Unassuming Calo's has the potential to be something special

September 04, 1992|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

In Friday's restaurant review in Maryland Live, the location of Calo's Restaurant was incorrectly given. It is located near

Herring Run Park.

The Sun regrets the errors.

There are many small, homey restaurants in Baltimore that serve their neighborhood's needs very well, thank you, and don't deserve being picked on by some restaurant critic for not being all things to all people.

So what makes Calo's different?

Why descend on this unassuming little place near Clifton Park and complain about the fact that the bread isn't real Italian bread and the green beans aren't fresh?


Well, for one thing, we're all looking for that great little restaurant where you can get a great little meal for under $15. (Last year I would have said $10.) Calo's isn't quite there yet, but it shows promise.

Exhibit A: The slice of real summer tomato, deep red and full of flavor, that garnished my main course. A week ago I had a salad at one of Baltimore's fanciest restaurants with tomatoes that were pale imitations of this one.

And then up until six months ago owner Kevin Calo moonlighted at Chiaparelli's in Little Italy. Don't you feel you might get the same kind of food for a lot less money at Calo's -- that he must know all the secrets of one of Baltimore's most popular restaurant kitchens?

And then his wife Donna makes those good old-fashioned lemon and peach and coconut cakes.

Calo's has the appeal of, say, a good diner in an era when good diners are either a thing of the past or chi-chi imitations. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You know the food isn't going to be fancy, but it'll be worth the money. You'll get butter instead of margarine. Portions are going to be large. And the food and the staff will have personality.

Pasta fagioli soup ($1.50) was great, the hearty broth chock full of white beans, tiny soup pasta and chunks of beef. An appetizer of green beans fiesole ($3), a sort of bean salad in a tangy vinaigrette, would have been equally good if the beans had been fresh.

Most main courses are under $10 and include lots of pastas and lots of Italian chicken dishes. Calo's biggest problem is that very little attention is paid to how the food looks. Here were two good vTC meals -- homemade lasagna ($7.95) and chicken cacciatore ($9.95) -- that tasted fine but had been glopped down on their plates.

Once you get out from under the wash of tomato sauce over the lasagna, the al dente pasta has a tempting balance of ricotta and ground beef. The chicken dish is made of what must be a pound of tender, boneless white meat with whole fat mushrooms and green peppers strips in a light tomato sauce. But surely something can be done to present it more attractively.

Only the two soft shell crabs ($11.95) looked as good as they tasted. (Calo's has fried seafood dinners as well as Italian food, plus some comfort dishes like a hot turkey platter.) Plump, crisp-legged and fried to a rich gold, the crabs were arranged artfully with lemon wedges, that slice of ruby red tomato and a leaf of lettuce.

With just a little more attention to detail -- and some crusty Italian bread rather than white fluff -- Calo's would be a restaurant worth traveling across town for. Especially when you consider the prices and the waitress who was as efficient as she was friendly.


Where: 4201 Belair Road.

Hours: Open Sundays to Thursdays 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays until 11 p.m.

Credit cards accepted: MC, V.

Features: Italian food.

Non-smoking section? yes.

Call: (410) 325-6909.

** 1/2

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