2012 1st Ave N.
Birmingham, Al 35203

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Downtown Brunch: Trattoria Centrale

Part of the draw for brunch at Trattoria Centrale is that it’s a chance for folks who don’t work downtown to experience their food. (We still mourn the end of Friday night dinner service.) Also, they serve breakfast pizza topped with a fried farm egg, which is an unequivocally good thing. So while much of their business model is built on the workday suit-and-tie customer, their brunch model is based on being a neighborhood place, and we appreciate the balance.

The Trattoria guys — Brian Somershield and Geoff Lockert — have been such architects of the Loft District food scene that it’s easy to forget they began with a single small business. They took a simple storefront and made it magic.  They manage to make places that play into the existing neighborhood, only elevated.

Like their other ventures, El Barrio and Paramount, Trattoria fits within the neighborhood footprint while adding a disproportionate share of street life. They think about what the neighborhood needs now, what it can support but what can also help it grow, and that’s where they go next. They are an indelible part of the downtown story, of creating places people want to visit and reasons the area has become a compelling place to live.

Image via Draft Magazine

There’s something uniquely big city about Trattoria and its no-nonsense but clearly compelling approach to food. The menu fits on a small-ish chalkboard, with dishes crossed out once they’ve been eaten into oblivion. As you wait in the long opening line, which snakes charmingly around the pint-sized dining space, you’ll chat with friends and overthink your order and probably check in on social media.

Watching the food come out, plus glimpsing the open plan kitchen space as we approach the cash register, makes it easier for the indecisive among us to trust our guts. To look at the stacks of mascarpone-stuffed challah, the wedges of frittata, the stovetop pans of sausage and polenta bucatini and identify exactly which one looks most satisfying today.

Pro tip: The breakfast pizza is always a good idea. Always. It is thick and hearty and just a little bit crunchy, and the yoke sauce from your fried egg will push it over into utter food mastery. But there’s other good stuff too. The polenta, for instance, is never a bad idea, and it’s nice if someone in your party orders the French toast so you can innocently steal a bite, or five.

As a final word of advice, Trattoria brunching requires a bit of planning and a fundamental trade-off. Turn up for their 11:00 opening, and you will definitely wait in line. But it’s cheerful, and it smells good, and it never feels as long as you think it will. Yet, it’s probably not a good idea if you’re eating with small children or aging grandparents, or anyone else who might have trouble with prolonged standing. Come after 12:30, and the crowd should be lighter, but they might also have cleared out your favorite dish. So choose wisely, and enjoy!

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