Trattoria Alberto

Trattoria Alberto operated for 28 years in what diners loved to refer to as an unlikely location. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun / February 9, 2011)

Trattoria Alberto, whose unlikely Glen Burnie location made it a dining discovery for almost 30 years, has closed. The Italian restaurant's last night was December 31.

News of the closing was confirmed by the restaurant's owner, Alberto Contestabile, who was known to his longtime customers by his first name.

"I have retired," Contestabile said. "I am going to relax a little bit."

Contestabile said he has sold the business to Arturo Ottaviano, the owner and chef of Osteria 177 in Annapolis. Ottaviano, who used to work for Contestabile, said that he will reopen the restaurant as Trattoria Arturo. Ottaviano said his restaurant will continue in the vein of its predecessor but offer more lower priced and contemporary options. He could not give a date for the opening but was hoping to have Trattoria Arturo open by the end of February. 

Contestabile opened Trattoria Alberto in 1985. The location, a shopping center on Crain Highway, was almost invariably referred to by critics and diners alike as "unlikely" or "improbable."

In her 2000 review of Trattoria Alberto for the Baltimore Sun, critic Elizabeth Large wrote, "In the 15 years of its existence, Baltimoreans who are serious about their food have gotten used to trekking down to a strip mall on Crain Highway in Glen Burnie for imaginative northern Italian cuisine served up with a healthy dollop of attitude."

Contestabile, a native of  Elba, an island off the coast of Tuscany, emigrated to the United States when he was 19. When Trattoria Alberto opened, its northern Italian cuisine, while not a novelty, was less familiar than the predominant southern Italian cuisine Baltimoreans were used to in Little Italy restaurants.

Contestabile was know as an effusive proprietor. "Alberto is part of the reason why people went there,"
said his daughter, Lina Contestabile, "because he treated people like they were old friends. His passion for what he did his entire life was insurmountable."

"I feel great," Contestabile said. "Because I think I did for Glen Burnie a lot of wonderful things."

Contestabile said he is looking for new opportunities. "I want to have a food show on television," he said.