Rock music playing throughout the restaurant. This was a small element, but it helped to cap off my delightful and delicious experience at Michael’s Restaurant, that particular night!

Lastly, I would like to congratulate Pennington Pribbeneaux (General Manager) of the Michael’s Restaurant in Homewood, because his restaurant was voted in Bham Best as the “Third Best Steak in Birmingham”!

Michael's Steak and Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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