I had a talk with Pazo's new executive chef, Michael Costa, recently by phone. I was curious about the new menu he's created for the Fells Point hot spot. In essence, it turned the place from a tapas-only restaurant to one that offers both small plates and traditional dinners.
"Some people want a salad and a big plate," was how he explained the change. The new main courses basically stay under the $30 mark, although chef's specialties like the $67 rib-eye are, well, more.
"Seasonality is a major motivating concern for me," he said when I asked him to describe his style of cooking.
While I couldn't pin him down to one signature dish, he did mention the pork confit cannelloni, with house-made pasta, mushrooms, zucchini and walnuts in cream, as a creation he's particularly proud of. Another is the boned Amish chicken legs cooked on the wood grill with samfaina, a variation on ratatouille.
Costa's resume includes work in the kitchens of Citronelle in Washington and Restaurant Michel Rostang in Paris.
Scream for ice cream --I've gotten a couple of e-mails praising the gelato, or Italian ice cream, at the new Pitango Gelato (802 S. Broadway, 410-702-5828) in Fells Point. Made with organic milk and cream from a grass-fed single herd on a Pennsylvania family farm, it's so PC you'll almost have to take it out of the guilty-pleasures category. On the other hand, the flavors include chocolate, dark chocolate, spicy chocolate, banana, hazelnut and crema (something like custard and French vanilla). So it's definitely a pleasure, even if not too guilty.
Keep an eye on --I often wonder why there aren't more fine-dining restaurants north and west of the city, given the area's upscale demographic. I have hopes for the new Quarry Lake at Greenspring development in Baltimore County, which has buildings for not one but two stand-alone restaurants.
It looks like one will be a high-end steakhouse. (Surprise.) Blue & Obrecht Realty wouldn't tell me any more than that because no leases have been finalized yet. There are already several quick-casual eating places in Quarry Lake's retail area and, of course, a Starbucks.
More alfresco dining --Before it gets too hot, try the Chameleon Cafe's new outdoor eating area (4341 Harford Road, 410-254-2376). It has about 15 seats, 4-foot high planters, flowers and candles. The food has always been worth a visit to Lauraville.
Send restaurant news, trends, questions of general interest or observations to me at email@example.com or fax me at 410-783-2519. Snail mail works, too: Elizabeth Large, The Sun, Box 1377, Baltimore 21278.