Chef Driven

Bellini’s Ristorante’s Chef Andrew Hatcher’s fab fare is scratch made.

By Jan Walsh

Executive Chef, Andrew Hatcher’s earliest memories of food are of his great grandmother’s chicken and dumplings. And no matter how gourmet he gets at Bellini's Ristorante and Bar, you will still find comfort in his fare. At home he makes tomato basil soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, as well as other classics, such as Italian meatballs, collard greens, and deviled eggs. His love of simple, humble, food is often found in his Chef’s Seasonal Soups, Chef’s Features, and Chef’s Tasting Dinners for 15 from their VIP list. Two weeks ago Lobster Mac and Cheese was a chef feature. This week there is a Black and Blue Filet. As Birmingham’s only Italian infused steakhouse, Hatcher grills this baby on three types of wood, resulting in a flavor that Bellini’s is known for. This week’s steak is topped with a creamy gorgonzola and simply served with a baked potato and grilled asparagus, because sometimes you just want a great steak and a hot baked potato.

Beyond what he refers to as easy food, Hatcher’s culinary talents and gourmet techniques are on display in his more complex preparations. For wine dinners, he serves a couple of Italian dishes but tries to get people to “branch out” tempting their palates with other cuisines. For a recent wine dinner, Hatcher roasted a duck, and served the breast over locally sourced mix with cranberries, fennel, walnuts and oranges. And he encrusted a rack of lamb with parmesan and rosemary, which he served over black garlic mashed potatoes with heirloom carrots in a veal demi glaze.

General Manager, Katie Strickland is a mixologist and works with Hatcher pairing wines for the wine dinners. And the wine program just keeps growing, receiving Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, year after year. Bellini’s next Chef Tasting Dinner is planned for early December. Yet Bellini’s VIP Members get first dibs on reservations. Join Now

Surprisingly, Hatcher did not originally plan to become a chef. While at UAB as a student studying to become a biologist with aspirations to become a medical doctor, his career took a different turn when his apartment rent increased. To earn extra income, he took a job in the kitchen at a nearby bistro and afterwards at a fine dining restaurant. While working in these restaurant kitchens, learning French techniques, and making fresh pastas, Hatcher fell in love with French and Italian cuisines. He soon left college for culinary and never looked back. Thus, he relates to the teens in the back of the house whose aspirations are culinary school. And Hatcher credits, owner Doug Hovanec for welcoming and encouraging them.

Like most great chefs, Hatcher does not rely on recipes for cooking. Because every tomato is different, he tweaks every batch of his house made marina. Each is a taste experiment, tasting as he goes. At Bellini’s Ristorante, all his pastas are made in house, as are all desserts, dressings, and sauces. House favorites among long standing regulars are chicken parmesan, meatballs, piccata, and the steaks. And although there is a new dessert menu on the table, it includes their famous white chocolate bread pudding, and always will.

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