The restaurant features fare inspired by the farm cooking of Sebastian Cardona'­s grandmother during his childhood in Mar del Plata, Argentina. “If you come and eat steak like we do it, you will think you’d never had steak before," Cardona says.
The restaurant features fare inspired by the farm cooking of Sebastian Cardona'­s grandmother during his childhood in Mar del Plata, Argentina. “If you come and eat steak like we do it, you will think you’d never had steak before," Cardona says. (Handout / HANDOUT)

The new La Barrita restaurant in Butchers Hill has only been open a week, but according to owner Sebastian Cardona, one couple from the neighborhood has already come to eat four times.

“And they promised to be here at least three times a week,” Cardona said with a laugh. “It’s not surprising, but I’m very happy with what they had to say about us.”

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The restaurant features fare inspired by the farm cooking of Cardona’s grandmother during his childhood in Mar del Plata, Argentina. It’s the newest arrival on the culinary scene in East Baltimore, and a transplant of sorts from Brooklyn — as in New York, not South Baltimore.

Cardona, 45, came to the United States in 2000, got into the restaurant business, and spent years working in Miami and New York. He washed dishes, waited tables and tended bar before opening his last place — also named La Barrita — in the New York borough in 2016.

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But he closed up shop to move to Charm City in 2017 when his girlfriend got a job here, he said, and has now re-imagined La Barrita with a new menu for a new city.

It’s still in flux, but at the moment features seven or eight different cuts of beef, including two different beef platters; various sides of vegetables and select desserts. The menu also has more than a half dozen pastas – including ravioli and gnocchi – that are “made every morning in house,” along with their fillings, Cardona said.

Of the steak, he talks a particularly big game: “If you come and eat steak like we do it, you will think you’d never had steak before”

Cardona said he “grew up inside a kitchen” at his grandmother’s farm, and she taught him that “it takes the same time to do the right thing or the wrong thing” in preparing a meal, “you just need to care about it” to do it right.

He said he cares, and that his staff are “hard-working people” who care, too.

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The restaurant is preparing to open in a space that previously housed the corner store Ronnie's Food Market.

The first week has been “extremely busy,” he said, and he hopes that continues as people discover something special in La Barrita.

“I love restaurants, I go to as many restaurants as I can, and what we do, I couldn’t find anywhere else,” he said. “I want people to not be disappointed.”

The restaurant, at 32 North Chester St., is currently open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sundays. It is closed on Tuesdays.

Happy hour is from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Cardona said. And he hopes in coming weeks to begin opening at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays — to offer Baltimore’s newest brunch.

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