New site, less space, same fine food

Move from Fells Point to Pasadena doesn't lessen Lista's quality

February 28, 2002|By Ruth P. Hakulin | Ruth P. Hakulin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Fells Point's loss is Pasadena's gain. If you've ever been to Lista's Restaurant in Fells Point, don't look for it to be there any longer. It has moved to Anne Arundel County.

Originally, owners Kathy and Ruben Evangelista were looking to open a branch of the Fells Point restaurant in Pasadena. But with the changes in the Fells Point area - including construction and the changing of the water taxi drop-off site - they felt it best to close the Thames Street restaurant, and in October they moved the entire operation to the Mountain Road location.

Concerned that they might have to start from scratch with new customers, they were happily surprised to find that their regulars followed them to the new location.

In the restaurant business since 1974, from Colorado to Virginia Beach and then to Baltimore, Ruben and Kathy bring the restaurant to life, not just with their personalities, but with bold colors that blend and make the small building come alive.

My husband and I ate in the same building when it was Granny's restaurant under a different owner, and we always felt cramped in the small dining area inside the entrance. The Evangelistas use a larger room to the right with a vaulted ceiling as the main dining room.

Its walls are painted a soft, sandy color with tasteful splashes of color everywhere, from the purple window frames to the multi-colored booths, tables and chairs. The many Aztec and Southwestern Indian artifacts around the room make you feel like you might be in New Mexico.

One of the big differences between the Fells Point and Pasadena locations is the seating capacity and the clientele. The space is smaller now, and seating capacity changed from 420 at the Fells Point location to 87 at the Mountain Road location. But that doesn't seem to prevent customers from feeling warm and welcome when they go in the front door and are greeted by Kathy's smiling face. The new location seems to be more family-oriented too.

The menu, mostly Mexican and Southwestern food, remains intact, with a few additions. Lunch and dinner are served daily. American food is available, too.

Each dish is individually prepared by Ruben Evangelista. Appetizers start at $5. The menu also includes enchiladas and fajitas that range from $12 to $16.

For the catering business, Ruben has items from appetizers, soups, box lunches, quesadillas, fajitas and more that can also include American specialties.

My husband and I decided to experience the Sunday brunch recently. We were surprised that it wasn't a buffet, as we're used to at brunches, but was a varied menu of tasty breakfast and lunch foods that didn't disappoint the taste buds.

The brunch menu includes Mexican and typical American breakfast food such as French toast. Each entree is $7.95. Beverages and desserts are extra.

We started off with the best margarita on the rocks I can remember in a long time. They come in three sizes: 12, 20 and 48 ounces. It was tough to choose a beverage to start the meal because the other options are a pitcher (half or whole) of their wonderful sangria and tasty mimosas.

After studying the menu carefully and changing our minds a couple times, we ordered our entrees. My husband ordered huevas con chorizo (Spanish sausage with eggs) and a side of green chili. I ordered the Texas migas, pieces of soft tortillas scrambled with eggs and onions, sauteed potatoes with peppers and onions and a choice of red or green chili.

The red chili is what you expect chili to be, full of flavor and beans, but the green chili is not what its name implies. It is a blend of spices mixed with chunks of pork in a thinner sauce than the red chili but just as appetizing.

Both meals were wonderful and so filling that if they had offered a buffet, neither of us would have had enough room to eat anything else - and I definitely wanted to try some dessert.

For dessert, my husband had the bandito, a warm brownie topped with ice cream that came with a choice of caramel or chocolate topping and whipped cream topping, I enjoyed the Kahlua diablo, a moist devil's food cake laced with Kahlua and topped with whipped cream. The whole meal cost less than $35, sans tip.

Lista's Restaurant and Catering

Where: 2412 Mountain Road, Pasadena, 410-437-8999.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; Sundays, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Prices: Appetizers, $5-$9; entrees, $8-$15; desserts, $3-$4.50.

Credit cards: All major cards.

Handicapped accessible

Rating: *** 1/2

Ratings: * culinary wasteland; **** culinary heaven

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