Some dozen Baltimore restaurants will be adding soft-shell crab specials to their menus for Baltimore's fifth annual Soft-Shell Crab Celebration.
The restaurant promotion, sponsored by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, will run May 24 through June 2. The participating restaurants include Alexander's Tavern, The Black Olive, Diamond Tavern, Grille 700, J. Paul's, Kona Grill, Miss Shirley's, Pabu, The Oceanaire, Phillips Seafood, Regi's American Bistro, Roy's, Ryleigh's Oyster, Ten Ten, Townhouse Kitchen & Bar and Vino Rosina.
On the eve of the 10-day celebration, Downtown Partnership and Vino Rosina will host a five-course soft-shell crab tasting featuring chef Jesse Sandlin's contemporary interpretations of classic recipes. The menu includes cream of soft-shell crab soup, a soft-shell sandwich and a soft-shell Amish crab pretzel.
The soft-shell tasting dinner is 6:30 p.m. May 23 at Vino Rosina, 509 S. Exeter St. Tickets are $55. For more information, call 410-528-8600 or go to vinorosina.com.
The participating restaurants' soft-shell crab specials can be vieed on the Downtown Partnership's Dine Downtown Baltimore site, dinedowntownbaltimore.com.
News of the closing was posted on the restaurant's Facebook page. "We are very happy and sad to announce Chef Rocco has officially retired and Rocco's Capriccio is closed," the message said. "Thank you to all our friends and family for your support throughout the past 17 years. You all have helped create beautiful memories that we will not forget."
Rocco's was one of Little Italy's classic white-tablecloth restaurants. A typical house specialty, the Vitello Alla Rocco, was veal sauteed in Marsala wine with mushroom, cream, Gorgonzola cheese and plum tomatoes.
"It is sad about Rocco's," said Cyd Wolf, who co-owns Germano's with her husband, Germano Fabiani. "All of the restaurants in Little Italy are family-owned and -operated — that's what makes Baltimore, and especially our Little Italy, unique. The closing of a family business is personal and sad. Germano and I wish them the best."
Chef changes Cyrus Keefer has left Birroteca to take over the kitchen at Fork & Wrench. He will replace Sajin Renae, who will be moving to New York City.
Everyone involved with the two hot restaurants sounded happy.
"We're excited for both things," said Fork & Wrench's co-owner Andy Gruver. "We had 50 or 60 guys apply for the job, including a guy from Belgium."
Keefer said it was the broad outlook at Fork & Wrench that appealed to him.
"I don't want to use the word 'fusion,' but in a sense it really is," Keefer said. "There are no boundaries. It's a global concept more than Birroteca. It's really inspiring that they want creativity."
Keefer, who will be joining Fork & Wrench on Tuesday, had kind words for Birroteca and its owner, Robbin Haas. "I'm going to be hanging out at Birroteca when I'm not working," he said.
Renae, whose last day at Fork & Wrench is June 23, had good things to say about Keefer, with whom she'll be cooking at New York's famed James Beard House on May 30 along with the Food Market's Chad Gauss.
"I'm very excited to work together," Renae said. "I've known [Keefer] for at least 21/2 years. He's definitely one of those people where you can see his passion for his food."
Renae said she had been planning to move to New York, where her boyfriend works as a professional photographer, to open a new restaurant. She'll still be moving to New York, but she won't be opening a new restaurant; Renae is expecting a child.