Aida Bistro & Wine Bar closed its original location of six years on Thanksgiving Eve. One week later, on Dec. 2, Mary and Joe Barbera reopened a new Aida across the way in Columbia Gateway office park. The new location gives the Barberas a few things they always wanted but were never able to have in their loyally followed and well reviewed Italian restaurant.
An expanded kitchen allows them the extra space they always wanted to add a lunch operation. Aida had always been a dinner-only location, and Joe Barbera knew he was losing out on the potential business from his business park neighbors. Aida was scheduled to begin serving lunch on Dec. 7.
The original Aida sat about 110 diners; the new one has room for 140. But it's the arrangement of the seating that has the Barberas excited. The main dining room at the new location seats 65 and a private dining room, another amenity the original Aida lacked, will seat up to 40. The new Aida will also have an expanded patio dining.
Still, there's one thing in particular that seems to most please Joe Barbera about the new set-up. It's the wine bar. The focal point of the new Aida, the stand-alone wine bar is the first thing customers will see when they enter. The bar area has seating for 35 and room for more to gather. The original Aida had a few seats at a wine bar and no standing room at all to speak of.
In addition to giving customers a full wine-bar experience, Joe Barbera has something revolutionary in store for them — the area's first fully developed wine-on-tap program. Wine on tap uses a stainless steel keg as a vessel for delivering wine to the customer, the same system, essentially, as tap beer.
Barbera is taken with the keg system and is excited about introducing it to his diners. Among the clearest advantages of the system, Barbera says, is its reduction in the amount of waste, in the form of bottling and packing materials, along with the reduction in waste of open wine that has turned. On the afternoon of the Aida's opening, Barbera had five of the 20 kegs in place. The others, he said, were on their way.
"We're thrilled to be in our new location," Barbera said, "and only with the support of our customers were we able to this. We think we've always had great food, and we believe our new wine program will only heighten their experience."
The new address for Aida Bistro & Wine Bar is 6741 Columbia Gateway Drive. The phone number remains 410-953-0500, and the web address is http://www.aidabistro.com. The restaurant serves dinner Monday through Saturday and lunch Monday through Friday.
Voltaggio plans There aren't many — or really any — details yet, but late last week, Bryan Voltaggio acknowledged that he was planning to open a second restaurant in downtown Frederick. His first restaurant, of course, is the high-flying temple of modern American cuisine Volt, which he opened in 2008.
The second restaurant, Voltaggio has said, will be a more casual and family-oriented place than Volt.
Now the "Top Chef" alumnus says he is looking to open a more casual and family-oriented restaurant, but he isn't revealing the name or specific details yet, only that it will be a concept unique to downtown Frederick. Representatives of Voltaggio and the restaurant have indicated that further information, including the restaurant's name and location, will be released in coming weeks.
New fare in Hampden Closer to home, a new restaurant named Alchemy opened on Nov. 30, in the Hampden space where Grill Art Cafe was. The co-owner Michael Matassa describes the restaurant's cuisine as "modern-American and cross-cultural."
Alchemy is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. It's at 1101 36th St.; call 410-366-1163. No website yet, but photographs on the restaurant's Facebook page reveal a pretty nifty-looking joint.