Scirocco grills up a feast of flavor

November 13, 1997|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SUN STAFF

Scirocco Mediterranean Grill -- soon to be Michelangelo -- is not too shabby for a place that used to be a pizza joint next to a farm supply store on Riva Road. Indeed, it's one of Annapolis' finer restaurants.

The meats are superbly grilled and the desserts sinful. Only the salads are unremarkable. Oh, and the sticky black rice, which we'll get to shortly.

From the outside, Scirocco looks like the Parthenon. Inside, it has a Southern Spain or North Africa feel with faux marble walls, busts and fat candles on spiraling, wrought-iron candlesticks. The lighting gives the room an amber glow.

Gino Giolitti, owner of La Piccola Roma on Main Street, and Geoff Calderone opened the restaurant in November 1994. Since then, Gonzalo Fernandez of Maryland Inn, Northwoods and Fergie's fame has taken over Calderone's share and is buying out Giolitti.

The takeover, which explains the name change, has fueled rumors that La Piccola is closing. Not true, says Mary Giolitti, Gino's wife.

"We had a difference in philosophy with what we wanted to do with the restaurant," Fernandez said Sunday night. "We're going to go add risottos and more northern Italian food to the menu."

The menu has samplings of dishes from most Mediterranean cuisines.

My wife started with Ceviche ($6.50), a blend of scallops, shrimp and surprisingly tender squid with marinated tomato and sliced Bermuda onion served on thinly sliced bread.

The tastes were carefully balanced so that with each bite, you got a zing of another flavor.

My scallops Provencale were served in a huge white bowl dusted with parsley. The scallops were plump and juicy, and the white wine, olive oil and basil broth could be the basis for an excellent soup.

The salads -- Caesar ($4) and garden ($3) -- were full of crunchy, fresh greens, but nothing to inspire you to insist someone else at your table try it.

Three lamb chops ($19) were grilled perfectly with mint syrup glace soaked into the crust and rosemary sprinkled on top.

None of that got in the way of the flavor of the tender meat.

On the side was creamed spinach, an unexpected dish that could have come out of grandma's kitchen but was welcome, along with thick sticks of yams done on the grill.

The thin panko crust on the salmon ($19) concentrated the flavor of the fish so that I got a fresh pop of it with every bite. The sticky black rice on which it was served is another story. It must be an acquired taste -- one that I haven't acquired.

Our daughter had the Pizza Margharita ($7), focaccia bread crust with thick layers of Gorgonzola cheese and sliced plum tomatoes. The pizza expert said it was great.

We finished with fresh strawberries with whipped cream, torta Giolitti and chocolate hazelnut.

The torta, with a frozen crust of lemon, tasted like the middle of a key lime pie, the perfect light finish. The chocolate hazelnut, frozen bars of chocolate mousse spread over a crust of chocolate mixed with hazelnuts, was a chocolate lover's delight, but far too rich for the three of us to finish.

All that, with a bottle of Burgundy ($20), came to $101 plus tax and tip.

Scirocco Mediterranean Grill

Where: 2552 Riva Road, Annapolis 21401, 410-573-0970

Hours: Dinner, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch, 11 a.m. to 2: 30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Prices: Appetizers, $4-$7.50; entrees average $18

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express

Rating: *** 1/2

Ratings: * culinary wasteland

**** culinary heaven

Pub Date: 11/13/97

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