Bits & Bites: Little Italy gets new Mediterranean spot, Fells Point gets Thai and North Baltimore gets a new Indian concept

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Costiera, a coastal Mediterranean restaurant from the former owners of Gnocco, will open in Little Italy this fall.

Summer’s on its way out, but a new restaurant headed to Baltimore will conjure warm weather year-round with a menu inspired by the Mediterranean coast.

Brian Lavin and Sam White have plans to open Costiera soon at 415 S. Central Ave. in Little Italy. You may recognize their names from a previous restaurant venture, Gnocco, in Highlandtown. I spoke with Lavin about the new dining spot, which is slated to open this fall.


Also in today’s column, I have a slew of updates out of the liquor board, from details about new Indian and Thai restaurants to a resolution in the Sagamore Pendry security camera dispute that I told you about a few weeks ago.

Plus, an Iron Chef winner’s franchise is on track to open several restaurants in Maryland.


Next up from the owners of Gnocco

If you ever dined at Gnocco, you might remember the restaurant’s pasta that was made in-house, using locally milled flour.

Owners Brian Lavin and Sam White plan to bring back that pasta-making practice at their new restaurant, Costiera, when it opens later this year.

Lavin and White have been taking the coastal Mediterranean concept for a test-drive over the course of the past month, with pop-ups at 1157 Bar & Kitchen in Locust Point and at Southpaw, a Fells Point cocktail bar.

They’re still refining the menu, but the idea is to serve dishes that are lighter on meat than at your traditional Italian restaurant. Rather than plates of steak or veal, Costiera will offer a broad selection of crudo, or raw seafood, as well as hand-rolled pastas like gnocchi and cavatelli.

“You won’t be weighed down” by the end of dinner, Lavin says.

One popular pop-up item that’s likely to make it onto the permanent menu is a plate of swordfish meatballs served over house-milled polenta. Lavin and White also plan to bring back one popular dish from Gnocco, a squid ink gnocchi.

Lavin and White ran Gnocco for three years, from 2016 to 2019. They changed the restaurant’s name to Gnocchetto in 2019 after learning of a copyright conflict with a New York restaurant that was also called Gnocco.

Their new spot, Costiera, will take over a space that used to house Clark Burger in a stretch of Little Italy that borders Fells Point and Harbor East. The 1,600-square-foot restaurant will seat 60 people between a 12-seat bar and a dining room.


The restaurant will serve dinner to start, with a possible expansion to lunch hours. Lavin said Costiera will offer happy hour deals to attract local workers. The restaurant’s bar program will be heavy on cocktails, particularly drinks featuring the Italian herbal liqueur amaro.

Lavin and White hope to open in the next two months. In the meantime, they’re planning a few more pop-ups to spread the word.

“They’re a lot of fun,” Lavin said of the events, “but I cannot wait to have my own kitchen again. Lugging around pots and pans is no fun.”

Liquor license hearing gets heated

Owners Binod, left, and Shrijana Uprety are pictured with a sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesh at their restaurant Namaste Baltimore. Binod Uprety plans to open a new Indian concept nearby.

A new Indian restaurant is preparing to open near Loyola University of Maryland, despite opposition from some community members.

Restaurateur Binod Uprety, who also owns spots like Alonso’s, Namaste and Harbor Tandoor, plans to open a new concept focused on Southern Indian cuisine at 501 W. Cold Spring Lane in the Evergreen neighborhood near Roland Park and the Loyola campus.

The restaurant, which does not have a name yet, was approved for a liquor license Sept. 7 over the objections of some residents, who said they were concerned that they had not been able to reach a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with Uprety after a year of back-and-forth.


Liquor board commissioners typically encourage businesses and their neighbors to sign MOUs, which institute mutually agreed-upon rules on topics like hours of operation, trash management and security, before they approve a license. In the case of Uprety’s new restaurant, community members say their main concern is that the liquor license will allow the business to be open until 2 a.m., while they would prefer it close by 10 p.m.

The restaurant, which will focus on vegan dishes, is set to take over the former Evergreen Cafe space, a block over from Namaste and Alonso’s, which are open until midnight on the weekends. Uprety has proposed similar hours for his newest spot.

Matthew Mulcahy, speaking on behalf of the Keswick Improvement Association, said the community is opposed to an “unrestricted liquor license.”

“He runs his business well, but we don’t need another license in this area,” Mulcahy said. “Once a license is in place, it changes the character of the neighborhood.”

Councilwoman Odette Ramos was also on hand to oppose the license, as were representatives of the Evergreen Community Association and the Roland Park Civic League. “It’s very important to the residents that there be good faith negotiating, and it’s very clear that this hasn’t happened,” Ramos said.

Commissioners ultimately voted to grant Uprety the license, noting they have never received any complaints about his other restaurants. Still, Albert Matricciani, the board’s chair, urged Uprety and community members to keep trying to find common ground.


A new Thai restaurant for Fells Point

The former Red Star building is now home to a Thai restaurant.

The Dara held a soft opening earlier this month at 906 S. Wolfe St. The restaurant comes from Montree Wongchalee, who has served as manager at Bodhi Corner in Hampden and Khun Nine Thai in Mount Vernon, according to his attorney, Stephan Fogleman.

The Dara serves up noodles, curries and lots of seafood, from crab fried rice with Maryland jumbo lump crab meat to stuffed squid and spicy-sour seafood tom yum.

An update on the Pendry

The Sagamore Pendry was fined $250 by the Baltimore City liquor board.

Baltimore City liquor license holders take note: If a board inspector asks to see security camera footage, you’ll have to oblige unless you want to incur a fine.

Liquor board commissioners imposed a $250 fine on the Sagamore Pendry last week after deciding the hotel violated a board rule that requires licensees to cooperate with authorities including inspectors, police, health and fire department officials.

Dish Baltimore


Get the scoop on that new restaurant, learn about chef changes and discover your favorite new recipe. All your Baltimore food news is here.

At issue was a Pendry employee’s initial refusal to turn over security camera footage after an incident in June that involved a knife-wielding man in Fells Point. When police asked to review the hotel’s security video, the employee declined, citing hotel policy that requires a subpoena or warrant before handing over footage.


Stephan Fogleman, the hotel’s attorney, took issue with the violation, noting that it’s unusual to punish a licensee for noncooperation when there was no underlying misconduct on their part. He also said the hotel allowed police officers to view its footage — which did not end up showing the man with the knife — within 12 hours of the request.

“I think this sends a bad message to businesses in Baltimore,” he said of the violation. “In reality, cooperation was made.”

An Iron Chef’s franchise comes to Maryland

Buena Onda, a Philadelphia taqueria from “Iron Chef” winner Jose Garces, is making its way to Maryland.

Garces announced this week that he’s inked a deal with franchisees Zong Chen and Alexis Chen to bring five locations of the restaurant, Garces’ “ode to fish tacos and chill vibes,” to the Maryland/D.C./Virginia region.

The first location, expected to open in the second or third quarter of next year, will be in the Pike Center shopping plaza in Rockville. A spokesperson for the project says the Chens plan to look in the Baltimore area as part of their hunt for future franchise locations.

The deal is the start of a growth spurt for Buena Onda, which got its start in Philly in 2015. Garces, who won the second season of “The Next Iron Chef” on the Food Network, signed an agreement with Ballard Brands last year to franchise the restaurant concept throughout the country.