By Anna Grace Moore

Photos by Untold Imagery

Strolling into Bellinis Ristorante and Bar, one is immersed in romantic lighting and greeted with cheerful salutations. Owner Doug Hovanec founded Bellinis with his then business partner 15 years ago in 2008, and through economic downturns, a global pandemic and more, the restaurant has only ever thrived, thanks to what Doug says are the three key ingredients to good business: people, process and product.

Whether guests choose to relax at the bar for an elder old fashion or dine in Bellinis intimate atmosphere, they are always treated with the utmost respect, and the staff would not have it any other way. Good people are the first of the three-fold recipe for success, and Doug says he prides himself on the team he considers family.

Katie Strickland, general manager, started in the service industry as a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, working her way through college. She landed a position as a waitress at Bellinis after graduating and worked her way up into management.

“Doug is here for his staff and his guests, and I think that trickles down from upper management all the way to our servers,” Katie says. “Everyone sees the passion he holds for this industry, and it inspires everyone else to have the same outlook.”

From open to close, the servers, hosts, chefs and managers work in such fluidity that no customer’s chardonnay glass ever gets half-full without a server offering a second pour. The servers are patient, happy to assist any customer with special requests or tough decisions on the menu, too.

Looking about the dining room, one will see gentlemen fresh off the golf course, laughing about the game’s spoils. Couples on their first date or 50th anniversary sit adjacent to one another, each dining joyfully in an aroma of love.

“We don’t stop people from being who they are when they walk through the doors,” Doug says. “We want to help elevate their experience.”

Doug and his father dine together every Friday night at Bellinis–a tradition they have enjoyed for several years. Good meals become even better when shared with people one loves, Doug says.

This haven is welcoming for guests of all ages–which is why dining at Bellinis is perfect for any occasion.

“My favorite part of my job is getting to watch the beautiful moments that we bring to the people here,” Katie says. “Getting to see people spend their anniversaries or get engaged here, have their baby showers here–those little life moments that we get to be a part of is what makes the service industry so special. A lot of my job and what I love about it is making those guest connections.”

In addition to fostering fellowship between the staff and customers, Doug says the second ingredient, process, is just as–if not more important. Every meal on the menu is made in-house, from scratch every day.

Chef Andrew Hatcher was classically trained in French cuisine with a Southern fare at Root to Tail in Mountain Brook. He joined the team at Belinis four years ago, working his way up to head chef.

Andrew says Bellinis wood-fire-burning grill utilizes hickory and mesquite wood, unlike many restaurants in the area. This tactic, he says, allows the food at Bellinis to have richer, more authentic flavors.

“In the cooking process, [woodfires] add a charred, smoky flavor, which infuses with our steaks and helps keep those juices in there while cooking,” Andrew says.

Not only do the chefs at Bellinis cook the old-fashioned way, but they also hand make all of the pasta, sauces and bread. Every time someone tastes the lemon ricotta linguine or chicken and artichoke rigatoni for example, they are eating some of the finest pasta made the Italian way–by hand, fresh daily.

“You can taste the difference so easily,” Katie says. “This is truly a restaurant where I can stand fully behind the food, and I feel confident in saying everything is made fresh every single day.”

With a plethora of wines any connoisseur will enjoy, authentic pastas rivaling the motherland’s recipes and more, Bellinis is best known for its products–its menu–one unparalleled in the greater Birmingham area.

Doug recommends pairing the chicken alla vodka, which is a dish comprising wood-grilled chicken, pancetta, shallots, tomato, reggiano, cream and rigatoni, with a rich Agostina Pieri Rosso di Montalcino for more romantic dinners. If one is a meat lover, he cannot go wrong with the traditional osso bucco, a dish of braised veal, gouda polenta, mirepoix and au jus, complete with a light Peroni or Cahaba Blonde.

While Bellinis does cater toward upscale appetites, the menu also offers an array of casual options, including the margherita pizza, topped with fresh mozzarella, pesto and basil. The littlest diners often enjoy the bacon pimento cheese burger or braised beef tacos, which never disappoint even the pickiest eaters.

“My personal favorite is the seafood risotto,” Katie says. “You get a little bit of grouper, scallops and shrimp over a reggiano risotto and blackened cherry cream sauce. It’s so rich and delicious, and it even has red onions, cherry tomatoes and conecuh sausage.”

Andrew says while his favorite are any of the steaks, the pastas are not to be overlooked. Especially for newcomers or picky eaters, most everyone finds something they like from the pasta selections.

With caring and attentive staff, authentic cooking and mouth-watering meals, Bellinis remains a staple of Hoover cuisine–expanding customers’ palates one taste at a time. Doug says 15 years of successful business, however, would not be possible without the support of his customers.

“Having good people around you is helpful,” Doug says. “As you build that connection, it makes your business stronger. On a deeper level, we all only have so much time left, and it’s important to spend it with family and friends. That’s what Bellinis is all about–fostering community.”

Visit Bellinis Ristorante and Bar at 6801 Cahaba Valley Road Suite 106. For a full menu, catering requests or reservations, guests can call 205-981-5380 or visit

Chef Picks


Mushroom and Olive Rigatoni

House-made rigatoni noodles tossed in a creamy marsala sauce with mushrooms and kalamata olives.


Blackened Gulf Fish

Blackened gulf fish over reggiano risotto, wood-fire-grilled asparagus and a calabrian chili, garlic butter.


Prime Ribeye

Fourteen-ounce prime ribeye served rare alongside a horseradish cream sauce and veal demi glace.