Bertolone’s Italian Restaurant Clanton, Alabama Where You Can “Taste The Love.”
Tasty Tuesday – Generally, I write about my quest to eat all of the dishes listed on my pamphlet of 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die. However, I like to write about places that I feel are worthy of a closer look. Bertolone’s Italian Café in Clanton Alabama is one such place.
It is not often that I make the forty-five-minute drive to central Alabama to hang out in the town of Clanton Alabama, population 8,619. But, a warning light came on in my car; and I love the dealership, so off I went this past Friday.
The Good News
For a town of 8,619, Clanton Alabama has some mighty fine eateries. Some of my first blog subjects on my quest to try all of the dishes listed in the Alabama Tourism pamphlet entitled 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die, were dishes that I tasted in this Alabama town. That fried peach pie, peach ice cream, and pecan pie remain amongst the top of my list of desserts in Alabama. Also, I absolutely love the beautiful countryside of Chilton County. There are beautiful farms, vineyards, and of course, the famous peach trees that this Chilton County is known for.
After dropping off my car this past Friday, I popped into Bertolone Italian Café and literally got the last table in the packed house.
I kept wondering whom, what and why here?
And then as the customers began to finish their meals, I started to look at some of the articles, family photos, and accolades on the Tuscan colored walls and realized that I knew this place; sort of.
For my Alabama readers, this family owned Joe’s Pizza and Pasta Caffé in Alabaster. I, along with many other loyal followers, have made the long trip from my home to visit this family-owned Italian restaurant a handful of times. If you live anywhere between Montgomery and Birmingham, and beyond, you probably know the place.
La Familia Storia – The Whom, The What, and The Where
I remembered the story of the Italian family who emigrated from Italy, Giuseppe “Joe” “Papa” Bertolone was born in Mussomeli, Italy. He went to London to work for an Italian Restaurant in the Picadilly area. Upon a return visit to Italy, he met his beautiful wife Elvira “Mamma” “Nonna” in Liguria where Elvira was working. They moved back to Italy and operated a vegetable market in Savona. After their honeymoon to California, they decided to move to California, but it was not until 1977 that this family of now two children Michael and Sonia emigrated. Mary was born a year later. They settled in Gilroy, the Garlic Capital of the U.S.A., where Giuseppe’s brother owned a pizza restaurant.
In 1981, they began their own storied restaurant business in Gilroy, California. Having great success, they decided to retire and moved to Shelby County Alabama in 2007, so that they may be near their two daughters, Mary and Sonia. Their son Michael later followed.
In their “retirement,” Joe and Elvira helped their family open Joe’s Italian Pizza, Pasta, & Caffe not far from Birmingham in Alabaster, Alabama. Joe and Elvira were beloved fixtures at the restaurant greeting customers as if they are family, and Elvira cooking some of her own recipes. This family prides themselves in sharing their love of all things Italian, culture, food, and family.
Sadly, in 2013, on this very day that I am writing, the Bertolone family had to say good-bye to their beloved husband, father and grandfather, Giuseppe “Joe” “Papa” Bertolone. The successful Alabaster restaurant was subsequently sold with the usual non-compete clause, and daughter-owner, Sonia Bertolone-de Castilla, with sister Mary acting as a General Manager, later opened up Bertolone’s in Clanton.
In the corner of the restaurant, I saw Mama aka Nonna, sitting with some of her grandchildren. At 7:00, she was still wearing her apron and closely watching the restaurant, signaling to the servers if something caught her attention. Walking in and out of the kitchen, I saw Sonia running the back and front of the house. I watched as the superbly friendly staff spoke with the patrons of the packed café, and carried dishes to the tables.
I saw many pizzas and calzones being served. I also spied salads and large dinner entrees passing by.
These entrees come with a crisp and fresh house salad (or soup,) a side of house Italian dressing, along with warm fresh focaccia bread and herb-infused oil. The salads were quite good. The other salad pictured is a half-order of Florentine Salad-Field greens and romaine lettuce topped with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, dried cranberries, Gorgonzola cheese and candied walnuts.
I ordered the special of the night, which was lobster, ravioli. After I learned that this was the same family who owned Joe’s, I realized that I had tried this dish once before in the Alabaster location. I would say, although I do not know for certain, the pasta is not house-made. The sauce is house-made as was the focaccia and the tomato basil soup. After my visit, I read the restaurant reviews and it appears as though the customers really love this soup. *See recipe below in MEGatips.
My husband ordered the Chicken Parmigiana.The pasta is standard restaurant pasta but the sauces, and desserts are homemade. I found the chicken to taste great almost like a chicken nugget. Super tender and fried perfectly, again, I am unsure if the chicken is made in the kitchen or restaurant fare. He really liked it and took half of his portion home.
I ordered the special of the night, which was Lobster Ravioli. After I learned that this was the same family who owned Joe’s, I realized that I had tried this dish once before in the Alabaster location. Again, I would think that the ravioli was not house-made but the creamy rich sauce was. I liked it. *I flipped the ravioli for the photo.
Now here is where the visit became my predicament. My seat was merely two tables away from the colorful dessert case. As the patrons finished their dinners, I sat in direct view of the cake case.
Like, true love, you are drawn closer.
Like, true love, you are drawn closer. Some of the ingredients that make Italian cakes so yummy are: Whole milk dairy products i.e. cream, ricotta, mascarpone, homemade whipping cream, liquor-liqueur, candied fruit, fruit.
This happened to get to my home. next time that I visit and I will, I want that coconut cake!
When I went to checkout, there was a small table that displayed some of Mama’s baked goods: Twisted focaccia loaves, loaves of bread, rolls, cookies, and cannoli. I regret not buying those rolls.
The Bad News– My car is broken. Looks like I will get to buy a few of those rolls.
Dedicated to Giuseppe “Joe” Bertolone whose heavenly birthday is today. 3-6-2013
MEGastars: 4 ****
- For my Alabama readers DO visit this restaurant and support the family run Bertolone’s Italian Restaurant!
- Located approximately 5 minutes off of I-65, this is only a short distance off that beaten path for those visiting Alabama. It is a delicious stop off spot.
- About their creamy basil tomato soup. If you happen to own the book Alabama, Back Road Restaurant Recipes, written by Anita Musgrove. P. 72
- If not, here is a link to that basil soup recipe made by Elvira. Joe’s Italian Tomato Basil Soup Recipe.
- Mama/Nonna also makes this strawberry jam that tastes so fresh you could drink it. I know this because she personally gave me a jar. This along with other goods are for sale in the restaurant.
- Closed on Monday’s, the website has any details that you may need. As well as mouthwatering photos of their food. That dessert, though! Bertolone’s Website
- This restaurant is also on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
- Bertolone’s also offers catering and pre-ordering cakes for special occasions.