by Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
Vittoria Macelleria is a meat-focused eatery, located at the Martin Biscuit Building at Lakeview’s Pepper Place. The menu is primarily divided among beef, poultry, game, and pork. And the meats are sourced from naturally raised animals from highly respected farms.
Vittoria Macelleria is a James Lewis restaurant located at Pepper Place, next door to his Bettola. The ambience is a contrast of coolness and warmth. Gleaming, white tiles and shiny steel are mixed with roughhewn woods. Alabama craftsmen built the bar to Lewis’ design. Community style seating with long, brown leather banquettes—lends itself to meeting those seated near you—as you dine on tables made of reclaimed wood from a Civil War armory. The restaurant also boasts a meat case, patio, open kitchen and a chef’s bar, where you can get close and personal with the preparation of the food.
James Lewis is the owner and executive chef. Lewis has a business degree from UAB, yet his passion is for food, being chef and restaurateur. “Vittoria” is Italian for Victoria, which is Lewis’ grandmother’s name. “Macelleria” is an Italian butcher shop. In addition to his grandmother, his father also inspired his culinary career by teaching him how to make crepes as a boy and sending him to school with gourmet sandwiches and desserts for lunch. Lewis was born in Montreal and raised in San Francisco. Culinary experiences include stints in California and Italy. Lewis has been honored on the list of “Best New Chefs” by Food and Wine magazine in 2011, and Lewis made the James Beard Foundation’s preliminary list of semifinalists for its culinary awards. Other Vittoria chefs include sous chef, Stephen Fressell and charcuterie chef, Joshua Blackwell. And baker Corey Hinkle makes all breads on site.
We begin dinner with cocktails. Bandit negroni is served in an old-fashioned champagne coupe. A lemon slice floats atop this deep, dark drink with smoky drink. And on the lighter, more citrusy side is the Sea Pistol, served in a low ball. It is golden on bottom with a foamy head sprinkled with nutmeg. To pair with our charcuterie (cured and potted meats) we order one of my favorite wines, Cleto Chiarli Pruno Nero. Served in a champagne flute, the wine is deep ruby in color with purple foam, rich and round, offering fruity notes of blueberry and cherry.
Meats are butchered in house and made into a variety of sausages, hams, salami and more. So we look forward to the charcuterie. Our meat selections include coppa, soppressata di testa, smoked ham leg, corned duck breast, duck rillettes, pork rillettes and Kobe beef tongue. The top quality of each cut is apparent in every bite. On a separate board of dairy we have an array of fabulous cheeses: taleggio, roquefort vieux berger, Riverside Farm Made, and pecorine foglie noce. Accompaniments of a deep, rich grain mustard, an absolutely divine Fulton honey with honeycomb, green tomato mostarda and pickled veggies—red pepper, squash, cucumbers. The pickled vegetables lend the perfection of acidity.
For our second course we order heirloom tomato salad and boudin balls. The salad is a lovely mix of ripe red and golden heirlooms, along with thinly sliced, tender smoked ham, and bites of creamy buffalo mozzarella. The boudin balls are fried golden and crisp on the outside with a meaty center.
For our third course we deviate from pork and beef—although the heritage pork and beef menus do tempt. Two pork dishes are offered, pork belly and smoked pork loin. And four beef selections—five ounces each—include three prime steaks and a beef wellington with foie gras. Our choices instead are Alabama rabbit and grassroots farm chicken. The fork tender, rabbit roulade is served alongside flavor–filled honey carrots, a terrific potato puree and a fresh bed of watercress. The chicken arrives in three parts: fried leg, crepinette and slices of chicken breast meat on a bed of creamy corn puree and polenta. The high quality of this chicken shines through, especially in the tender, moist and tasty breast meat.
And for dessert we have hazelnut chocolate mousse cake. The rectangular cake covered in a luscious chocolate ganache is encircled with dots of toasted marshmallows and wonderful bruleed banana slices.