When anyone asks me for restaurant recommendations in Downtown Birmingham, Trattoria Zaza always makes my list. With a menu full of delicious pastas + pizzas and an alluring atmosphere, Zaza is one of my favorite restaurants in The Magic City. We spoke with Bryan Stanfield, head chef at Zaza, to learn more about the history and menu inspiration of the restaurant.
BONUS: Learn how local redevelopment planning firm Orchestra Partners supports locally-owned businesses just like Trattoria Zaza.
Get an inside look at Trattoria Zaza
Trattoria Zaza chef Bryan Stanfield grew up interested in food and how it connects people. As a UAB student in 2010, he got a job at a restaurant: Trattoria Centrale. He loved working with the owners, Brian Somershield and Geoff Lockert, and decided to dive into the career.
After five years at Zaza, Bryan and front-of-house manager Erica Schmidt made plans to leave the restaurant and open their own restaurant concept. However, Brian countered with a new proposition: that Bryan and Erica take ownership of Zaza.
“It was a no-brainer knowing this was the community we wanted to serve and place we both loved.”Bryan Stanfield, Chef, Trattoria Zaza
Dive into delicious details
Zaza’s menu has the perfect blend of unique flavors and classic dishes. They’ve got a set menu of pasta and pizza, but they also feature a rotating menu of pizza toppings and daily specials.
“We try to walk the line of being both approachable to the masses and exciting or interesting. I’m always taking in concepts and informations. I read a lot of cook books and menus from all over the place. That can come out on the menu—sometimes it’s as simple as taking the flavors and ingredients in a low country boil and reimagining it on pizza or knowing that burnt eggplant works great with lemon, garlic and tahini for a dip and approaching summer squash the same way.”Bryan Stanfield, Owner + Chef, Trattoria Zaza
Here are a few menu items you can expect to find:
- Campanelle with bacon, brussels sprouts, Calabrian chilies, herby bread crumbs, garlic cream + pecorino
- Pizza slices with daily rotating toppings
- Penne all’arrabbiata with tomato, garlic, chili flake, parsley + pecorino
- Fall tortellini salad with chicken, apples, shaved fennel, tortellini, goat cheese + balsamic vinaigrette
- Even more!
Trattoria Zaza isn’t just unique in its menu offerings—you’ll notice that the prices on its menu include tips already.
From the beginning, tips were split evenly between the entire team, from the server who took your order to the dish-washer who prepared clean plates. Moving to the method of including tips in the price was a natural evolution.
“We believed strongly that a certain wage was important to achieve for everyone to live and work comfortably and as the employer it was our job to take that on. Being up front with the customer and building it into the prices on the menu felt like the most simple solution.”Bryan Stanfield, Chef, Trattoria Zaza
Location, location, location
Trattoria Zaza is the anchor tenant of The Frank, an Orchestra Partners redevelopment project that aims to update the historic Frank Nelson building. Located on 20th Street North, The Frank is within walking distance to many of the city’s most popular destinations. The redevelopment represents Orchestra Partners’ mission of bringing new life to historic buildings.
“The Frank is such a big piece of Birmingham’s history, and we’re so happy that we have the opportunity to breathe new life into this building,” said Howard McKay, Director of Development. “With amazing tenants like Zaza just a few steps away, we know the residents at The Frank will feel right at home in their upscale apartments.”Orchestra Partners