John Weichman is a name most Mobile foodies instantly recognize. Anyone around these parts during the â80s and â90s will fondly remember Weichmanâs All Seasons restaurant on the Beltline, and any conversation about the former hotspot is certain to include his scamp almondine and prime rib, the first of which Weichman learned to prepare while working at his father-in-lawâs restaurant, Constantineâs.
Now Weichman is back with his latest business venture, the Italian Fisherman. Located on Old Shell Road in the former Chuckâs Place, All Seasons fans are shouting for joy. Though the new facility is a much smaller building, expect to see a lot of the old recipes served in a home-style atmosphere.
Once again the lack of a babysitter forced me to enlist the help of an always-hungry Mr. Bubble. We were actually sent out by my wife Missy and told to pick something up for her to eat. In the interest of killing two birds with one stone, Mr. Bubble and I decided we should go ahead and review a restaurant while we were at it, and we happened to land on the steps of The Italian Fisherman.
Our evening began with a couple of drinks, a Peroni for me, a glass of Old Forresterâs for Bubble ($5.50 each). I am not someone who knows a tremendous amount about wine, but I can make my way around the Italian reds in most places. To be a restaurant that fancies itself as Italian, I was a little disappointed with this part of the wine list. I guessed Italian beer and Kentucky bourbon would have to do.
Our first course was the blue crab claws (market price $12 per half pound). These are offered fried or sautéed. We opted for sautéed and were not disappointed. The half-pound was plenty for the two of us, and we almost fought over the last sweet, buttery claw. These may be the best in town.
I ordered the seafood gumbo ($6 per cup), which is supposed to have shrimp, crabmeat and oysters (oysters can be held on request if you arenât feeling it). I myself didnât receive a single oyster. Darn the luck, I guess they ladled from the other end of the pot. The roux for this gumbo is a lighter, reddish roux that spoke for a different style of gumbo compared to the darker Mobile norm. Oyster lacking aside, it was still a pretty good soup course.
My main course was Shrimp and Crabmeat La Louisiana ($16 with side). We are talking about an ages old secret recipe that combines shrimp and blue crab meat in a wine and cheese sauce. The word is rich. Richer than old Uncle Moneybags. Though I finished it, any health care worker would probably urge you to leave a bit of this buttery casserole in the ramekin. It was not as viscous as you would imagine, but was almost sturdy enough to eat with a fork. My choice of side, spinach au gratin, was something I would be sure to order again. It wasnât overly cheesy and lacked that gummed up flour-cheese mixture that often ruins the dish at lesser places.
I admit defeat on this venture, for it was the quickness of Mr. Bubbleâs ordering skills that beat me to what was the best dish of the night. Trigger Fish Lafite ($19 with side) was a filet topped with crawfish and crabmeat cream sauce. This was probably some of the best fish I have ever tasted. I am certain it would be fine by itself, but everything is better with crawfish and cream sauce. Use your imagination. Everything. This could be the signature dish of the Italian Fisherman the way the scamp was for All Seasons, though I donât know of anything Italian about it. It came with a wedge of baked acorn squash that was unreal.
Letâs not forget that my darling wife had sent us out to get her something for dinner. Here is what we brought home: Seafood cakes ($6), house salad ($5) with Italian dressing (of course) and Italian Cannoli ($6). The house salad got a major thumbs-up, the cannoli was definitely homemade, and the seafood cakes could have been amazing had it not been for one error. Salt. Just one bite let me know two things. First, it was a quality cake that could rank amongst any. Secondly, the chef must have accidentally salted it twice, followed by another three pinches. I donât see how she did it, but Missy finished the two cakes. I guess that is a testament to the taste overshadowing the seasoning, or dare I say the hunger of this woman.
Everybody is entitled to slip up every now and again, and The Italian Fisherman only opened this past August. Nobody is perfect. Donât let this blemish on an otherwise impeccable meal steer you away. It has been a decade and a half since All Seasons closed, and Mobile should be happy having part of it back.
All in all, the evening was a success. I am sure to return. Our entire meal was focused on the "fishermanâ side of the menu and with the exception of cannoli we completely ignored the "Italianâ side. I canât wait for the meatballs, veal Parmigiana, Marsala and saltimbocca, but with eye-catching fish dishes it is too hard to resist fresh Gulf seafood. The tempting prime rib is also served Friday and Saturday nights, and is yet another siren singing you away from the traditional Italian fare.
The Italian Fisherman is sure to be a new MiMo favorite. Reservations may be needed for weekends and special occasions. They are only open for dinner, and in true Mobile fashion are closed on Sunday and Monday.
The Italian Fisherman
2503 Old Shell Road