Review: Pintoli’s Italian Café Satsuma, AL

I first visited Pintoli’s Italian Café years ago when I was working in nearby Saraland.  Many a co-worker had raved about the great lasagna bianco and homemade pizza so I made a point of visiting one day for lunch.  Back then it was a small place with maybe seating for 30 if you all scrunched together.  The walls were plain with the ubiquitous prints you expect to see at most Italian joints.  The decor was, let’s call it rustic, but the food was aces.  The menu was petite and the aforementioned lasagna bianco quickly became my favorite; after all what’s not to like about thick meaty lasagna topped with creamy Alfredo sauce?

Today Pintoli’s looks like a completely different restaurant than it did half a decade ago.  No more droll interior and cramped seating.  Also expanded is the menu – nine appetizers, five different salads, over a dozen entrees, seven amazing sandwiches and the customary pizzeria fare – pies, calzones and stromboli.  The menu is no longer strictly Italian either as many American staples have made the list like Buffalo wings, bacon-cheddar fries and a number of Coastal favorites like Greek salad or crawfish pasta.

Oh, and there’s wine.  Vino is as as much apart of Italian cuisine as garlic and tomatoes.  Pasta without wine is like collards without cornbread; it’s just plain wrong.  If the bulk of your experience with Italian food comes from one of the national chains then one taste of the homemade marina that comes with the complimentary cheese sticks will show you what you’ve been missing.   The growth of Pintoli’s is a testament to the service provided and the best Italian food in the Bay area.  But how do the non-Italian dishes stack up?  Let’s see.

It is hard to mess up bacon-cheddar fries.  The key is the French fries themselves – they must be crispy  so to stand up to the weight of the bacon and the moisture from the cheese.  No problem there as the fries were done just right.

Buffalo wings can be a point of contention with me.  If you list Buffalo wings on your menu then that is what I expect – batter-less wings tossed in a sauce that is equal parts hot sauce and margarine.  I have no qualms with personal touches and innovative alterations, just don’t call them Buffalo wings.  The Buffalo wings at Pintoli’s are exactly what one expects (and seldom gets) when ordering Buffalo wings.

The greatest revelation to me is Pintoli’s crawfish sauce; it is culinary gold.  A bold lobster stock brings a briny character to the rich cream sauce.  A pinch of Cajun spice introduces a nice heat that is quickly subdued by the cream.  The balance is absolutely perfect.  Poured over Fettuccini, it is perfect for those who find Alfredo boring.  But paired with what is unquestionably the best fried egg plant I have ever had and you unlock an appetizer that truly makes this dish noteworthy.  The fries and wings are good but not uncommon, the crawfish sauce is uncommonly good.

The service was what I have come to expect from this eatery.  Proficient, friendly with just the right amount of friendly chatter.  This was impressive as my server, Amber, had more than enough tables to deal with.  She handled them all with equal composure and professionalism.  Amber earned more than the standard 20% gratuity.

Pintoli’s Italian Café is located at 5573 Hwy. 43 in Satsuma.  They are open M-Th from 11AM to 9PM, F & S from 11AM to 10PM and Sundays from 11AM to 6PM.  In addition to the beautiful dining area you can also choose to dine al fresco on the deck or even get your grub To-Go.  They also offer catering.  To find out more call 251-675-0607.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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