Photo by Madoline Markham.
1012 Tellini's Italiano
Tellini’s house arribita sauce is made with San Marzano tomatoes.
If you take the fresh-fast food concept you find at Taziki’s Mediterranean Café and translate it to the realm of spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese and everything well-loved about Italian food, you have Tellini’s — the newest opening by Fresh Hospitality Group,
The restaurant group, which runs Taziki’s as well as Jim ‘N Nick’s, Riff Burger and Little Donkey Mexican, already owns locations of the Italian chain in Tupelo, Memphis and Huntsville, but the new Birmingham restaurant is different.
“We wanted a lighter menu with food you can eat for lunch,” said Nick Pihakis, founder of Fresh Hospitality. “We added sandwiches and salads, chicken, fish — a healthier side of the menu.”
This new 280 restaurant, managed by operating partner Allen Mello, is acting as a prototype for a new fresh, from-scratch menu, whose entrees cost $7-15. After tweaking the menu at this location, they will adapt the model for other Tellini’s.
The Spaghetti Arrabbiata with its plum-sized San Marzano tomatoes, two types of chili peppers and fresh basil and garlic tastes like a friend whipped it up from a trip to the farmer’s market that morning.
The Chicken Marsala, topped with mushrooms, diced tomatoes and scallions, has a sweet wine sauce that is decadent yet not heavy.
The Tellini’s Chopped Salad combines salami, grape tomatoes, onion, garbanzo beans, pepperoncini peppers, fresh oregano with chopped lettuces in each bite. Their Pasta Salad tosses chilled cheese-filled tortellini with mixed greens, fresh basil, toasted pecans, roasted red peppers and balsamic vinaigrette
If you can’t decide between a pizza and salad, the Piadine stuffs salad ingredients into folded, stone-cooked pizza dough. A different salad variety such as Caesar or Greek is offered daily.
Their new recipe for the 10-inch handcrafted pizzas comes with fresh twists, as well as more classic varieties like Five Meat. The Tellini’s Special (salami and fresh mozzarella) and Vegetarian have a layer of the tomato arribita sauce. Grilled chicken or grilled shrimp pair with pesto sauce, artichokes, mushrooms, onions and fresh mozzarella.
“Every day we roll our pizza dough and make the pizza sauces,” Pihakis said. “It’s all made here to bring a level of quality to in fast-casual dining.”
With this menu, Pihakis wants to offer the same quality food as a restaurant like Carraba’s but with a smaller price tag and faster service.
Pihakis said some of his favorites on the menu are the salads, paninis and pizzas.
The menu also offers a selection of more traditional Italian favorites including Fettucine Alfredo, Baked Ziti, Lasagna and Chicken Parmesan, all served with choice of soup or side salad. To complement any entree, there are garlic-topped rolls — also fresh-baked — as well as a menu of wines by the bottles or glass and craft, domestic and imported beers.
The dessert menu makes a decision easy — there’s just Lemon or Strawberry Cheesecake, each a thick, creamy cake atop graham cracker crust.
Tellini’s owns the strip center where it is located in the former Shogun Japanese Steak & Sushi Bar space next to Chik-fil-A.
“Who wouldn’t want to be on 280, except at 5 p.m.?” Pihakis said of choosing this location.
Owning its own property here helps the restaurant financially. This is also the case where Fresh Hospitality owns the strip center that houses Riff Burger and Taziki’s in Hoover as well as the strip behind Krispy Kreme further South on Highway 280 where they plan to open Big Bag Breakfast at the end of the year.