We’ve talked about our love for brunch at Trattoria Centrale before, and we’ll confess to more than one rushed morning being saved by their delicious breakfast biscuits. The place has become such a Downtown/Loft District institution over the last several years that we might have read the AL.com report of its sale more than once, just to be sure we read it right.
Fortunately, though, this isn’t your ordinary restaurant sale. Trattoria isn’t going corporate. Nor, the AL.com piece assured us, has it been sold to outsiders with different views on what Trattoria should be. Instead, it’s an inside job of the very best kind, perhaps even another way the Geoff Lockert/Brian Somershield partnership has invested in the neighborhood’s long-range culinary viability.
New owners Bryan Stanfield and Erica Schmidt aren’t folks who’ve gone into restaurant ownership on a whim. They’re folks who have learned the restaurant industry from the ground up, and they learned it at places like Trattoria. “We both started as servers, but Bryan made the switch to kitchen as he was eager to learn as much as he could from Brian Somershield,” Schmidt told us. “I worked my way up to managing the front of house, while Bryan worked his way up from dishwasher at Trattoria to the grill cook at El Barrio.”
Schmidt says those experiences were truly formative, with Stanfield getting top-notch training from Culinary Institute of America alum Somershield along with the practical side of restaurant cooking. Both Somershield and Lockert cut their restaurant industry teeth working for Birmingham legend Frank Stitt, according to another AL.com piece, bringing both kitchen and front of house expertise to their own ventures. Stanfield and Schmidt have followed a similar trajectory in their restaurant: “Geoff and Brian did an excellent job of instilling in both of us how to give the best possible service in this restaurant specifically, and that is an example that we strive to live up to,” Schmidt said.
But owning Trattoria wasn’t Schmidt and Stanfield’s plan. When their jobs at Trattoria and El Barrio meant work schedules with little shared free time, Schmidt said the two — who are also an engaged couple — hatched another business plan entirely: “We left with the intention of starting a food truck together, but almost immediately Brian and Geoff offered to sell us Trattoria and everything fell into place after that.”
The moral of the story is that the Trattoria we’ve grown to love will remain pretty much intact, according to AL.com, but with one big change: a return to Friday night dinner service. “We are putting a 6 month deadline on opening up for dinners,” Schmidt told us. “Once we get fully settled in and can hire one or two people Friday dinners will be on.” Needless to say, that’s a change we can get behind.
The new owners are looking forward to continuing Trattoria’s tradition as a solid draw in the Loft District. “Trattoria was one of the first — if not the first — awesome new restaurants to open up on the northside in the last decade,” Schmidt said, “and I think a lot of people credit Brian and Geoff with beginning the revival of that area.” As an Alabama School of Fine Arts alum, Schmidt knows well how much the area has changed. “This is such a great time to live in Birmingham,” she said, “and we are excited to buy into its transformation.”