Enchanting Evening

Kev and I celebrate our 26th Anniversary at Bocca Ristorante.

By Jan Walsh

Tom and Christina Saab have gotten fine dining right—twice. Bistro 218 and Bocca Ristorante are two of the best restaurants in Birmingham. We dined at Bistro 218 for Valentine’s Day 2022. And tonight, for our anniversary, we choose Bocca Ristorante.

The valet is waiting as we pull to the curb, at Bocca’s front door. And so is our corner banquette in this packed restaurant at 5:30 p.m. Many guests are enjoying an early dinner before the (sold out) Garth Brooks concert at Protective Life Stadium. Later, as they leave, the tables turn over immediately at this popular place.

Sommelier, Carlos Cisneros treats us to an anniversary toast of a 2020 vintage Prosecco. And he recommends Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige, NV for our dinner celebration. This Extra Brut blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco is golden honey in color, with crisp notes of pear, peach, and apple, with nuances of toasty Italian bread. Gorgeous by the glass or the bottle!

Bocca Ristorante keeps regulars’ favorites on the menu, while changing out other dishes to showcase in season products. To broaden our experience tonight, we opt out of our tried-and-true favs—Arancini di Riso, Spicy Veal Meatballs, Scallop Risotto, Cast Iron Ribeye, Char Grilled Veal Tenderloin, and their famous Italian Butter Crunch Doughnut. We pair the Cuvée with two starters: a dish from the Antipasti-Salads, Heirloom Tomato Caprese and Primi dish, Linguini Carbonara. The juicy, flavorful, in-season heirlooms are vine ripe and crowned with marvelous, house made, supple slices of fresh mozzarella. Drizzles of purple basil and balsamic finish this tasty tomato salad. Oh, my! The first bite of Bocca’s carbonara makes my heart flutter. One of the best pasta dishes I have ever tasted, this the cheesy linguini is not just enhanced by… it is perfected by, savory guanciale, crispy egg, and fried pecorino. Another favorite to add to the list!

For Secondi, Kev opts for the Duroc Pork Porchetta, and I order the Gulf Shrimp Scampi. Leave it to Chef Tom to bring this artistic and excellent¾stuffed, wrapped, and roasted—pork to Bocca’s plate. The crisp, fatty exterior releases juices inside moistening this melt in the mouth tender, slow roasted pork. Enshrined in the center is a ravishing stuffing of sweet Italian sausage, earthy fig, sage, and creamy ricotta. It is accompanied by a sensational, creamy couscous, roasted rainbow cauliflower, and roasted onion. Who needs to attend a concert? This dish is a symphony in itself. Highly recommended! My scampi is yet another delightful dish. Each plump, pink shrimp is perfectly curled on the outside, and moist and succulent on the inside. They are served over a lovely bed of linguini with flavors of garlic butter and white wine, with crisp pine nuts. What a catch!

For dessert, we select the Coconut Cheesecake with Almond Joy Ice Cream paired with Quinta Ruby Port. Coconut flavors shine in this light and creamy cheesecake, embellished with slivered almonds. And its candied ice cream amplifies the dessert’s sweetness. The port is bright, juicy, fruit forward, and goes easy with this dreamy dessert. Thank you to the Saabs for one enchanted evening.

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