Sunday, June 29, 2014

Chef Paolino Cafe: Ellicott City, MD

Chef Paolino Cafe had its soft opening last week
(in the former Serafino's restaurant space) and will have a big grand opening sometime after July 4, according to owner Paul DelFico, whose family is from Naples, Italy.

My mom, who grew up in Howard County, remembers this same restaurant when it was located in the old food court in The Mall in Columbia, next to the main water fountain. When the Mall closed the small food court, Paolino's relocated to Catonsville. The Ellicott City store marks its second location in the area.

Owner Paul DelFico


Paulino's has reconfigured the old Serofina's space adding more booths and tables and eliminating the bar seats and brick oven. Even the adjacent space that used to be a bar and private room is getting a facelift to make it more like a separate dinning area than a bar- "more family friendly" for group rentals that can seat 60 people,  said DelFico.

The first thing you see when you enter Paolino's is the impressive display of various pizzas, calzones, roll ups, bruschetta and garlic knots. This is where a nice staff member behind the cash register gave us a glossy new menu.

The menu had lunch specials - antipasti, pasta, chicken, veal, seafood. A chalk board had the pizza of the day special. Or we could order off the regular section that had more choices in each of those categories, in addition to salads, subs, deli sandwiches and soup.

Everything looked so good and we were really hungry, so we tried a bunch of items to share. We tasted slices of New York Style Pizza with mushroom topping and white pizza with sautéed spinach. This is about as close to New York pizza as it comes - thin, crispy crust with just the right amount of sauce or ricotta and toppings that do not overpower the bread. True to NY pizza, I could easily pick up the slice and fold it in half to eat it - without any cheese, sauce or toppings falling off. 

My mom LOVED the white pizza with spinach. She said it had a bunch of garlic and spices that added zest to both the spinach and crust.  

The greek salad (we added the chicken topping) was huge and chuck full of ice berg lettuce and vegetables such as cucumbers, green and cherry peppers, red onions, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, and shredded carrots. The Italian dressing was light and didn't over power the fresh vegetables. A basket of nicely seasoned, crunchy garlic bread accompanied the salad. 

We spilt a cheesesteak deluxe and eggplant parmigiana with our mom. Again, these were enormous portions. Each half of the sandwich could easily serve as one meal.  The cheesesteak was loaded with well seasoned beef, lettuce, tomato, hots, cheese, and onions. The hots were less spicy than I anticipated. It was actually a nice burst of flavor. This sub was so well put together that nothing came out of place or fell when I held the sub.
Eggplant Parmigiana 
The eggplant parm was heavy on the eggplant and light on sauce - the way I like it. Although the sandwich was good, it wasn't a standout like the cheesesteak which had more seasoning.  I think I'd like it better as an entree with pasta rather than a sub. 
Chicken Marsala 
My dad ordered the chicken marsala lunch special. This too was a generous portion of two large chicken cutlets sautéed in a marsala wine sauce with mushrooms a top a bed of pasta. The sauce was tasty but my dad would have liked more garlic in the sauce. 

When I saw Mussells Caprese on the menu- mussels with white wine, parley, lemon, garlic and olive oil - it had my name all over it. The presentation was pretty with all the mussels standing at attention sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley in a sea of well seasoned broth. Let's just say, there weren't any mussels left in my dish. I used the garlic bread from the salad and side order of garlic knots to soak up the delicious broth.

Mussels Caprese 
When we left we noticed a large stand with a sign "Authentic Italian Cookies from New York". Indeed, it was a huge selection of some of our favorite Italian cookies. Since we were stuffed, we didn't buy any this time, but we will definitely go back and try some another time.
Lastly, the menu advertises two weekly specials from 4 to 10 p.m.  Monday is Pasta Night -
buy one entree, get one pasta for $5. Tuesday is Pizza Night - Buy 1 pizza of your choice, get 2nd cheese pizza for $5 (limit to 6 pizzas).

- Thomas

Chef Paolino Cafe
3419 Plum Tree Drive
Ellicott City, Maryland
(410) 680-8087

Mission BBQ - soft opening fundraiser (Columbia)

For weeks now I've been passing this awesome truck parked in front of the vacant Chicken Out space in Columbia, wondering when Mission BBQ would open. I couldn't wait any longer, so I stopped in to the temporary offices set up in a trailer next to the restaurant space. 

I spoke to Dave Dotterer, Mission BBQ Director of Operations, who told me that there will be a soft opening for the public on Friday, July 11 from 5 to 9 p.m where everyone can purchase food and all the proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project. Mission BBQ has a long history of giving back to military support organizations.

 Satisfy your taste buds and give back to your country!!  Check out their menu here

The Grand Opening will be Monday, July 14.

- Charles

Mission BBQ on Urbanspoon