Severna Park restaurant Café Mezzanotte reopens after six-week facelift                 

Cafe Mezzanotte's Executive Chef Zack Trabbold (left) makes meatballs from locally grown lamb. The restaurant's owner Tommie Koukoulis unveiled the newly revamped and streamlined kitchen Sept. 12.
Cafe Mezzanotte's Executive Chef Zack Trabbold (left) makes meatballs from locally grown lamb. The restaurant's owner Tommie Koukoulis unveiled the newly revamped and streamlined kitchen Sept. 12. (Sharon Lee Tegler / Correspondent)

Surrounded by his wait staff, Café Mezzanotte’s owner Kosmas “Tommie” Koukoulis addressed a throng of patrons gathered on the sidewalk before unveiling the restaurant’s new look Sept. 12.

The celebratory grand opening marked the end of a six-week closure to remodel and refresh the restaurant. Mezzanote, Koukoulis says, is the favorite of his three restaurants and after a decade of ownership, he wanted to give it the facelift it deserved.


“Our staff, food, and service are second to none but I felt our ambience could use a little updating,” he said.

Café Mezzonotte existed for 25 years before Koukoulis and his cousin purchased it in 2008. Several invited guests were customers from the beginning including Severna Park native Betty Winkelmeyer Wells.


“I’m here a lot and love the staff. They’re so good to me,” she said. “My late husband Wilbur and I dined here for years.”

Winkelymeyer said there’d been a gap after the Wagon Wheels, a high-end Severna Park restaurant, closed after 35 years in 1985. She considered Café Mezzanotte “an asset from the moment it opened”.

“My cousin and I got a (Small Business Administration) loan and bought the café. I was 23 and he was 24,” the now 33-year-old Koukoulis remembers. “It was a huge and sometimes uncomfortable undertaking because people loved the former management and were skeptical because we were so young. We worked hard, won everyone over, and put our fingerprint on the restaurant.”

After five years, the young entrepreneur bought out his cousin, became the café’s sole owner and refocused it on local, sustainable, clean foods with an Italian influence. Over the next five years, he and his staff grew their commitment to local foods, refining the menus to reflect their close connection with farms and seasonality of ingredients.

Having grown up working in his father’s restaurant in Baltimore County as a dishwasher, busboy, waiter and cook, Café Mezzanotte’s owner has a great relationship with his staff.

Long-time patron Dave Butner discovered that when Koukoulis closed the restaurant for its renovation, he compensated his employees for their time off.

While manager Mauro Seghieri and waiter Matt Payne greeted guests by the entrance to the beautifully revamped dining room, Maureen Seghieri related how Mezzanotte’s entire staff was involved in the renovation – from carrying out the old furniture before construction to spending two weeks carrying in the new and setting things up.

“The neatest thing was that, during our time off, Tommie sent us out to the farms where our meats and produce are raised. We got to see the cattle that are pasture raised and to meet the farmers,” Maureen Seghieri said. “Tommie is such a dynamic, neat person to work for.”

Koukoulis expanded his business two years ago. Inspired by a trip with his native Hawaiian wife, he opened a restaurant in Harford County called Uncle’s Hawaiian Grindz. Last year, he and a partner opened Capiche Street Food Italiano at Magothy Gateway Village.

In a alcove overlooking a patio, friends Josephine Kolakoweski, Bonnie Reese and Diane Christy said they liked the soft lighting, organic colors and wall art created from blown up photographs taken by farmers and purveyors.

“We liked the restaurant before the redo and found it cozy but this is lovely,” said Kolakoweski. “And the food is delicious.”

Grand opening guests who’d entered through the new bar found plush upholstered seating, sleek surfaces and subdued lighting with a breakout area of tables on one side.


So impressed were Tree Branch Group LLC business partners Jennifer Triplett and Denise Hightower that they snapped photos of the circular bar with their smart phones. Triplett, a regular customer, declared the new surroundings “awesome and beautiful”.

At a window table, Mezzanotte regulars Steve and Deanna Burger and Dayna Defeo and Alaskan honeymooners Paul Burger and Sue Morgan were served tempting dishes from the café’s farm to table menu.

“We’ve come here for years,” Deanna Burger said. “This transformation’s amazing and the food’s excellent.

Streamlining Mezzanote’s kitchen and updating its equipment was vital. Executive Chef Zack Trabbold noted the building and kitchen were dated.

Now preparing and serving entrees like Maryland porchetta, Pennsylvania duck breast, or Cape May scallops from locally and regionally sourced meats and produce is seamless.

Fire station meeting

A meeting is being held at Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company Oct. 9 at 7 pm to discuss the need to raise funds for a new firehouse. The current one, built in the 1950’s, is deteriorating.

For information, visit www.ehvfc.org .

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