Cuisine in a castle at Castello's

January 20, 1995|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

Castello's is one strange little restaurant. First of all, it is a castle -- a Perma-Stone castle, set on the edge of Potee Street, surrounded by an asphalt parking lot instead of a moat. But it does have a drawbridge.

Inside is warm and cozy and not at all castle-like, except for the fire heating one side of the room. And, of course, the fountain. The dining room is decked out in faux brick and faux stained glass, with a red plastic rose at each table. But the butter-yellow tablecloths with soft blue napkins are fetching, and all in all it's a very cheerful room.

It doesn't, however, look like a place that bakes its own bread: a hot, crisp-crusted, porous loaf -- light as a feather and spiced so faintly I couldn't decide what the intriguing flavor was. For the bread alone, I recommend Castello's. As for the rest of our meal, it was so uneven it defies generalization.

Take a dish like shrimp Valli. The "jumbo" shrimp were the size of my little finger and there were only four of them in the garlic butter, which meant they cost us $2 apiece. A bit steep, guys. (The garlic bread that accompanied them was great, though.) Fried calamari came in slabs and tentacles of squid, not rings, so tough it was like chewing rubber bands fried in overused grease.

Seafood fettuccine featured a great pile of overcooked pasta soaked in a thick, garlicky cream sauce, with two -- count 'em, two -- small chunks of lobster meat, two of those small shrimp, and a couple of overcooked scallops. None of the promised crab meat.

A prime rib special -- prime rib Cajun style -- would have been good except that the Cajun spices seemed to consist of a heavy dose of salt and nothing else.

I assumed chicken Greek style with lemon butter sauce would be the way you always get chicken in Greek restaurants -- baked and served with roast potatoes. Instead, boneless chunks of breast arrived on that same fettuccine with thick sauce that I got.

What's odd about Castello's, though, is that this same kitchen produced a very decent Maryland crab soup, steaming hot, chock-full of vegetables and crab and properly spiced. Mushrooms were stuffed generously with back fin and covered with a fine imperial sauce. And the broiled crab cakes were superb: fat with crab meat, seasoned just enough, with a minimum of binder. And all three were reasonably priced, at a time when when crab meat is exorbitant.

Desserts were almost as good as the bread -- a warm pecan pie with a short, flaky crust; a towering coconut cake; a Greek walnut cake; and a deliciously rich baklava.

Castello's

Where: 3720 Potee St.

Hours: Open Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11:30 p.m.

Credit cards accepted: AE, MC, V.

Features: Seafood, pasta, grills

Non-smoking section? Yes

Call: (410) 354-1226

Prices: Appetizers, $4.95-$7.95; entrees, $7.95-$21.95

**

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