Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Scittino's Italian Market- Catonsville, Maryland

It may be off the beaten track of the restaurants in downtown Catonsville but Scittino's Italian Market is a little slice of heaven for those searching for a classic New York style Italian eatery and market. "Authentic Italian food made from scratch" is the store's motto and it lives up to its name.

Since 1973, the store has been owned and operated by the Scittino family- Frank and Tina, and their children Leonardo, Salvatore, Josie and Frankie, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1958 from Sicily, Italy, with the first of their four children.

Seemingly this store has it all -  pizzeria, pastry, cake and cookie display case, deli, butcher counter, homemade pastas to-go freezer, Italian dried and canned goods, carry-out, small dine-in section, and catering menu. Click here for their deli menu. 

Single serve desserts
Pastry and cookie display case 
cannoli - regular and chocolate covered 
Shelves lined with imported Italian canned and dried goods. The deli and butcher counter (in the background) carries Boar's Head products, homemade sausages, meats, seafood, olives and imported cheeses. The freezers (on the right) house homemade ravioli and pastas, plus family style meals like lasagna and meatballs to-go. 

The butcher shop includes over 10 different homemade sausages including Italian sweet, Italian hot, Italian with fennel,
Italian lamb with rosemary, Portugese Linguica, Polish Kielbasa, German Bratwurst, Irish Bangers, Spanish Chorizo and French Andouille

There are freezers full of homemade pastas to-go. Some really interesting ones like ravioli filled with mushroom stuffing and squid ravioli.

Also in the freezer section are cakes such as the Lemoncello mascarpone cake.

After browsing around the store, we decided to order a few things and eat in.  It was really hard to chose because there were so many different items on the menu.

First, my family decided to taste the pizza. We ordered a 20 inch pizza pie with mushrooms. It was so massive it was presented to us at our table on a folding tray.  It was terrific.

 It had gooey thick cheese, large, plump mushrooms, the perfect amount of tomato sauce and an incredibly soft, tasty crust.

My grandfather ordered the sausage lentil soup made with the store's homemade fennel sausage. As you can see from his face, he liked it. He said it was one of the best he tasted... and he's Sicilian. 

Then we spilt a dish of chicken parmigiano with spaghetti. Wow! This was authentic. We all loved the sweet tomato sauce with the breaded chicken smothered in mozzarella cheese.  

Fried chicken 
Stuffed flounder 
We also tried two more items - the flounder stuffed with crabmeat and the fried chicken.  Yes, fried chicken.  We didn't expect to see it on an Italian menu.  But it looked so good displayed in the glass warming case, we had to try.

The chicken had a light, seasoned, crispy skin with moist juicy meat underneath. They sell it by the piece (like we ordered it) or as a platter with fries or in boxes for large quantities. We envision ourselves getting a box of fried chicken for a summer picnic with friends.

Although it took an extra long time to prepare (we were finished with our other items before the fish was served) the flounder was worth the wait. The fish was fresh and tender, the stuffed crab was well seasoned but not too spicy and the sauce tasty. My mom thought the sauce was a bit thick for her liking but she would order it again with less sauce.

Before we left we ordered some Italian cookies and cake slices to-go.  And it was hard to go. We really liked Scittino's.  They are opened 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I know we will be back soon and often.

- Charles

Scittino's Italian Market Place on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cheeseboy - Boston, MA

I traveled to Boston recently to participate in the Harvard Model United Nations conference with my school team. During the conference, my roommates and I explored the Prudential Center where we found Cheeseboy, a small eatery known for its grilled cheese sandwiches.

True to its name, Cheeseboy serves up fresh grilled cheese sandwiches such as the Chipolte Chicken and Roast Chief along with soups, mac and cheese and breakfast sandwiches. 

They're known for quick service, affordable prices and natural ingredients that includes breads made without the use of any artificial preservatives, flavorings or dough conditioners. 

I ordered the Turkey Clubhouse - all-natural turkey, thick-cut hickory bacon, muenster cheese, and dill pickles on all-natural artisan white bread. It was a healthy portion of turkey, savory bacon, velvety  cheese, and succulent dills. 

Service was super-quick and friendly and you basically watch the employees prepare your sandwich right in front of you!

Cheeseboy is so popular it has already expanded to locations in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

 Check out their story in the video below.

- Charles

Cheeseboy on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Petit Louis Bistro (Le Comptoir) - Columbia, Maryland

We've followed all the hype about Petit Louis Bistro, celebrity chef Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman's new restaurant in Columbia. Authentic French cuisine and a lake front location makes it the right combination for the title of new Howard County sensation.  Since our travels to Quebec, Montreal and Paris, we have developed an appreciation for french foods. Therefore, we were eager to try this new restaurant.

On a recent Saturday morning, my family arrived at the restaurant close to 10 a.m. where we learned the restaurant doesn't open until 10:30 a.m.. So we wandered around the lakefront for 30 minutes. It was really cold outside and we did consider eating at Clyde's since it was open and didn't look busy, but we held out and returned to Petit Louis at 10:30 am - where we waited another 5 minutes in the cold for them to open the doors.

We ate in the little cafe called Le Comptoir that is attached to the main restaurant. It has huge glass windows that makes it easy for people to see in and employees to see out of.  We weren't happy that the employees could see us freezing outside and didn't bother to let us in until 10:35 am. It would have been nice if they let us in, even if they weren't exactly ready for us.

We didn't get a warm welcome once we were inside either. It was like attending a funeral. The place was dead silent. If you made one sound it resonated throughout the whole place which is tiny to begin with. It would have been nice to have french music playing.

Equally as awkward, Charles and I weren't sure how to order our food. Should we sit down and wait to be served or order at the counter?  We had to ask the people behind the counter who were busy preparing things. We learned we order at the counter, find a seat and then come back to the counter to get our food and drinks when it's ready.

Brioche a la Cannelle and Pain Au Chocolate 
So, what to order? We were hoping to see a huge display of French pastries like the ones we remembered from our trip to France or Quebec or even at french pastry shops in Washington, DC like Paul's. Although there was a small
  selection, they were nicely displayed.
Quiche Lorraine and Quiche Aux Legumes 

Charles and I each ordered one chocolate croissant ($3.25 each) and shared a brioche ($3.75). No drinks, just water. Both pastries were small portions, yet good but not outstanding.

My mom ordered a Cafe Au Lait ($5.50) and a Quiche Lorraine ($9.50) to share with my dad. He ordered a regular American coffee. She loved the Cafe Au Lait but said it was a small portion. Alternatively, the quiche was on the larger side. When ordering it, the counter person told my mom that she could not make the quiche hot "or it would ruin the consistency of the object."

But she would warm the quiche slightly in a microwave, but only upon request, which she requested. Unfortunately, it was a very thick quiche so the middle was cold while the outside was a little warm.  Although it was tasty, she probably wouldn't order it again. My dad's American coffee wasn't very strong, but the counter person did warn him about this.

We were still hungry after our pastries so we each ordered a Jambon ($8.75 each) - a buttered baguette with ham and cornichons (pickles). Again, the portion was small. Then, if that wasn't enough the baguette was very chewy. We had to tug with our teeth several times to take bites out of this sandwich.

So, here's our summary. We wanted to LOVE this place, really LOVE it, but we couldn't. Everything was small in this cafe - the tables, the selection, the portions, the service. The only thing that was large was the quiche and the prices. After spending about $47 for breakfast, we went home still hungry. Our parents were not happy about that.

To be fair, we will need to try the main restaurant for a better assessment. However, our initial outing to the cafe doesn't make us want to run back. For now, sadly, au revoir Petit Louis.

- Thomas

Petit Louis Bistro & Comptoir on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 3, 2014

Bean & Burgundy Bread - Ellicott City

My family (minus Thomas who was away on a school trip) ate breakfast on a Saturday morning at the new Bean &Burgundy Bread Restaurant in Ellicott City.  The first thing that struck me was the enormous open feel of the place  - high ceilings, various seating (booths, tables, single window seats) and an open kitchen with a floor to ceiling glass wall. 

When we entered, we noticed a hostess stand (next to a giant knight in shinning armor). There was no one there (the hostess arrived later) so we were a little confused about where to go first.  But we figured it out by walking passed two enormous dessert glass cases to the ordering counter. There we viewed the breakfast menu posted on wall mounted flat screen monitors.

The only thing that wasn't posted on the menu monitors were the drinks. That was posted on menu boards behind the dessert counter. There were a huge variety of hot and cold drink combinations to choose from.

After we placed our order and found a table, I checked out what was happening in the open kitchen. I thought they must be proud of their kitchen if they're willing to showcase it to their customers. It was very cool that I could watch my meal being prepared.

Before I got back to my table, my dad's coffee and my mom's tea arrived in big oversized cups. My dad said it was one of the best cups of coffee he's had in a while. My mom liked her herbal tea too.

Then our breakfast arrived at our table. 

My mom ordered the Signature Omelette - bulgogi beef, zucchini, mushroom, spinach, eggplant, carrot, and provolone. She normally doesn't order meat with an omelette but since the bulgogi is featured prominently on their lunch menu, she decided to try it. She LOVED it. The Asian spices in the thinly sliced beef and vegeatbles created a nice balance with the egg.  The omelette was accompanied by average homefries (needed more oil, butter or onions) and toasted bread but we had to ask our server for butter. 
BBB Signature Omelette 

In heaven eating BBB French Toast 
I ordered the french toast.  It's not on the menu. I saw it posted on Instagram and asked if it was available.

It was an experience in itself. The presentation of the french toast topped with fresh raspberries, a little spearmint, and the custard sauce was mouthwatering. The moist, soft, and rich texture of the bread coupled with the sweet custard sauce provided for one of the best french toast dishes I've ever had. 

The only negative (and I mean ONLY) is this dish is on the smaller size.  I could have easily eaten two orders.

sunrise bacon sandwich 

My dad got the sunrise sausage breakfast sandwich - egg, american cheese and whole grain bread.

In addition to the french toast (I was really hungry), I ordered the sunrise bacon
breakfast sandwich- american cheese, egg, and bacon.

Both were good but could've used more flavor.
sunrise sausage sandwich
I think a bit of butter and seasonings would have made this sandwich moist and flavorful.

Overall, this restaurant is awesome.

The space alone makes it a really cool place to hang out in. We thought some of our dishes were home runs while others were just good. We will definitely come back to try lunch and dinner.

- Charles

Bean & Burgundy on Urbanspoon

Bean & Burgundy Bread
9469 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042