Bottega Café reopens on 15th Anniversary of Birmingham Restaurants.
By Jan Walsh
As Bottega Café reopens for today, March 1, 2022, I am the first person in the door. With hugs from Pardis and The Staple Singers playing overhead, I hum along, “I know a place, ya’ll… I’ll take you there…” Just being back here is a memorable, instantly uplifting experience.
And of all days to reopen…15 years ago today, Frank and Pardis were there when we launched BirminghamRestaurants.com. All four of their restaurants: Bottega Café, Bottega Restaurant, Chez Fonfon, and Highlands Bar and Grill became Founding Member Restaurants. And 15 years later, all four restaurants remain.
Kev and I toast and rejoice this day, and 15 Fulfilling Years with a bottle of bubbles: Pet Nat Kobal “Bajta” Rosé 2020 from Slovenia. This fun wine is full of life! It is cloudy on the outside and bright on the inside. Creamy, yeasty, juicy bubbles boast strawberry and raspberry notes yet is not sweet, at 12 percent alcohol. The wine is made of 100 percent, handpicked Blaufränkisch grapes, which were allowed to “bleed” for about four hours before a natural fermentation. Afterwards the wine was bottled with wild microflora that continues fermenting in the bottle.
For starters we share Focaccia with Bottega infused olive oil and Deviled Eggs and Tapenade. The bread is always a must. Soft and warm from the wood burning oven, with salt atop. We dip bites of the bread in Bottega’s lovely, infused olive oil as we look over the menu. The piquant farm eggs speak of their freshness in every firm bite. And the tapenade adds a salty, briny layer of texture with its bits of olive, caper, and anchovy.
Kev chooses the Meatball Piadine and Fried Potatoes with Romesco. Hearing the pesce del giorno is red snapper, my choice is a given. The classic unleavened flat bread is served hot, in two large sandwiches, both folded with meatballs, melted mozzarella, marinara, olives, pepperoncini, and arugula inside. Although it is a handful, it does not fall apart while eating. Frank stops by our table to welcome us back. And as Kev brags to him about the piadine, Frank best describes it as “crazy good.” Kev takes home one of the piadine. The following day, I unfold it, add a shredded mix of cheeses and heat on a baking sheet until the cheese bubbles. And just like that the piadine, and its depth of flavors, becomes a crazy good pizza!
My succulent red snapper is served in two rosy, red skin-on pieces atop a glorious mix of cannellini beans, spinach, lemon, and olive oil. Each bite of this firm, lean, and moist fish melts in the mouth with a sweet, nutty flavor. The silky, white beans add starch and earthiness to this fish dish. The velvety spinach pops the plate with color and tang. And a combination of lemon and olive oil, not only has renown health benefits, but also synthesizes well with the snapper, adding acidity and an oil enriched mouthfeel. Once again, as always, the fish of the day is a great catch!
For dessert we select the Chocolate Mousse Cake to share. This tempting tower of moist dark chocolate cake is layered with marvelous chocolate mousse and is served on a bed of splendid chocolate sauce. And a touch of color and texture tops it off—a tasty candied citrus peel. Next time we will each order our own… Highly recommended! Although Frank Stitt Restaurant Group’s living and loving legend, Pastry Chef, Dolester Miles has retired, this dessert is a sweet tribute to her influence and education of the pastry staff. She taught them well!
As Bottega Café reopens, next door, Bottega Restaurant is temporarily closed for renovations. It will reopen for dinner only this spring and will continue to take reservations. In the meantime, pop in at Bottega Café with no reservations being taken. Or call in your order. Bottega Café is still offering curbside menu and curb service.
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