Story and photos by Chanel Bingham
Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto. Eat well, laugh often, love much.
This simple phrase perfectly captures the essence of new Italian restaurant Bertolone. Owners and sisters, Sonia Bertolone-Carrillo and Mary Bertolone-Perez are committed to providing Chilton County residents with some of the best cuisine Italy has to offer.
Combining both northern and southern Italian fare, Bertolone’s Italian Cafe gives the customer an enhanced dining experience, with authentic dishes full of perfectly balanced flavor.
From crowd favorite lasagna, made with traditional bolognese sauce and cooked for six hours, to chicken saltimbocca that is stuffed with fontina cheese, prosciutto and sage and sautéed in a white wine cream sauce with mushroom and capers, there is something on the menu to suit any palate.
Bertolone-Carrillo is passionate about the food she serves and credits her parents for instilling within her an appreciation for quality cuisine.
“My parents were very, very passionate people. My mom has always been passionate about food of all kinds, and she loves to cook,” Bertolone-Carrillo said. “She can take three ingredients and make the most fantastic creation that you’ve ever tasted. My father was very much the eater, and he loved food, so I got my passion from both of them. We just always had really, really, really good food in our home; that’s how we were raised. Most kids would go home after school and open a bag of chips, but by 4:30 or 5 p.m., my mom would have a gourmet meal ready. She made cannelloni with two different sauces, and she always had fresh vegetables, which she grew herself, along with spices and herbs. She always made us dessert, and was just very much the gourmet cook.”
Born in Italy, Bertolone-Carrillo understands the secret behind great Italian food: simplicity and flavor. “In some cuisines you have to rest, and braise, and poach, and do this and do that, but Italian food is not like that. It is simple, but all of the flavors come through,” Bertolone-Carrillo said. “When I was a kid, food used to have flavor, but nothing has flavor anymore. Everything is over-processed, boxed and ready to go. We make sure that all of our food is full of flavor, because that is important to us.”
She also shared that fresh ingredients are a priority, and is building relationships with local vendors to provide the best ingredients for her customers.
Bertonlone’s offers an outstanding menu and will feature several specialty dishes including the mouth-watering lobster ravioli cooked with Maine lobster, along with their signature Italian desserts, which are made fresh daily beginning when the first baker arrives at 5 a.m.
In keeping with the secret to great Italian food, Bertolone-Carrillo shared one of her late father’s favorite spaghetti dishes, which is full of flavor yet wonderfully simple. “No one has time to cook, so this is very quick and easy,” explained Bertolone-Carrillo. “But it is so delicious and has a ton of flavor.”
To replicate this favorite, begin by cooking spaghetti pasta in boiling water. While it is cooking, combine fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper in a bowl. This creates a light pomodoro mixture and is what gives the pasta its flavor. Once the pasta is cooked, simply add the pomodoro mixture. The noodles will heat the mixture, and the result is a quick and light dish that will leave your taste buds satisfied.
Bertolone-Carrillo adds that to enhance the flavor, you can allow your ingredients time to marry and blend with one another. She suggests preparing the pomodoro mixture in the morning and refrigerate until dinner.
The Bertolone sisters are happy to be a part of this community and hope to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Clanton. “I want to do everything I can to help bring it back to what it used to be,” Bertolone-Carrillo said. “My heart is drawn here. It feels like Mayberry where everybody knows everybody. It’s very refreshing. There is a great sense of community.”
To experience for yourself the amazing flavors of Italy, stop by Bertolone’s Italian Café for lunch or dinner. They are located at 605 Second Ave. N. and are open Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.