Savoring the sweet life

Published 10:43 am Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Italians use Bellinis, cocktails made with pureed white peaches and sparkling wine, to celebrate the sweet things in life.

Business partners Benard Tamburello and Doug Hovenec believe those things — close family, flavorful drinks, good friends and mouthwatering dishes — can be savored at Bellini’s Ristorante and Bar.

“That’s what it’s about — it’s about time. Everybody thinks the good things involve money and they don’t,” Tamburello said. “It’s about the people. Without the people you have nothing.”

The minute patrons walk into the restaurant, located off Highway 119 and Doug Baker Boulevard, they’re met with a rich and rustic Italian style. Exposed brick, an earthy color palatte and dim lighting transport you mentally, as you prepare to bite into the flavors of Italy.

“I thought I enjoyed good food until I met him and ate at La Dolce Vita,” Hovenec said. “His food, it’s well-balanced. It hits your palette just the right way.”

The restaurant represents the cultivation of Tamburello’s culinary talents with popular dishes like pan–seared grouper, salmon bruschette and Veal Toscana.

He said he tries to introduce people to what Italian food is really about — fresh ingredients.

“We use all fresh herbs, if it’s not fresh we won’t serve it. The tomatoes come from San Marzano, Italy; the pasta is either handmade in the back or imported from Italy, and we prep for the day, not for the week,” Tamburello said.

The chef made his first move into the restaurant business in 1992 with Gus’s Hot Dogs. He later opened Bernie’s Grill in Chelsea, focusing on both American and Cajun dishes, before moving it to Chelsea in 2001. Finally, Tamburello returned to his family’s own roots with La Dolce Vita in Hoover.

Every aspect of this latest endeavor includes the essence of family. Hovenec’s wife chose the crystal lights that hang over the bar, his father crafted a portion of the sinks in the bathrooms and friends created the oil paintings on the walls. The two men even became business partners after years of their kids playing ball together.

Now, they hope locals call on Bellini’s to savor the sweeter things in their lives.

“We want to be that local spot where people can come in and feel welcome because when you feel welcome you come back,” Hovenec said. “People are looking for that experience, and we want to give it to them.”