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BLU. chop house

About a year ago, Franco Antonelli contacted me with a great idea. Having vast amounts of experience in the food and service industry and a great love of his community, he wanted to start a new restaurant in historic downtown Gadsden, Alabama. But this was to be a restaurant unlike anything this city had seen before.

You see, Franco is a Sicilian-American. Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and is an autonomous region of Italy, along with several other smaller islands. Franco was born and grew up in one of the most interesting parts of the world. The architecture, cuisine, wine and culture of the region contributed to who we know as Franco but his travels and experiences abroad truly made him who he is.

I won't tell you his whole story. That's his to tell. Just know that a young man traveled from a far away place and had so many experiences, that when settling in Gadsden, he just needed to share them with us.

Franco owned a building on Broad Street and asked me to design for him a restaurant and wine cellar that would rival that of any large city. The idea was to bring in a more modern archetype to the interior of a historic building and a more modern dining experience to a barbecue and fried catfish town.

So, with a modest budget and a small footprint, we designed a restaurant that you just wouldn't expect to find in a city of this size. The materials were selected and the equipment and furnishings purchased but there was more to do. Specifically, find someone who could bring even more experience and interest to the place. But Franco didn't have to look far.

Franco's son Alessandro, known by Alex, is a Sommelier. For those who don't know, a sommelier is basically a trained wine professional. They typically, but not always, work in fine restaurants and specialize in various aspects of wine service. They are not wine waiters, but rather people who go through rigorous training and immensely difficult testing in order to earn that title.

Alex had worked in some of the best restaurants in the country and abroad. He had spent many days working in vineyards from Nappa Valley to Italy. Yet somehow, dad managed to convince son to come to Gadsden to start a new business.

Skip some boring details, blah blah blah and here we are. A new restaurant is now open, providing food, wine and cocktails that you just simply can't get anywhere else around here. I've been numerous times and have never left unsatisfied. The food and drink are fabulous. The service is second to none. I can't believe that it took someone like Franco and Alex this long to do something like this. But, then again, there really is nobody quite like Franco and Alex.

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