Palermo's steps up to the plate with baseball motif


Mention food and baseball, and most of us think of hot dogs, peanuts and beer.

That may change tomorrow when Palermo's Grill, a new Italian restaurant, opens in Timonium.

Palermo's is a tribute to a baseball hero -- American League umpire Steve Palermo, who was shot while preventing a mugging roughly two years ago.

After learning that Mr. Palermo had become paralyzed, Jerry and Pam Schiavino decided to name their restaurant after him. The couple has remained friends with Mr. Palermo since meeting him years ago in Little Italy. Several dishes -- including the Steak Palermo and the Penne Palermo with marinara sauce and peas -- are modeled after favorites that the umpire had while in town.

Palermo's is located at 106 W. Padonia Road, in the spot where the singles hangout Parlay Cafe once was. But that's where the similarities end, says Mr. Schiavino, who plans to play up the sports theme in the bar.

Fittingly enough, he and his wife have chosen to make Mr. Palermo's uniform the centerpiece of the room.

BON JOUR, BALTIMORE: That's what Mark Singer has to say these days to the lunchtime crowds gathering at his newest venture -- Bon Jour Bakery/Cafe, 17 E. Fayette St.

Mr. Singer, the former director of the now defunct Tres Bon, hired back half his staff to help run his restaurant, which serves soups, salads, sandwiches and baked goods.

He is taking a decidedly democratic approach to running the restaurant, allowing his customers to have a hand in the food and music.

When several people began asking for turkey-pastrami sandwiches, Mr. Singer added those to the menu alongside tarragon chicken salad, roast beef and honey-glazed ham. And now the masses are saying they'd like some variety in the taped music. Jazz and light contemporary are being added to the once all-classical mix.

One of the best times to drop by is around noon, when Mr. Singer gives out free samples of napoleons, eclairs, tarts or muffins. (The bakery/cafe is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

The muffins, bagels and croissants are baked on the premises, and the bakery features 30 to 40 different kinds of sweets each week.

So far, the highest compliment Mr. Singer received came from a woman who asked him to do her wedding cake. After he told her that he didn't do those, she suggested he build one by layering his lemon mousse cake, carrot cake and marble cheesecake together.

It was one of those rare times, he says, when he had to talk a customer out of a purchase.

DONNA'S, PART III: In the beginning was the coffee bar. Then came the Towson outpost. Now Donna Crivello has opened Donna's Restaurant, a sleek Italian bistro in Mount Vernon.

It looked like one gigantic Gap ad the night we dropped by for the culinary dress rehearsal. So many basic cotton Ts. So many mysteriously familiar faces. So many men in ponytails. This is Baltimore?

The menu (pastas, salads, meats, seafood and brick-oven pizzas) is her most ambitious yet, and the decor (the open kitchen, galvanized aluminum surfaces and track lighting) is both cool and inviting.

The risotto with portobello mushrooms looks like a winner here -- especially if you go by the smile that artist Tom Everhart was wearing while eating his. Personally, though, we liked the red pepper ravioli with crab meat, seductive pink pillows bathed in an artichoke and Romano cream sauce.

The inside scoop is that Ms. Crivello whisked away Randall Peck, a chef from Citronelle, for her new venture at 800 N. Charles St. For now, the restaurant is open from Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. Look for it to open for lunch by mid-October.

Alan Hirsch, Ms. Crivello's other half in the business, admits the duo may create competition for themselves by opening around the corner from the original coffee bar.

"But if we do a good job, we think it will mean more business for both places," he says. "And we think we can satisfy customers better this way."

Have news about local restaurants, chefs or clubs? Call (410) 332-6156 or write the Real Dish, Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

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