Casa Mia's is one of Towson's newest restaurants -- and one of its friendliest.
Indeed, eating here is reminiscent of a family dinner.
Oh, the dining room is a little, uh, bright and contemporary, but it's informal and opens on to the kitchen; just like dining in your uncle's kitchen.
The clientele seems happy, chatting with the easygoing but efficient servers like old friends. It seems somewhat like a family gathering.
The food is family, as in "Maryland Crab Soup -- our family recipe" and "Crab Cake -- a family recipe."
You might even find a family touch in the bar. If, that is, your family has a well-meaning, but slightly ditsy, uncle who pours for family gatherings. How else do you explain that when my husband ordered scotch and soda, the soda turned out to be Coke.
Oh, well, that's family. As Gracie Allen used to say, ''You've got to take the bitter with the batter.''
Speaking of batter, my husband began with Casa Mia's Homemade Onion Rings ($2.50). Batter dipped? You bet. With the fresh batter, these rings run rings around other rings. The serving was not big, but Casa Mia's keeps its prices down, apparently in part, by avoiding opulent portions.
I began with the Crab Soup ($2.50). It could have been Grandma's, if Grandma had been from Dundalk and not Peoria. The soup was well-simmered, with lots of vegetables, enough crab and the traditional flavor that crab soup had everywhere before nouvelle chefs started playing with it.
Next came the small Greek salads included with our entrees, served on eight-sided glass plates. The dressing had been poured over the salad rather than being tossed with it but the taste was right-on, a fine melding of feta, lettuce and the other ingredients that make Greek salads a consistent favorite of me and my husband.
I chose Broiled Flounder ($8.95) as my entree. The boneless filet was a bit dry and tasted only lightly of the olive oil and oregano that make this dish worth ordering in Greek restaurants. The hostess later told us that menu changes were coming and that the flounder, which has been among the least popular offerings, might be scratched.
Perhaps unusual for flounder, the dish was served with french fries. But they were very good, fresh french fries.
My husband had Shisk-ka-bob ($7.95). Proud of his own well-marinated version, he found Casa Mia's very nice. The big chunks of beef were flavorful, both from the marinade and from the grilling. It was served on an unusually good rice pilaf.
For dessert, we picked the two items made in-house, Baklava and Rice Pudding. The Baklava ($1.25), incredibly rich, left nothing to be desired. The same could be said of the healthy serving of unusually creamy Rice Pudding ($1.25).
In all, with two drinks and two single-serving bottles of wine, our bill was just over $38. It was a bargain. As our meal progressed, the feeling of family became more apparent. The hostess presided over the room like a hostess at a family gathering, wanting to be sure everyone was happy. Among the crowd was her niece, a charming child she introduced to several diners. In many restaurants, this would have seemed out of place; here, it seemed right at home.
As our meal progressed, we also became aware of the hostess' husband -- not only host and hostess, but also owners -- who chatted with customers and stopped to clear and reset several tables as soon as they emptied rather than wait for someone else to get to it.
It seemed that both genuinely cared that things were done right, that their customers were pleased. That's a comforting counterpoint to all the restaurants that seem to care less whether customers return or not.
My husband and I left glad that we had come to Casa Mia's, both for the good food and for the family feeling.
40 York Road, Towson
Hours: Monday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; every other day, 11 a.m.-10-30 p.m.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted
Handicapped access: Accessible
Smoking: Separate sections.