A little bit of Italy in Carney

Bistro has a way with comfort food

May 30, 2002|By Robin Tunnicliff Reid | Robin Tunnicliff Reid,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Every neighborhood ought to have a little Italian restaurant, the kind of place that offers rib-sticking, tomato-sauce-drenched comfort food in comfortable surroundings.

Italian Bistro in Carney is just that sort of place. The food is good, the entrees less than $15 and the service cheerful. But what makes Bistro distinctive is its decor, particularly a glorious mural that looks as though it's been lifted off the walls of a Pompeian ruin. Forget for a moment that the guy at the adjacent table is wearing jeans and a Ravens cap; instead, focus on the toga-clad Romans gliding across the wall, and you're a long, long way from modern-day Carney, hon.

Owner Carlo Schiattarella understands the extra oomph that the mural gives Bistro, so he's commissioned another in the new dining area he's building in the back. To further evoke the feeling of dining in an ancient ruin, he's installing several columns.

Schiattarella's familiarity with Pompeii stems from growing up nearby in Naples. He learned how to cook from his mother, then took his knowledge on the high seas, where he served as a cook in the Italian merchant marine.

His manicotti certainly could have sated the hungriest sailor: three fat tubes of pasta stuffed with crumbly cheese and smothered in fruity, mild tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. A hungry sailor also could have filled up on the very large submarine sandwich layered with lean prosciutto, mozzarella cheese, cold roasted red peppers and sliced tomatoes that actually had flavor, unlike the watery specimens so often found off season.

Schiattarella has a nice touch with salads. The mozzarella caprese (a Neapolitan specialty) came prettily arrayed on an oval plate: cheese and more of those unseasonably delicious tomatoes fanned out across iceberg lettuce, then drizzled with oregano and olive oil. The antipasto delivered as promised a bowl full of prosciutto, salami, smoky provolone, peppers and greens.

A sausage and mushroom pizza was not impressive; it was marred mainly by tiny, tasteless blanched mushrooms. An appetizer of mozzarella sticks was cheesy enough and not greasy, but not remarkable, either.

For dessert, we had a tough time breaking off bites of a dry cannoli, which Bistro gets from an outside company.

Italian Bistro's assets outweigh its liabilities, however. After all, how else can you get to Pompeii for under $15?

Italian Bistro

Where: 8928 Waltham Woods Road, North Plaza Shopping Center, Carney

Open: For lunch and dinner daily

Prices: Appetizers $1.50 to $6.95; entrees $6.95 to $14.95

Credit cards: AE, DC, MC, V

Call: 410-882-8070

Food: 1/2

Service:

Atmosphere:

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