An Ellicott City restaurant owner has won a top award from the Restaurant Association of Maryland.

Matthew Milani, who owns and runs The Rumor Mill Fusion Bar & Restaurant, was named "Restaurateur of the Year" at the association's April 16 awards ceremony.

He bested the heads of Galaxy 66 Bar & Grille and La Hacienda, both in Ocean City; Galway Bay Irish Pub in Annapolis; and Linwoods in Owings Mills.

"It was an honor even to be nominated in that category," Milani, a 35-year-old Catonsville resident, said Thursday. "That phrasing, restaurateur of the year, means a lot to me personally because here in my restaurant I have to do so much, from executive chef to general manager of the place.


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"The whole staff is really happy," he said. "I think they know how much of a part they all played. It's definitely a team win."

The restaurant, which opened in April 2007, sits in a corner of Tiber Alley, just off Main Street in historic Ellicott City. Milani's wife, Lexi, is the manager.

This year's other winners were Jeff Smith of The Chameleon Cafe in Baltimore for "Chef of the Year"; Shenanigan's Irish Pub & Grille in Ocean City for "Favorite Bar or Tavern"; The Brewer's Art in Baltimore for "Craft Brew Program of the Year"; Miss Shirley's Cafe in Baltimore for "Favorite Food Truck"; de Lazy Lizard in Ocean City for "Favorite New Restaurant"; Baldwin's Station in Sykesville for "Favorite Restaurant"; and Mr. Rain's Fun House in Baltimore for "Wine and Beverage Program of the Year."

Five other Howard County restaurants received nominations: Daniel Wecker, executive chef and co-owner of the Elkridge Furnace Inn, was up for "Chef of the Year"; the Frisco Tap House and Brewery in Columbia, nominated for "Craft Brew Program of the Year"; Houlihan's in Columbia, which was up for "Favorite Restaurant"; and AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar in Columbia and Bistro Blanc in Glenelg, both of which were nominated for "Wine and Beverage Program of the Year."