Quick: What's a family-friendly restaurant in Severna Park that's been around since 1993, serves authentic Greek and Italian dishes, and has a full bar and live entertainment?
If you answered "Romilo's," you'd be correct. If you guessed the Luna Chicks hit it up on a Wednesday "Trivia Night," give yourself 10 bonus points.
Sadly, we didn't win, but we didn't embarrass ourselves, either. In fact, we won a shots round for being the closest guess on the average time for a chip credit card transaction. (According to Charm City Trivia, it's 17 seconds.)
Did you even know that Romilo's has a separate bar area? And, besides weekly trivia, there's karaoke on Friday night and live music on Saturday night? Head right at the door to enter the spacious dining room, often filled with a regular lunch crowd and parents and children at night. How many never realized there's an adult playground around the corner to the left?
Owner Mario Pavlopoulos, whose family roots are in Kalamata, Greece, took over from founder Nick Moshonisiotis over three years ago. Mario's kept the eight page menu of Greek, Italian and American dishes basically the same, tinkered with a few recipes, notably the crab cakes, and added a few things. He's spruced up the place and has plans to do more. He's also revving up the nightlife on the bar side.
It's worth it to visit the bar on a busy night just to watch bartender Brian Deveaux in action. He's everywhere: pouring a stream of liquor into a tiny glass, taking orders, making wisecracks, delivering shots, running the register, boxing pizza and, in general, making sure everyone's happy and engaged.
Amidst the Brian show and running answers for our trivia team, I also had to review the food. Oh yeah.
Fortunately, we arrived during happy hour (a 4 to 7 p.m. window daily) when drinks and appetizers are $1 off. We ordered wine and the Greek bruschetta ($6) – two sizeable loaves loaded with tomatoes, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and onions and drizzled with good quality olive oil. It was plenty for five of us to share.
Amidst Round One - in which we scored 5 out of 6 points! - our entrees arrived.
Hubby Dave and daughter Julia have been to Romilo's dozens of times, and every time, they order the same thing: the chicken souvlaki platter ($17). No dolmathes. Extra feta and tzatziki sauce. French fries and a Greek side salad. They love it. If they go 100 more times, they'll never get anything else, even though the daily specials board beckons.
I confess, I often order it, too. The chicken is moist and well-seasoned, the pita bread is tender and toothsome, the fries are crispy and plentiful, and the salad is cold, crisp, and varied in its toppings, with a great homemade Greek vinaigrette dressing. As a rule, I take half home for lunch the next day. (Except the fries. I always eat the fries.)
This time, for the benefit of the review, I split a large Greek pizza ($20) with one of the Chicks. It was loaded with the same toppings from the bruschetta, riding on a layer of meat sauce and salami. Something about the salty feta, the savory olives and the crisp, buttery crust really did it for us. Chandra and I agreed it was some of the best pizza we've had locally.
There were some disappointments, however. My gluten-free friend Val was disappointed they'd dropped the GF pizza. Mario says they're working on their GF menu. Instead, she got the Greek salad with grilled chicken on top ($11) and thought the chicken rather bland and the small-size salad not as robust in toppings as the side salads we received.
My gal pal Ann was pretty quiet about her spinach ravioli ($14). The tender pillows of pasta were blanketed by a thick layer of marinara sauce. Although the owner said the homemade sauce is popular, both Ann and I thought it tasted too much of tomato paste.
I've always been too full for dessert, which is outsourced from a small local baker and includes such Mediterranean favorites as cannoli ($5) and baklava ($5.50).
After 24 years, locals who grew up coming to Romilo's are bringing their own kids. (On Mondays after 5 p.m., kids eat free, by the way.)
The new owner has kept the menu favorites and isn't afraid to try new things (including breakfast – stay tuned). The $9.95 daily lunch specials are a good deal. Many of the servers and kitchen staff have been there for years, which speaks well for management.
Whether it's Trivia Night or not, if you're looking for authentic Greek and Italian fare at a decent price in a family-friendly or fun bar atmosphere, Romilo's is the right answer.
Romilo's Restaurant and Bar
WHERE: 478A Ritchie Highway, in the Robinson Crossing shopping center
HOURS: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
HEAD CHEF: Baruch Flores
SOUP/SALAD: $5 to $10;
SANDWICHES/SUBS: $6.50 to $26;
ENTREES: $11 to $26
RESERVATIONS: Recommended for parties of 10 or more
CREDIT CARDS: All cards except American Express