Birmingham, a major medical and research center outside Homewood, is home to not only great barbecue, but also some extraordinarily good fine dining. In 2018, Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill was chosen as the Best Restaurant in the United States by the James Beard Foundation, and he’s been member of the Foundation’s Hall of Fame since 2011. He also owns nearby Bottega and Bottega Cafe, and Chez Fon Fon, right next door to the Highlands Bar and Grill. And Chris Hastings, another James Beard honoree (Best in the South) has the Hot and Hot Fish Club and OvenBird, where everything is cooked over wood fire. I have wonderful memories of taking Dear out to dinner at each of these — when I wasn’t taking her to barbecue places. And that barely scratches the surface of great Birmingham fine dining.
Even with all of those options, perhaps my favorite Birmingham area restaurant is Gianmarco’s. It’s a traditional Italian restaurant, by which I do not mean just a red sauce place: Italy has many traditions. Just look at their regular menu. Gianmarco’s sits tucked away in a residential area. It’s lovely inside, elegant, and candlelit, but friendly withal. And, boy! is it good. Gianmarco’s combines top notch ingredients into dishes that make you understand why those dishes have become traditions.
Gianmarco’s also has a connected retail wine store with a couple of hundred wines and some seating. Gianmarco’s will open the bottle you just bought at retail price without charge. That means that if you usually look for wines below, say $50 (usually that’s $17 retail), you can treat yourself to a $50 wine instead (usually $150 in a restaurant). Of course, you may never be satisfied again, but you will, I assure you, leave Gianmarco’s happy.
I’ve been thinking about Gianmarco’s a lot lately because they announce their evening take-out menu on Facebook. Every day I read about braised lamb shank over spinach pappardelle and roasted vegetables and seared snapper over parmesan risotto with crawfish gumbo, and I yearn to be back in a busy, friendly restaurant enjoying great food, wine, and company. Ah! Normal life!
I look forward to getting back to Gianmarco’s once this is over. I hope everyone down there supports them during the crisis. Get a meal from Gianmarco’s — maybe the lamb shank if it’s on offer. You’ll be happy.
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