When photographer Ellis Marsalis III, son of legendary jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr., heard that the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum was looking for someone to open a cafe on its first floor, he got together with a friend of a friend and submitted a proposal.
That friend of a friend happened to be Dimitris Spiliadis, the son of the owners of the Black Olive and the Fells Point restaurant's sommelier. The two men hit it off, and their proposal for a restaurant that was more than a restaurant was selected.
Thus the Northstar Bistro was born (1417 Thames St., 443-992-4695), a place, Marsalis says, "that gives opportunities to people whose opportunities are few and far between." The bistro, he hopes, "will be a learning experience that teaches marketable skills," as well as a good place to eat.
Because the staff isn't made up of professionals, Marsalis and Spiliadis started off slowly. Using organic and local ingredients, they offered a handful of artisan pizzas, calzones, sandwiches and salads at first. The mostly vegetarian menu is slowly expanding to include items such as grilled salmon and crab soup. By summer, says Marsalis, there should be meat on the menu.
The Northstar Bistro makes its own bread, and most dishes cost $7 or less.
The dining room overlooks the waterfront, and Marsalis describes it as a "wide-open, inviting, very clean space surrounded by glass." It's informal, as you might imagine. You order at the counter and a server brings your food to the table.
Toward summer, Marsalis says, he and Spiliadis are hoping to have live music. Right now you can listen to great jazz, not live but orchestrated by Marsalis. There is also free Wi-Fi.
The bistro is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Gourmet takeout Andrew Maggitti saw that tough times were coming for white-tablecloth restaurants when he left the kitchen of the Brass Elephant, where he was executive chef, to open Maggitti's Italian Market & Gourmet Bakery (2419 Baldwin Mill Road, 410-557-7080) in Fallston.
While he considers it "a Lexington Market in Fallston," for the purposes of this column, the most interesting thing about Maggitti's is the gourmet-to-go dinners. These are some of the same entrees that would cost you $30 or more at a fine-dining restaurant, such as his osso buco with saffron risotto and a vegetable for $12. They are packed in microwaveable containers to take home and reheat. If you don't see something you like, Maggitti says, he'll prepare something different for you.
The downside, he says, is that there's no place for people to sit and eat. He's waiting for the Harford County Health Department to OK table service. Gelato will be coming soon as well.
Maggitti's does catering and what the chef calls "in-home catering," where he comes to your house and cooks dinner for you and your friends --- and does the cleanup.
The bakery part of the market features a cake or pie of the day every day, such as a peanut-butter-fudge pie. All are made in-house, of course.
Maggitti's is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Chef moves on Fans of the now-closed Northwoods in Annapolis will be happy to learn that the former chef and owner, Russell Brown, has ended up at Rockfish (400 Sixth St., 410-267-1800) in Eastport.
As general manager and executive chef, Brown has brought with him some of his most popular Northwoods dishes, including Escargots Bugatti, Oysters Italienne, Zuppa de Pesce and Beef Wellington.
Deal of the Week Speaking of Annapolis, the city is having its own Restaurant Week for the first time the week of Feb.16-20. Note that no weekends are involved. Thirty-four restaurants will be offering three-course, fixed-price meals at a cost of $15.95 for lunch and $29.95 for dinner.
The big names include Cafe Normandie, Cantler's Riverside Inn, Carpaccio, Carrol's Creek Cafe, Domenicas, Harry Browne's, O'Leary's, Reynolds Tavern, Ristorante Piccola Roma, Rockfish, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Sam's on the Waterfront, Severn Inn, Tsunami, Wild Orchid Caf e and Yellowfin.
A complete list is available at annapolisrestaurantweek.com. Reservations are encouraged.