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Trattoria Pizza & Italian • 11611 U.S. Highway 31 • Spanish Fort, AL 36527
251-375-0076 • www.trattoriapizzaitalian.com
A couple of weeks ago I went on a quest for authentic Italian in Mobile, finding good footing out west. This week I thought I’d continue my search and visit a spot in Baldwin County, which led me to Spanish Fort’s Trattoria Pizza & Italian on Highway 31.
Just a couple of miles from Picker’s Paradise, my guitar store in Stapleton, I don’t get to eat here as often as I should. Usually a lunch break involves me running to the bank or post office and, with any luck, a quick bite at Cheryl’s at the top of the hill. But with Trattoria being the closest place to eat, save the Tom Thumb gas station pizza or the Kangaroo Shell jalapeño burger, this Italian café minutes away should be getting more of my business.
The quaint little building has come a long way since it was an ice cream parlor with a goofy golf course. Owners Jill and Greg Peterson (of NBC 15 fame) transformed it into a happening lunch and dinner spot complete with a full bar. They even serve wine.
This wasn’t my first visit. I’ve been a handful of times and it took a few to grow on me. The place has now settled into what feels like a real neighborhood bar and grill. It’s like it took a bit of heat from the ovens and grease from the grill to dull the newness of the paint and the shine of the floors before it felt more like home to me. That being said, it has always been impeccably clean every time I’ve crashed the party.
I have an employee named Mark Purvis who is also settling in and losing a little of his newness at the shop. I thought it was time for me to treat Mark to a decent lunch and take home the evening’s meal for my gang.
With plans of a to-go order, I wanted to take care of myself first. I sat down with what is becoming sort of my “usual” there, a Caesar salad ($6.99) add tuna ($5.99). It is the usual romaine and croutons with Parmesan cheese, but the dressing is on the side. Normally I’d prefer it to be shaken until well-coated, but you’ll appreciate it OTS if you ever take it home.
Speaking of the dressing, it’s good. Maybe a little thinner than I’m used to, but by the time I got to the end it had mixed with the cheese and thickened up nicely for the last bites of tuna. Speaking of tuna, make sure to specify how rare you want it. They tend to overcook it if you don’t.
Back at Picker’s, Mark and I first dug into some oven-baked wings ($9.99). Of course pizza parlors rarely have fryers, but the wings here didn’t disappoint like most oven versions do. Cooked just long enough to be tender and not slimy, they were drizzled in Buffalo sauce. I wanted to not like them but I did. Mark was impressed.
For lunch you have the option of ordering a half sandwich. Mark enjoyed the Chicken Cordon Bleu ($6.99). The sandwich version of the famous dish has all the chicken, ham and Dijon dressing with melted cheese on their homemade bread. Not a bad ride nor a bad price when you consider it came with a side Caesar salad.
We also had a pepperoni pizza ($11.99 medium, add meatballs $1) knowing full well most of it was coming home with me. Trattoria, of course, does their own dough and the thin crust is what I’m into. The meatballs weren’t pretty but the flavor was better than it looked. They make a good pizza, for sure.
Now it was time for us to see what the Petersons are all about. With a dish that shares his name I couldn’t go away without trying Greg’s Baked Ziti ($12.99). Also served with a side Caesar, the ziti was swimming in ricotta and fresh marinara before it was topped with provolone and mozzarella and baked. We added Italian sausage ($2.99) to up the experience, not that we don’t trust Greg. I’m happy to say it made it home safely and even reheated well in the oven. Smooth move, Peterson!
One of the things we didn’t have today was their most popular menu item. Garlic Ballz (yes, with a Z) have probably put more cars in that parking lot than just about anything on the menu. It’s a sub-five-dollar app destined to continue hooking customers. Personally I am immune to their charms as I don’t care to sit around eating bread drizzled with butter and Parmesan, but many of you will be smitten. You can guarantee the kids will love them.
Indulge me for a second as I complain about a couple of things and then back up and tell you how good these guys are. I always get my hopes up when I see muffuletta on a menu and it turns out to be on po’boy or hoagie bread. It’s as bad as serving a Philly cheesesteak on a hamburger bun. Both may taste great, but it’s not right. They should call it a muffuletta po’boy or something like that to not get my hopes up. Also, spice up the nachos.
OK, I feel better. I’m off the soapbox.
The Peterson family has built a nice little Italian spot in an unlikely location and has seen success since 2014. It has come into its own and has really gotten its hooks into me over the past year or so. They must be doing something right because a second location has opened in Foley at the OWA amusement park!
In Spanish Fort, the lunch service has always been stellar, the food fresh and the facility clean. If you have a hankering to get out of Mobile for something a little different this may be the gem you’ve been searching for.
Keep up the good work.
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