May 3, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This post is a bit delayed (well really, what hasn’t been delayed with me lately, huh? I am ready for things calm down just a bit!), but James and I visited Slice Stone Pizza & Brew not too long ago (well ok, this was before Lent, but we’ve been back since). I had been once before, and I wasn’t all that impressed, so I was a little reluctant to return. But Bettola was closed because it was a Sunday, and a grey and rainy one at that, and we really needed pizza, so we came here.
After this visit, I completely changed my mind about Slice.
The first time I went, I ordered the Basic Pesto pizza, which was good, but it felt lacking in anything special.
On this rainy Sunday, we took refuge from the downpour inside the historic Craftsman home turned restaurant on 29th Street. Its walls are covered with graphic art depicting beer, pizza, and Birmingham icons like The Vulcan.
We sat at the bar, and we ordered the Bajalieh Special —named after the brothers who founded this pizza joint— and it was topped with tomato sauce, cheese, bacon, grilled red onion, and Wickles Pepper Rings. Ah! So good! The crust was seasoned very well—a little crisp and just a little chewy (how I like it). The peppers on the pizza were fabulous. I love spicy things—especially on pizza. We devoured this.
This restaurant also prides itself in its local, fresh ingredients that top the pizzas and its local beer selection. What I really liked was that a beer pairing suggestion was listed on the menu beside each item.
The suggested beer for this was Good People IPA. But I’m not a big IPA consumer. I wanted to try something new, and that day it was Avondale Spring Street Saison—my brand new fav. Light, crisp, citrusy, and a bit sweet. Love it.
Ok, and because I said, “Hey, I’m going to blog about this” (I was really on the ball about that now, wasn’t I? I’m a terrible blogger as of late.), I made James split dessert with me. We ordered—hold onto your hats—their special ice cream with blackstrap molasses and bacon.
Ah! So delish. So decadent. So sinful. But so pricey! It was $6.50. That’s a lot for one scoop, in my opinion.
So then we come to end of all this, which was a $35 bill. It’s not bad, but when you’re grabbing pizza (that yielded no leftovers) and a couple of beers (one each), it does seem like a lot to spend for us. I think that’s why this place has had mixed reviews—it’s quite pricey. And that’s probably why I wasn’t too impressed with my former pizza adventure here.
However, we loved that pizza, loved the unique flavor of the ice cream, and we really enjoyed the atmosphere. So we have been back (we skipped the beers to keep it cheaper). We reordered the same pizza, and we were just as happy. So go try it!
January 9, 2012 § 1 Comment
I went to Bettola as a goodbye dinner to my roommate Taylor, who moved back to California after interning for 4 months at Coastal Living. This was in December, and we had originally planned to go to GianMarco’s. We thought surely we’d get in on a Tuesday night. But I guess the holiday shopping/our ignorance (?) crept up on us, because we arrived and they told us there was no way we’d get a table that night. Yikes. Then we called another spot or two—all full. Then Bettola came to my mind. Yes! That would be a great place, and it’s ever so slightly off the beaten path in Pepper Place, so maybe it wouldn’t be as jam packed. And success! We had a table in 20 minutes.
We left Bettola so happy we came, raving about the meal.
To start, we ordered the Insalata Argulua. Y’all—from the moment I took the first bite I sincerely regretted not taking a picture. What was I thinking? I guess my mind was just ready for pizza, and my fork moved faster than my brain. This salad is prepared with local arugula, 2-year aged Parmesan, thinly sliced red onion, and a lemon and oregano emulsion as a dressing. I am going (to make a sad attempt, most likely) to prepare this at home. The peppery flavor of the arugula was brought out even more by the lemon and oregano (brilliant!). The red onion added an extra kick and each bite was perfectly coated in dressing. An unassuming leafy salad turned out to be bursting with bright flavor. I recommend this so highly.
Then we each ordered our own pizza. And we each just about finished our own (had to hold off on the last piece only because I wanted it for lunch the next day). I ordered the Pancetta e Cipola pizza, which is caramelized onions, pancetta, and hot peppers. The sweetness of the onions, the spice of the peppers, and the saltiness of the pancetta made this a well-rounded, very flavorful pizza. And the crust has a rustic, delightfully charred flavor. It’s thin and crispy, and it tastes even better whilst gazing at the brick oven in the center of the restaurant.
Taylor ordered the Beitola pizza, and we traded a piece for a piece. It was topped with the house sausage, spinach from Owl’s Hollow Farm in Gadsden, fontina, pecorino, mascarpone, and finished with a farm egg. Well it was my first time trying a pizza with an egg on it, and the buttery rich flavor complemented the earthy essence of the sausage and the creaminess of the cheese. And the spinach tamed all that richness in just the right way. It was beautiful.
Ok and then—the dessert. Our waitress sneakily placed menus in front of us (otherwise we might have held back), so we ordered the Torta Cioccolata, which is described as warm truffle chocolate, baked in a toasted almond tart, topped with toasted almonds, and served with espresso gelato.
As my roommate, Elana, articulated it, this dessert is a good example of why I love food. The subtlety and the flavor was so spot on and creative, it just about made me cry. Each bite of gelato was accompanied by a tiny crunch of caramelized sugar that was layered beneath. And the chocolate was deep, deep. dark chocolate—as bittersweet as it comes. The espresso gelato was actually sweeter than the chocolate, and the tart shell was crunchy and the almonds purveyed a pleasant nutty addition.
We left feeling that our money was well spent and grateful for the fabulous experience and last evening out together. I highly recommend Bettola. And if you can’t make it for dinner, head over for lunch and try a flatbread sandwich!