Gregg Mason can cast a movie. But can he create a hit restaurant?
We'll see later this month when Mr. Mason, who has worked on films including "Hairspray" and "Avalon," opens the World Cafexbar at 2 E. Lombard St.
The decor created by Mr. Mason and his three partners -- artist Robert Cox, hairstylist Ken Saenz and accountant David Martz -- is likely to create a stir. The motif is decidedly movie-esque, with an ancient-world mural, marbleized columns and suspended globe.
"It's like walking into an adult comic book," Mr. Mason, 35, says with a laugh.
The menu of Thai, Greek, French, Indian and Caribbean dishes created by chef Dave Sarfaty carries out the world theme. Prices range from $8 to $14 at the restaurant, which should open for lunch by late April and dinner by May.
Despite becoming a restaurateur, Mr. Mason says he's still committed to his first love -- films. Having just cast child actors in Whoopi Goldberg's "Sister Act 2," he's now focusing on a project of his own.
THE UPPER CRUST: There'll be yet another choice for brick-oven pizza lovers when Bertucci's Brick Oven Pizzeria, a Boston-based chain, invades Maryland this fall. By late September, the family-style, Italian restaurant is expected to open outposts in Owings Mills, Annapolis, White Marsh, Columbia and Bel Air.
Along with pizza, the menu includes salads, soups and pastas. Prices are moderate, with diners spending an average of $9.40 per person for dinner and $6.50 for lunch, according to Jill Sykes, spokeswoman for Bertucci's.
Other perks for parents: Rather than crayons or coloring books, the restaurant hands out pizza dough for antsy young diners to play with. Or there's a floor-to-ceiling chalkboard.
ON THE GOOD SHIP CHOCOLATE: That's where Baltimore pastry chef Marshall Rosenthal will be on Saturday when he boards the S.S. Norway for a cruise sponsored by Chocolatier magazine.
Talk about decadence -- a week in the Caribbean with a boat full of chocolate!
"Are we going to roll off the boat in the end?" asks Donna Olivieri, special events coordinator for the magazine. "Probably, but we'll be very happy."
It will be a working trip, though, for Mr. Rosenthal, the pastry chef for Windows, who will be one of the guests on board. In addition to creating a chocolate sculpture centerpiece for the buffet table, he'll be teaching vacationers the art of sculpting and decorating with chocolate.
He uses a Tootsie Roll-type chocolate, which is more resistant to melting, especially in warmer climates, he says.
He admits, though, that he's not exactly a chocoholic.
"I don't eat a tremendous amount of chocolate," he says. "I love to sculpt with it. But to eat it? I'd rather have a lobster tail."
A SCOTCH AND STAPLER, ANYONE? Larry Beiderman, food and beverage director for the Guest Quarters Suite Hotel in Linthicum, had a problem. Although his hotel is next to the airport and gets lots of business clients, revenues were down in the lounge.
A month ago, he and his staff came up with a solution: the Atrium Exchange. The revamped lounge is part bar, part office. There are Tom Peters' best-sellers in the bookcase along with legal pads, staplers and pens. A portable phone is available at every table, and the Atrium Exchange stocks 12 business-related magazines and newspapers.
SMOKE GETS IN YOUR FOOD: Not any more at the Polo Grill, where owner Lenny Kaplan last week instituted a no-smoking policy in the restaurant. (Patrons, however, can still smoke in the bar.) With 90 percent of his clientele now non- smokers, Mr. Kaplan said the new rule is "common sense."
OPEN FOR BUSINESS: M. Gettier Restaurant, the eagerly awaited solo effort by former Peabody Court chef Michael Gettier; Tomato Palace, an Italian restaurant in Columbia run by the Clyde's restaurant gang; and Soupmasters International, an eatery featuring hearty soups at Harborplace.
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