It's the opening of the year, so far.
Chazz: A Bronx Original opens Friday in Harbor East. If you haven't received your VIP invitations, don't panic. The grand opening isn't until June 23.
But the "soft opening" will give Baltimore diners (think of them as preview audiences) a chance to see the first results of the collaboration between the Oscar-nominated actor Chazz Palminteri and the Vitale family, the owner's of Aldo's in Baltimore'sLittleItaly.
Pizza mavens will get a first taste of the restaurant's "Bronx-style" pizza, which will be baked in a customized coal-fired oven. The pizza, which is meant to evoke the slices of Palminteri's beloved Bronx, is the result of a fact-finding mission that took Sergio Vitale to California and Palminteri on a multi-borough tour of New York City with the actors Stephen and BillyBaldwin.
The collaboration has its origins in a visit to Aldo's that Palminteri made during the Baltimore stop of his national tour of "A Bronx Tale," his celebrated one-man show. Palminteri, as the story goes, was so impressed with Aldo's food that he returned again and again, striking up a friendship with the Vitale family.
The restaurant's menu, which Sergio Vitale has described as "a garlicky valentine to the Italian-American table," will also feature selections from an antipasto bar, including house-pickled vegetables and house-cured salumi along with pasta and risotto dishes and other small plates. Vitale is excited about the Bucatini all'Amatriciana, which is made with house-cured guanciale (otherwise known as pig jowls), onions and tomato.
Opening-week guests will also get a good look at the restaurant's design, executed by Baltimore's Rita St. Clair Associates, which is intended to take guests on a virtual tour of the sights and sounds of Palminteri's Bronx childhood.
The restaurant will be open for dinner seven nights a week but will add lunch service and late-night dining in the coming months.
Chazz: A Bronx Original is at 1415 Aliceanna St. Call 410-522-5511 or go to chazzbronxoriginal.com.
Pizza Two The Manhattan-based Two Boots, famed for its cornmeal crust, opened at its new Bolton Hill location in the Fitzgerald building last Tuesday. The pizzeria's original Baltimore home was at Power Plant Live. The interior features Baltimore painted screens by artist Jenny Campbell and an installation by the American Visionary Art Museum. The new location, which will feature sidewalk seating, puts Two Boots in the backyard of two college campuses and close to the residents of Bolton Hill andMount Vernon.
In addition to its presence throughout the New York area, Two Boots has locations in Los Angeles and Bridgeport. Conn. The local connection is through Two Boots founder Phil Hartman, who came to Baltimore in the early 1980s and "fell in love with the town." The love for the city extends to the "Old Bay Beast," a pizza made only in Baltimore, which includes crab, crawfish, andouille sausage, jalapenos and mozzarella.
Two Boots is at 1203 W. Mount Royal Ave. Call 410-625-2668 or go to twoboots.com.
Pizza Three Tino's Italian Bistro opened Columbia in the former Strapazza space.
The owner is Christopher Infantino, and Tino's is his first restaurant. A native of northern New Jersey, where's "there's no such thing as Domino's pizza," Infantino came to this area to attend the University of Maryland. A frequent patron of Strapazza, Infantino learned of its imminent closing and joined forces with its chef, Edgar Navarette, to open Tino's.
Infantino says the newly redone interior makes Tino's look "more upscale than it is." Eighty percent of the dinner menu is under $15, he says, and no item, excepting specials, is over $20. The bistro menu includes New York-style pizza, homemade ravioli, meatballs made from his great-great-grandmother's Neapolitan recipe and an extensive menu of entree salads.
But the bistro is only half of Tino's; the other half is a full-service wine bar.
Tino's, which will have seating for 100 inside and 70 outside, will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Tino's is at 8775 Centre Park Drive in Columbia. For more information, call 410-730-8466 or go to tinositalianbistro.com.
It's the opening of the year, so far.