Though called the American Bistro, this restaurant takes every effort to evoke a rustic meal on the Mediterranean. Sun-washed frescoes of the Italian countryside cover the dining-room walls and plates of hearty Italian pastas and entrees fill the linen-covered tables. Seafood entrees incorporate a mélange of fresh catches, such as clams and lobster tail, and pastas come coated in a rainbow of sauces ranging from zesty marinara to verdant pesto to cream vodka. At the enclosed bar, wine glasses glitter before filling with red and white varietals and clinking to toast a recent escape from a haunted mansion.
Inside Nora Cafe & Bakery, housemade cakes and Italian-style cookies gather in the long, sloping pastry cases that line one side of the casual dining room. Referencing generations-old recipes, Nora’s team of bakers craft handmade dough to create fluffy puff pastry, pies, and cakes. The restaurant also serves Italian dinners, with plates of lasagna, spaghetti, and steaks complemented by garlic bread almost as warm as a blanket that’s on fire. The team serves those dishes between bright, orange walls flecked with framed photos, amid a sea of red tables with cushioned chairs.
Portalli's Chef Keith Holsey portions his dishes according to the traditional Italian four-course meal. This doesn't stop the chef from crafting a menu of creatively interpreted Italian classics, though, such as veal osso buco with a marsala demi-glace or chili-rubbed halibut poached in a white-wine ginger broth. Chef Holsey's creations consist of uncomplicated flavors that, according to the Baltimore Sun, allow "good and simple ingredients to work together." Portalli's also caters to families with dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs or meatball flatbread pizza, which teaches kids about fractions so they don't have to learn about them on the street.
Though Yummy Grille chefs work alongside the pizza-makers of A1 Pizza & Sub, their cuisine is from a different world entirely. Instead of New York-style pizza and American favorites, chefs whip up dishes from the Mediterranean— from flavorful steak shawarmas to crunchy falafel wraps and sizzling chicken kabobs. They take a healthy approach to cooking, grilling meats in lemon juice and vegetable oil rather than deep-frying them or stuffing them with M&Ms. They pair their sandwiches and platters with traditional Mediterranean side-dishes, including savory hummus dip and plump grape leaves filled with rice.
Upholding the time-honored tradition of the cucina, Mamma's crafts a menu of warming Italian fare in a casual and welcoming atmosphere. Savor simple seafood starters such as the fried calamari ($7.99) or mussels marinara ($6.99) before moving mouths to more elaborate entrees. Mamma's veal sorrentina snuggles a fresh cut of veal with prosciutto, eggplant, and mozzarella cheese ($17.99), and the shrimp fradiavolo’s spicy marinara ($15.99) livens up palates and deters milquetoast dates from sampling. Catering to those who prefer circular fare, head chef Eduardo Boteo and his team prepare Mamma's panoply of pizzas topped with fresh ingredients. Weekly dinner and lunch specials are also available for those looking beyond Cucina's core collection.
There are lots of ways to get your pizza fix at Zella's Pizzeria, which is back under original ownership. The quickest, perhaps, is to order one of the house's signature gourmet pizzas such as the roasted eggplant topped with roasted red peppers and kalamata olives. But diners with time and energy to spare can pour over the menu to build their own pizza. All pizzas start with freshly made dough before diners choose from six sauces ranging from traditional tomato to herbed olive oil and more than 30 toppings including green olives, fresh tomatoes, and roasted garlic that can be consumed willy-nilly or reorganized on the pie to make the Italian flag. The same top-quality ingredients that go into Zella's pizzas are used to make smaller dishes such as spinach and artichoke calzones and meatball sandwiches.
The chefs at Egyptian Pizza trace their cooking techniques to a different side of the Mediterranean Sea. Ancient Egyptians pioneered the practice of rising dough when they cooked crushed wheat germ and water inside early conical ovens. Honoring their forefathers’ methods, the versatile cooks pull more than 30 types of gourmet thin-crust pizzas out of their wood-fired ovens, along with a lengthy menu of Middle Eastern sandwiches and specialties. They take pains to use natural, fresh, and healthful ingredients to whip up plump fish kebabs, tender meat shawarmas and housemade sauces that have won over the palates of reporters from the Baltimore Sun. Their kitchen looks out onto the casual dining room, where servers help uncork BYOB bottles of wines beneath artwork depicting famous Egyptian landmarks, such as the pyramids, the Sphinx, and other toys left behind by aliens.