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Now serving: a first look at Cosima

For The Baltimore Sun
The much-anticipated Cosima restaurant opened Wednesday. Here's a first look.

When the owners of the popular Donna’s restaurant open a new establishment, people pay attention, especially when it’s been teased on social media for several months. Donna Crivello, Judith Golding* and Alan Hirsch officially unveiled Cosima (pronounced KOH-sih-mah), named after Crivello’s Sicilian grandmother, on Wednesday. The new restaurant is housed in a beautifully restored, stories-high boiler room in an old mill building in the Clipper Mill area. We stopped by on Thursday night to check out the buzz.

This isn’t a full review — we’ll get to that in a few weeks — but we thought you’d have some questions about this latest addition to Baltimore’s dining scene. Here’s what you’ll find at Cosima: 

Where do you park?

This is a biggie because Cosima is located down a steep driveway off a sharp turn along the winding, leafy part of Falls Road that hugs the Jones Falls. Persevere. On our visit, a parking attendant was stationed at the top of the entranceway to guide diners to the restaurant. (There will be a lighted sign soon, we were told.) At the bottom of the paved drive, a valet takes your car and parks it — for free. Then, it’s only a few steps to the restaurant door.

What do you see when you walk in?

Cosima definitely has a “wow” factor. The soaring space is stunning with the original brick and stone walls of the old boiler room adding ambiance. Beyond the hostess station are the modular bar and dining areas. The multi-grained tables are made of reclaimed wood from Baltimore houses.

Sit at one of the front tables to be part of the bustling bar scene. There’s a communal table toward the back with a high wine rack and private tables in the rear, where a door opens to a peaceful terrace. It’s not ready for service, but diners will be able to sit there in warmer weather, taking in a surprisingly serene city setting next to the meandering Jones Falls waterway. An upstairs area is expected open for regular seating next week and is available now for private bookings with a capacity of about 50.

Is it fancy?

Forget the dress-up clothes. On a weeknight, we saw mostly business casual dress and even jeans — well, the good ones.

What’s on the menu?

Glad you asked. Donna Crivello (disclosure: I worked with Crivello at The Sun in the early 1990s when she was an art director) went back to her roots for the Southern Italian food served at Cosima. She has fine-tuned recipes like the meatballs and tripe from family members, including two grandmothers, one who hailed from Sicily and the other from Naples. The menu is straightforward and divided into primis, first plates to share; hot and cold small plates; pizzas from the wood-fired oven (do try the fig pizza with prosciutto, Gorgonzola and broccoli rabe); pastas; and fish and meat dishes. Desserts like the sfinci (Sicilian doughnut rounds rolled in cinnamon sugar) are from Crivello’s past.

What’s the price range?

It can get pricey, but there are plenty of reasonable menu items. Pizzas ($14-$16) can be shared. Small plates range from $7 to $16, and entrees go from $22 to $44. A popular item is the grilled half lobster on squid ink pasta for $38. 

What’s to drink?

Cocktails served in coupe glasses always feel special, and these are no exception. For a light, sensuous start to the evening, sip on a spritz, a lovely blend of Aperol, Prosecco and soda with a lemon peel for good measure. The thoughtful wine list includes an impressive range of Italian whites, reds and sparklers.

How’s the service?

Even at this early stage, the servers are well-schooled in the dinner and drinks menus, though they sometimes stumble over the Italian pronunciations — just like us. There’s no pretension here. 

Can I just drop by?

Maybe. But we strongly suggest reservations if you want to experience the best the restaurant has to offer. Call 443-708-7352 or go through OpenTable. Cosima is open from 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday-Sunday.

We’re confused. Where is it exactly?

Cosima is located at 3000 Falls Road in Mill No. 1. It’s not too far from Hampden. Check out its website, cosimamill1.com. There’s even a photo of the tricky entrance to guide you.

So what did you think of the food?

It’s too early for a full-scale review. We like to give a restaurant time to work out any kinks before rating it. Don’t worry. We’ll publish one soon.

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Correction

*A previous version of this story omitted one of the owners of Cosima. Donna Crivello, Judith Golding and Alan Hirsch own Cosima. The Sun regrets the error.

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