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Dining Downtown – Ricatoni’s Italian Grill

By Stephen Edmonds

107 North Court Street Florence, Alabama

 

Florence is a small, but busy college town with many choice places to eat that I believe do not get the recognition they deserve, so I wanted to take a minute of my time to write about my experience with one of our favorite restaurants.  This past week, Florence experienced a rare amount of snowfall keeping my wife and I cooped up for a few days on end, so when we were finally able to emerge from our hole and stretch our legs the first thing we wanted to do was enjoy a meal at one of our favorite local downtown spots: Ricatoni’s.

 

 

This is one of our favorite places to go for quite a few reasons.  First and foremost, before the great food is even brought into consideration, their atmosphere is so pleasant and relaxed.  Employees interact with each other in such a way that encourages guests to loosen up and enjoy their time in the establishment.  The décor adds to the previously mentioned atmosphere in a very subliminal way, making anyone who steps in the door to dine more at ease and more susceptible to a good time.  Even their menus seem to draw you further into the atmosphere.

 

Pictured: House Salad, Complimentary Bread & Herbs, &                                        Fettucine Alfredo

 

In my personal opinion, a business’s food is their strongest weapon for convincing customers to return, and in Ricatoni’s case this is doubly true.  From a purely statistical standpoint, the portions are perfect and their food tastes like it should cost more than the affordable prices they have on their menu, and buying good food at affordable prices will make any restaurant goer feel like they are scoring a great deal.  From a personal opinion standpoint, their entrees, appetizers, and desserts are appealing, fun, and they taste great. 

 

Photo by Sarah Belanger

 

I feel like a blog post review of a restaurant needs to have at least some valid criticism, but after racking my brain and thinking about all my past experiences in this establishment (all the way back through high school!) I can’t find a single instance where I was anything less than satisfied.  The track record of this restaurant speaks for itself; the food is great, the mood is great, and more than anything else, Ricatoni’s is a consistent dining experience that delivers time after time. 

A Look at Past Chocolate Crawls

Florence Main Street just announced our 4th Annual Downtown Florence, Alabama Chocolate Crawl!

Each February, Chocolate Crawl rolls around just in time for Valentine’s Day. Downtown Florence boutiques, salons, and other stores turn into Chocolate Shops for one day only. Each business showcases their current styles, specials, and services along with a bite-sized sample of a chocolate treat. During the Chocolate Crawl, ticket holders also get 15% off their purchases at participating businesses.

Now when we say chocolate, we don’t just mean simple pieces of chocolate. Check out some treats from past crawls:

So what do you say? Make it a date or bring your friends for a day full of shopping and fun! (Who else celebrates Galentine’s Day?) This event is known as ‘trick or treating for adults” and “a wonderful time had by all, sampling sweets and exploring all the great stores in downtown Florence”! If you love chocolate, we promise you’ll love this event!

Get your Chocolate Crawl tickets here!

Starting off the Year with Florence Main Street

Do you have any new goals for 2018?  If so, downtown Florence Alabama has what you need to chase those goals!  Whether you aspire to be stronger, faster, healthier, dress better, or anything in between, the city of Florence has a local business to help you reach those goals.  

If you want to take your body to a new level physically, you’ll want to check Florence’s great fitness and health businesses.  These are great options to have whether you need training and individual attention from an experienced instructor at the Fit Facility, OR, if you’ve already got a workout regiment and need a clean community environment to execute it in like The Basement Gym.  For those of us who aspire to learn while they work out, Contender Boxing and Grit Fitness have boxing, yoga, and cycling classes that help us get into shape while learning new techniques!  Add that on top of our Jack-o’-Lantern Farm and Valley Health Foods businesses that can help anyone make sure that their diet healthily compliments their lifestyle, and there’s no way that getting healthier will stay on the list of unchecked resolutions.

As far as fresh and stylish clothing go, Florence AL has got you covered there as well.  Whether you find your ideal style in Coco’s Boutique, Karen’s Corner, Harper Clothing Co., or Jar & Co. it is all a part of what the brilliant shop owners of Florence have to offer.  Find an amazing piece of clothing that’s just barely out of your size range?  Take it to Miss Beth’s Tailoring and Alterations and have it sized up or down to suit your needs.  If more exotic clothes catch your eye, head over to The Eclectic for interesting and rare finds!  With all of these businesses ready and standing by to help put you in your ideal clothes and help in any way they can, becoming a savvy, experienced, and thrifty shopper is easy.

These are just some of the ways our thriving town can help you with your New Year’s resolutions.  Since there’s no way anyone can cover every advantage to shopping in Downtown Florence on one simple blog post, I’ll stop here; but if anyone has any questions about businesses and services offered in the downtown area, feel free to call us at 256-760-9648 OR contact any businesses directly on their Facebook accounts!  We all look forward to another great year of serving you.

Bank Independent Presents the Florence Christmas Parade 2017

‘Celebrate the Spirit of Christmas’ with the Florence Christmas Parade. You will see decorated floats, performance and musical groups dressed in festive costumes and playing your favorite holiday songs parading through Downtown Florence. Presented by Bank Independent and coordinated by Florence Main Street, this themed parade will be one to remember.

‘Bank Independent is proud to be sponsoring the Florence Christmas Parade this year.  We look forward to all the parades that take place in communities where we have branch locations and are excited to be a part of the Florence parade this year.  Something else about BI’s commitment to the community…..’ said Erin Letson, Vice President of Marketing for Bank Independent.  ‘Bank Independent has always had a strong commitment to giving back to our communities and we’re excited about this opportunity’ Letson said.  

Friday, December 8 at 7:00pm the parade will start at the intersection of North Court Street and Irvine Streets.    Florence Main Street is expecting 100 + local non-profits, community groups, and businesses from all over the Shoals to participate. The competition for best float is always difficult to judge because we have so many creative people in the area that put a lot of hard work into designing their Christmas floats. Judges will be observing the parade to award the first place prize to one business, non-profit group, band and performance group. The parade application to can be found on our website www.florencemainstreet.org (or here) if you would like to apply for a spot in the parade. The deadline to submit your application is Monday, November 27.   

Come join us and be a part of a magical night, ‘Celebrate the Spirit of Christmas’, and ring in the holidays in Downtown Florence when Bank Independent presents the Florence Christmas Parade 2017.  And don’t forget to do a little bit of shopping while you are in downtown.   

Florence Main Street is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization made up of over 100+ businesses, community leaders, and residents working together toward the common goal of revitalizing Downtown Florence culturally and economically. For more information about us or any of these efforts, please contact Florence Main Street at 256-760-9648 or info@florencemainstreet.org

2017 Christmas Open House

So many exciting things happening at the Christmas Open House! Plans in the works for the Downtown Christmas Open House include:
Christmas Cookies – 10am – 12pm; Decorate a FREE cookie provided by Bookmarks Coffee Shop by Alabama Bliss, located in the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library.

Selfies with Santa – 12pm – 2pm; Santa will be visiting downtown Florence and visitors can take FREE photos with him! He will be set up in front of Court Street Market and if it rains he will be inside the market (218 North Court Street) 

Holiday Hopscotch – all day; Play Hopscotch with us and visit participating downtown stores! Completed games and purchases could win you prizes! Our registration tent will be in front of Court Street Market. If it rains we will move inside. (218 North Court Street)

Letters to Santa – all day; PSI Printers & Stationers, Inc. will have a letter writing station for little ones to post their wish lists to Santa.

Candy cane hunt in downtown Florence! Find sweet treats for both kids and parents (candy for the kids; coupons for the parents) in downtown stores. (Begin at our registration tent in front of Court Street Market)

Best Window Display contest – Vote on your favorite window display in a downtown store! Voting will take place via Florence Main Street’s Facebook.

Family Movie Night – 6pm-8pm; Enjoy a FREE family Christmas movie at Singin’ River Live Sponsored by Singin’ River Brewing Company

Lion Night 2017

 

Lion Night is an upcoming event for UNA students and their parents to become aware of #DowntownFlorence businesses in a fun and interactive way! Students and their parents have an opportunity to win a weekend getaway in downtown Florence filled with gift certificates and more fun surprises!

How it works:
You will receive a bingo card along with a map at the beginning of the night. You will then visit all participating businesses to receive a sticker on that business’s bingo slot. For every bingo you get, you enter to win a weekend getaway! But wait, there’s more! If you make a purchase at any of the participating businesses, you get a gold star. For every gold star you get, that’s another entry for a chance to win a weekend getaway! You have from 4pm to 7pm to visit all participating businesses and return your bingo card to the registration tent.

Participating Businesses:
CoCo’s Boutique
Underground Art & Sound
Miss Beth’s Tailoring, Alterations and Custom Sewing
Ye Ole General
Tennessee Street Billiards & Grille
Inga’s Lashes and More #Florence Location
Reclaimed Spirit
Harper Clothing Co.
Perennial Supply Co.
Singin’ River Brewing Company
Paradox Challenge Rooms Florence
The Basement Gym
Bookmarks Coffee Shop
Escape Room Florence
FloBama Downtown
Legends – Florence
Art & More
The Spinning Spoke Cycle Hub
The Coiffure at 108
Jack-O-Lantern Farm
Shoals Takeout
Studio 23
Alabama Outdoors
Historic Zodiac Playhouse
PSI Printers & Stationers, Inc.
On The Rocks
The Pie Factory
Victory Bridal’s & Alterations, LLC
and more TBA!

Taste of Downtown: Riverside Restaurant

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Riverside Restaurant is a southern diner located right in downtown Florence. Decorated with photos from old westerns and cowboy accessories, this small local owned restaurant even includes a jukebox full of country classics. The restaurant was built somewhere around 1959 and has been in the possession of the current owner for 25 years. Just walking through the front doors takes you back to the year it opened, complete with the mild scent of cigars smoked by their loyal patrons as they enjoy their morning coffee. Children ran and chattered about as their parents spoke cheerfully to someone they hadn’t seen in a long time. It captured the era it was built in perfectly and did not leave anything to be desired or lose any of the downright friendly behavior you would expect from a restaurant of this caliber.

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Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can find a classic southern breakfast such as country ham or, if you’re in the mood for supper, could go for a juicy burger. My husband and I went for brunch so I opted for the classic gravy and biscuit combo while he ordered the blt; however, that was no easy choice! There were so many great foods to choose from including top favorites such as catfish or the ribeye steak, I had to work hard to keep my husband from drooling all over the menu. We both got sweet tea and yes, it is as sweet as your grandmother’s. They are open Monday through Thursday from 6:00am to 10:00pm and Friday and Saturday from 6:00am to midnight. You can find them at 111 East Limestone Street in Florence, Alabama. 

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Sweet Home FloAla: TVA Trails

For as long as I can remember, my family has always loved being outside. Thankfully, Florence and the Shoals area have no shortage of hiking trails and paths for adventurers with all levels of experience. Last spring, I went with my family to the Rockpile Recreation Area to enjoy the sun and the river.

One of the coolest parts of the trail was passing under the Singing River Bridge that connects Lauderdale and Colbert Counties.  However, there’s also a beautiful waterfall and view of Wilson Dam, a plethora of challenging trails, and picnic areas and playgrounds for families with younger kids or those just looking to experience some of the natural beauty that the Shoals area has to offer.

Sweet Home FloAla: Date Night

Since my boyfriend and I both go to school in Tuscaloosa, nights out at home can be few and far between. For that reason, date nights almost exclusively begin downtown.

I’ve already expressed my love for Trowbridge’s as the perfect lunch spot. However, since the beloved soda fountain closes at 5:30, it always comes down to Ricatoni’s, City Hardware, and Rosie’s for dinner dates.

I am classically indecisive, so narrowing down my options to these three choices sometimes makes things easier…but not always. Ricatoni’s, my all-time favorite restaurant and the location of our first date in 2013, wins me over easily with Fettucine Alfredo and Ravioli Ricatoni. However, City Hardware’s Crab Cake Sandwich and Rosie’s Pollo Loco are also mouth-watering options, and all are so equally tempting that we’ve had to “pick a number between one and three” many times. Thankfully, neither of us is ever disappointed in the winner of that game.

After dinner, Carson and I like to walk down Court Street, often seeking out live music (which is thankfully abundant in the Shoals) or simply enjoying the peacefulness of downtown before finishing out the night with dessert and a $5 movie from Target.

Date nights downtown are one of our favorite traditions, and downtown Florence has so much to offer when it comes to delicious dining and local talent.

Emily Strickland, Communications Intern

Sweet Home Flo-Ala: Trowbridge’s

Until August 2015 I’d lived my whole life in Lauderdale County, so when I entered my freshman year at the University of Alabama I was faced with the prospect of learning an entirely new city. This experience has been important not only because it has been one of my first forays into the independence of adulthood, but also because it gave me a renewed appreciation for the Shoals and the hometown that I love–Florence.

Tuscaloosa has no shortage of meat-and-threes, trains, or championships. One thing Tuscaloosa doesn’t have, though? Trowbridge’s.

The bustling, classic diner has been a Shoals favorite for over a century, and one of my personal favorite downtown spots for as long as I can remember. You’ll come for the chicken salad and pimiento cheese, but you’ll stay for the deliciously iconic desserts. My personal favorite has to be the Coke float, but the restaurant’s really known for the orange pineapple ice cream (a recipe developed by Mr. Trowbridge and later sold to Purity) and the Oh My Gosh (a brownie sundae big enough for your whole party that truly lives up to its name.)

I’ve yet to find an equal to the gem that Trowbridge’s is, and it’s always one of the first spots I and my other out-of-town friends hit as soon as we’re home.