Isabella’s is an elegant, petite eatery anchoring one end of the popular Pinzone’s Italian Village in Fairhope. The restaurant made its debut in September of 2013 and chef Brian Karadimos arrived at the helm this past May. Karadimos, half Greek with Maryland roots, describes his cuisine as “a little Greek, a little Chesapeake.” The inspired offerings reflect that heritage with a decidedly Mediterranean focus and feel. He takes pride in turning out fresh, innovative fare so the menu changes often, depending on what is available locally and seasonally (especially at Baldwin County’s Chasing Fresh where Karadimos procures as much of his produce as possible).
Karadimos’ wife, Lenore, is the talented pastry chef. She creates all of the desserts in house along with fresh bread every day, including the pita that accompanies the assortment of Greek dips. Other starters include a Southern version of Greek saganaki, featuring the traditional fried cheese topped with housemade tzatziki on a bed of local goat cheese in a slightly sweet lemon and ouzo sauce with fresh chives, mint and dill and a classic crab cake (the chef’s grandfather’s recipe from Chesapeake Bay). Entrees range from the garlic-stuffed filet and braised lamb shank to roasted chicken and pan-seared scallops. A trio of crème brûlées with seasonal flavors (currently peppermint candy cane, eggnog and gingerbread) is always a winner, along with another staple, the chocolate bomb. A third dessert is often a version of baklava. There is a fun collection of cocktails and an intriguing, well-rounded wine list.
Dine indoors, and observe your dishes being prepared in the open kitchen, or alfresco at wooden bistro tables lining the cobblestone corridor connecting Isabella’s to Pinzone’s. As an interesting aside, the bell tower atop Isabella’s is the highest point in Fairhope. Also, there is an apartment suite above the restaurant that is available for rental on a nightly basis.
ON THE MENU
This quartet of creative, tasty purees typically features a briny tapenade, a version of hummus and more – recently, a roasted red pepper and feta, along with a slightly sweet pumpkin and hazelnut – all served with house-made pita triangles.
Local Mixed Greens
Tender, freshly harvested mixed greens are dotted with candied Baldwin County B & B pecans and crumbled Asher Blue cheese with red-wine- poached pear slices, all slicked with a sprightly satsuma vinaigrette.
Gulf fish (in this case black grouper) moist and delectably crisped atop a medley of sauteed parsnips, apples, turnips, onions and wild mushrooms is glossed with a complex satiny sauce laced with tarragon and Amaretto and capped with shaved circlets of fennel and a dollop of salad.
This rich, silky, frozen milk chocolate confection, above, is crowned with decadent chocolate ganache.
Isabella’s • 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. W / Th. 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Fri. / Sat.
305 De La Mare Ave., Fairhope. 990-5513
text by Sallye Irvine • photo by Blair Abraham