By the time you read this, Baltimore will have one less French restaurant. Brasserie Tatin in Homewood was scheduled to close its doors last night.
The good news is that we'll have a new Italian restaurant, La Famiglia.
It sounds a bit like Boccaccio North. Gerard Billebault, who owned Tatin with his wife, Gayle Brier, sold the business last week to his general manager, Dino Zeytinoglu, who had come to Tatin from the presently closed Boccaccio in Little Italy. Zeytinoglu is hoping to open his northern Italian restaurant the first week in January, if all goes as planned with the paperwork.
He's bringing 16 or 17 staff people from Boccaccio - everyone from chefs to valets to park the cars.
(La Famiglia will have complimentary valet parking seven days a week.)
Zeytinoglu said he plans to be at his new restaurant every day, 18 hours a day.
"We will treat customers like guests at home," he said. He promised that prices will be lower than at Boccaccio, with entrees such as osso buco and soft-shell crabs running from $22 to $26. He also said that "no fish will go in the freezer," and he's planning to get his vegetables and fruit locally. The wine list will be mostly Italian and California bottles.
Billebault and Brier, meanwhile, will be focusing on their other businesses, Bonjour, the French pastry shop on Falls Road, and their wholesale bakery, both of which are doing very well in this economy, said Billebault. There is even the possibility that they will open a second Bonjour if all goes well.
New in Timonium It's a brave soul that opens a new business in this economy, but chef Roddy Domacasse has several things going for him with his new Restaurant Sabor (12240 Tullamore Road, 410-628-7227) in Timonium. First, it's a family-run business; he's working with his wife and mother-in-law. He's keeping prices reasonable, and the place is BYOB, with a $5 corkage fee for the table. You'll find plenty on the menu for less than $20, and he has an early-bird special from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
And then Sabor is a neighborhood restaurant.
"I'm accommodating it to the palate around here," he said. That's in spite of the fact that Domacasse comes from a fine-dining background, and has worked at Brasserie Tatin and Linwoods.
Still, there's plenty to attract people from outside the neighborhood. Domacasse, who is a native of Puerto Rico, will offer international daily specials, some of which sound pretty spectacular. Last week's included Puerto Rican lasagna (ripe plantains, ground beef and queso blanco), venison with chestnut foie gras mousse; curried lamb stew; coq au vin; a Puerto Rican holiday roasted pork shoulder with pigeon peas and rice; and lobster bordelaise.
He was at Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia for a while after leaving Tatin; but then, he said, he told himself, "It's time for you to concentrate on opening your own place."
Domacasse described the look of Restaurant Sabor as "warm, cozy and elegant." Designed by Rita St. Clair Associates, it involves lots of wood, Arts and Crafts style and a semi-open kitchen. The dining room seats about 80, with a large community table.
Sabor is open 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for lunch, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for brunch and 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. daily for dinner.
At Cross Keys The Village Square, the shopping area of the Village of Cross Keys, has been taken over in recent years by national chains, so it's nice to see a couple of new, local places move in. In the food line, that would be the Village Square Cafe (66 Village Square, 410-433-2233), which opened a couple of weeks ago.
Co-owner Roseann Glick told me that she and her husband, Robert, are hoping it will be a replacement for the late, lamented Cross Keys deli, a popular breakfast and lunch spot that was there for many years. But the new cafe has several advantages over it, including wi-fi and a liquor license.
"It's a casual, comfortable place," Glick said. "We have a basic, fresh menu with recognizable things, and as much homemade as possible."
The cafe, which opens at 7 a.m. daily, serves a full breakfast, including a signature omelet (Vermont cheddar, hickory-smoked bacon and spinach) and buttermilk pancakes, and breakfast sandwiches. Breakfast is served all day; but if you want lunch, there are pizzas, sandwiches, such as house-roasted turkey club, and salads.
I asked why the owners bothered getting a liquor license if the cafe closes at 4 p.m. Glick mentioned business lunches with alcohol, and brunch with mimosas and Bloody Marys. The cafe also is booking private events in the evening.
Out of business Sometimes these days, I feel as if I'm on the restaurant death watch. This week, I have the closing of Jesse Wong's Hong Kong in Columbia to report, as well as that of Brasserie Tatin, without the corresponding information about what might be opening in Jesse Wong's space. The restaurant was best known for its dim sum, not something many places around here offer.
Deal of the Week Amicci's in Little Italy has $10 Dinner Nights on Mondays and Tuesdays. You have your choice of meatballs and marinara over linguine, eggplant parmigiana, lasagna or rigatoni bolognese. To get the deal, you have to register your e-mail address at the restaurant's Web site (amiccis.com). A coupon will be e-mailed to you.
Amicci's also has a happy hour weekdays, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., consisting of reduced-price cocktails and steamed mussels, fried calamari, fresh mozzarella and tomato, or a house salad with chicken for $5.