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Birmingham - Bettola's New Sister, Lack of a Full-Time Sommelier, and Chocolate Block

deepfriedkudzu Aug 12, 2010 11:00 AM

The September issue of Food & Wine has an emphasis on Southern food; they mention that James Lewis of Bettola will soon be opening a restaurant in town where "he'll take advantage of his butchering techniques he picked up from Italian star Dario Cecchini. He'll offer small northern Italian plates and meat by the pound, including German-style sausages."

Can't *wait* for that.

What I found most interesting was an article about Birmingham lacking a full-time sommelier. Is that right? The author's research included:
Classic Wine Company in Homewood
Village Wine Shop in Mountain Brook
Western in Mountain Brook (had no idea they have a wine staff of *three*)
The Pig (maybe the one in Crestline, by La Paz?)
Hot and Hot
Cafe Dupont

Didn't there used to be a sommelier at Copper Grill? Of course, Copper Grill hasn't existed for several years now.

One wine in particular that was mentioned in the article was Chocolate Block, and that some people call Village Wine Shop the "Chocolate Block store" and it was mentioned again as being a "regular" at Western in M'n Brook. I have a feeling someone at Whole Foods read this article because they were featuring Chocolate Block Wednesday in a nice display, and had it on sale at less than $30/bottle.

I'm not a "wine person" but am beginning to feel left out by never trying Chocolate Block, at one of Stitt's places or anywhere else. Anyone here have an opinion about it?

Cafe Dupont
113 20th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203

La Paz Restaurant
99 Euclid Ave, Birmingham, AL 35213

2901 2nd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233

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  1. sheilal RE: deepfriedkudzu Aug 12, 2010 11:12 AM

    I may not be remembering correctly, but I think Fox Valley used to have a sommelier once upon a time. Don't know if they do now though.

    Fox Valley Restaurant
    6745 Highway 17, Maylene, AL 35114

    1. p
      pinotboy RE: deepfriedkudzu Aug 12, 2010 11:21 AM

      Bettola's "new sister" will be next door to the existing space and has been under construction for a while. I forgot to ask Jim the last time I was in there when it will open, but will check with him the next time I am there.

      As far as I know, there is not a restaurant in town that has a sommelier. Copper Grill kinda/sorta had one, but as you point out, it has been closed for years.

      As a wine geek, I can tell you that you are not missing a great deal with Chocolate Block. It is a perfectly fine Syrah/Grenache/Cabernet blend, but I don't know what all the fuss is about. I actually think that a lot of people are in love with it for no reason other than the name.

      2901 2nd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233

      9 Replies
      1. re: pinotboy
        sheilal RE: pinotboy Aug 13, 2010 10:24 AM

        I thought the Cantina was next door to Bettola. Is it closed or am I just confused ?

        2901 2nd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233

        1. re: sheilal
          pinotboy RE: sheilal Aug 13, 2010 10:30 AM

          Cantina is on the other side. If you are facing Bettola, then the new addition is to the right. I think that is the space where Zoe's corporate offices were.

          2901 2nd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233

          1. re: pinotboy
            Big Daddy RE: pinotboy Aug 14, 2010 09:55 AM

            Keep us posted on the James Lewis place. That does sound exciting. Any word on if he's going to do other charcuterie, cured meats in addition to (what a may have incorrectly presumed to be ) fresh sausages?

        2. re: pinotboy
          Dax RE: pinotboy Jan 19, 2013 11:47 AM

          This place looks about ready to open. Anyone know when it will?

          1. re: Dax
            mwr0978 RE: Dax Jan 23, 2013 02:56 PM

            I just saw a Facebook post from Bettola today looking for servers for new restaurant. It said opening soon for whatever that's worth.

            1. re: mwr0978
              Dax RE: mwr0978 Jan 24, 2013 09:33 AM

              I'm eating at Bettola tonight and will inquire.

              1. re: Dax
                Dax RE: Dax Jan 28, 2013 08:42 AM

                Dinner at Bettola last week was excellent. We share a great antipasti platter with lots of great recs from our excellent servicer Michelle. I had the gnocchi and only got to try to the carbonara (with added pancetta). The gnocchi was super light even with the heavier lamb shank. A great dish. The carbonara may be one of the best in town, if not the best. Other diners enjoyed the duck parpadelle (my 2nd choice) and the funghi di bosco (but it was a bit soggy in the middle, my one lament for Bettola).

                Beforehand, we had a chance to chat with James about the concept for next door (charcuterie/butcher/restaurant) and he is super excited about the opening (currently softly scheduled for late February). While I have started grinding my own burger meat using a variety of cuts and animals, it's nice to know that I will be able to stop by somewhere else local for another option. I realize V. Richard's grinds their own, but I have no idea on the cuts. The place next door is in transition but looks good with lots of hanging hams and sausages. He also advised that he has lots of cold storage available downstairs as well.

                1. re: Dax
                  teemo RE: Dax Feb 5, 2013 09:00 AM

                  Late February? This is excellent news!

                  1. re: teemo
                    Dax RE: teemo May 17, 2013 12:10 PM

                    Vittoria's Facebook page says it is open as of today.


        3. Dax RE: deepfriedkudzu Aug 12, 2010 04:19 PM

          I'm not much of an oenophile, I do like wines. The people at Western in Mtn Brook seem to be fairly knowledgeable about wines.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Dax
            pinotboy RE: Dax Aug 13, 2010 06:19 AM

            They are. I have never seen another grocery store where you can get the type of help that Western provides when it comes to vino.

            1. re: pinotboy
              chloebell RE: pinotboy Jan 19, 2013 12:09 PM

              Ditto on Western. Good people and a great selection at fantastic prices.

              As for Chocolate Block, it's ok - but there are plenty of other ones I'd buy at that price before C.Block.

              Keep me informed about the restaurant. Would love to go when it's been opened for a while (get the kinks out).

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