The best place to go in Birmingham for genuine Italian cuisine is Bottega. The Italian Renaissance-style building was built by the Tutwiler family in the 1920’s to be a retail showroom for the Gus Mayer department store. The building was designed by the same architects that designed the New York City Library. That architectural style caught the eye and dreams of chef Frank Stitt and in 1988, Stitt’s dreams came into fruition when he purchased the building, the words “Bottega Favorita” etched across the front. It was the perfect location for Stitt to share his passion for authentic and artful Italian cuisine with Birmingham.
Bottega is a two-fold wonder where you can choose to dine on the upscale Restaurant side, or the Café side. It could be compared to the two sides of the same coin – two different images of the same quality, one being upscale and opulent, the other being casual and informal.
The Bottega restaurant seats and serves customers in a dining room fit for a museum, with neatly dressed tables and gleaming wine glasses. The servers treat each customer as if you are the most important guest they will have all night. Reservations are highly recommended, as the restaurant (understandably) has quite an impressive fanbase. Try a light wine an appetizer such as their spring onion soup or infamous parmesan soufflé that has gained praise by many. From the main dishes you can choose owner and executive chef Stitt’s specialty braised rabbit with pappardale served with terra preta turnips and nasturtium, or the rainbow trout loaded with flavor with sugar snap peas, haricots vert and pickled beech mushrooms. Save room for dessert, because you won’t want to miss blu di langa, la casera / piedmont cheeses made from cow, goat and sheep milk. The tiramisu may be the most authentic and delicious in the entire Southeast.
The energy of the Bottega Café beckons to both the young and the life-experienced for either lunch or dinner, and the patio is the best seating for a breeze to go with your meal, and for people-watching. You’ll feel as if you were invited to Stitt’s personal family meal with the lively conversation and friendly servers. Inside the dining area, you’ll find an impressive brick, wood-burning oven crackling with warmth and ready to cook up a crisp pizza with grilled chicken, pesto, aged provolone and mozzarella or flat iron steak with grilled gem bibb and crispy potatoes. Make your choice of incredible wines and cocktails, or choose a draft from local breweries Good People and [Trim Tab](trimtabbrewing.com).
Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse dined at Bottega this year, and not only complimented the perfectly prepared dishes, but also tweeted photos of his meal.
For a meal fit for a king, culinary celebrity or fan of great Italian food, Bottega is a top choice, hands down.