What a pity that the food at Fiori isn't up to the surroundings.
Fiori is the second restaurant in the Country Fare Group to be housed in the restored colonial home of Samuel Owings on Painters Mill Road in Owings Mills. Perhaps this great colonial home works to the detriment of contemporary restaurateurs.
For our reaction to Fiori, and its Italian food, was much the same as it had been several years earlier to the Country Fare Inn with its French-inspired menu. Nice, but not as nice as the building.
The structure is like an oasis in suburbia. The 1767 building, with its sweeping, dramatically lit covered porch, catches the eye without a second look. Across the road the Sweetheart Paper Cup plant hums into the night. Not far in the distance is I-795. Stand on the porch and suburban buildings seem only a stone's throw in front of you.
But, once inside, there's another world. Fiori's first floor offers several charming dining rooms off a spacious foyer. We were seated in a rear room with a large, though unused, fireplace along one wall and illuminated wall cabinets along another.
The decor, unmistakably colonial, was better suited to the now-closed Country Fare Inn. It just doesn't seem to mesh with the heavily Italian menu moved with Fiori from its former home in Reisterstown last year.
I began with the Black Bean Soup ($2.75 on the menu; $3 on our bill). It was quite good. Laced with mozzarella and bits of onion, the soup had a pleasant, intense edge.
My husband began with the Stuffed Eggplant ($4.25). Described as being "filled with seasoned ricotta and topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella," the dish resembled, more than anything else, a very good pizza.
Salads, all served with homemade dressing and included with our entrees, were workmanlike, but nothing more. My creamy garlic dressing was almost too thick; my husband's Roquefort was not worth the $1.50 surcharge.
With the salads we had an order of Garlic Bread for Two ($1.95). Buttery, spicy and good, it paled, however, beside the delicious plain Italian bread served hot with the meal.
For an entree, I had Tortellini alla Panna ($10.50). The hat-shaped spinach pasta was very good. The chicken mixture inside, however, was practically tasteless and reminded me of baby food. The dozen pastas were topped with a few fresh mushroom slices in a pinkish sauce of cream and yellow tomato puree.
My husband had the Veal Marsala ($14.50). The wine and mushroom sauce was superb. The veal underneath was nearly as tasteless as my chicken; the sauce could probably have been served with any reasonably tender cut of meat and the dish would have tasted much the same.
Dessert was the weakest link. My cannoli did not compare with those served in many area restaurants. The unusual coconut sprinkles on top and chocolate chips throughout were distracting, but then, perhaps they were meant to be because the filling lacked the richness of taste common to this delicacy.
My husband's chocolate saboyan didn't have much chocolate taste. Or much of any taste to speak of.
Our waitress said all desserts were made at the restaurant. Based on our experience, Fiori would be better off to order them in.
For all the minor disappointments of our meal, we had no qualms with the service. Like the setting, it was better than the food.
With two drinks, two glasses of wine and two coffees ($1.10 each), our bill came to $60. Not an extravagant amount of
money, perhaps, but not a lot of taste either.
W. Painters Mill Road
Hours: Lunch, Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Dinner, Monday through Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday and
Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Reservations: Recommended on weekends.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Limited access to restrooms
Smoking: Separate areas designated.