(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina…)
When the Bicycle in South Baltimore closed abruptly this summer, people wondered why the owners, Nicholas and Saundra Batey, continued to work on, and planned to open, another restaurant nearby. The new place would be an Italian restaurant called Ullswater (554 E. Fort Ave., 443-563-1620); and when I heard it had finally opened a couple of weeks ago, I called to find out more.
Saundra Batey explained that the couple had bought the Ullswater building, where Sly Fox and Soigne had been, while Bicycle was still open; but they didn't own the fine-dining establishment. When the economy went south, the Bateys struggled to make Bicycle work but couldn't. They decided to close it and open an inexpensive neighborhood restaurant in the new space.
If you go to Ullswater expecting Bicycle-type food, you'll be disappointed. Chef/owner Nicholas Batey offers his own interpretations of everyday Italian dishes like parmigiana dishes, lasagna and saltimbocca.
"They are the chef's take on Italian cuisine, with bolder flavors," said Saundra Batey. So, for instance, the mozzarella sticks are made with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and fresh basil baked in phyllo.
Of course, the Bateys will be delighted if folks from all over Baltimore come to Ullswater to eat, but, says Saundra, it's kid-friendly and "for the neighborhood. Nick wanted people to be able to come home, park and walk over to the restaurant."
The most expensive entree on the regular menu is chicken cacciatore for $18. (Specials, such as steak, will be more.)
If you remember the location as Soigne, you'll find it much changed. The Bateys worked to renovate the space for almost two years. People are so surprised at the difference, Saundra told me, they come in and want a tour. Although there are white tablecloths, the general feeling is casual and cozy, with a bar and dining room downstairs and a dining room and the kitchen upstairs.
Ullswater, by the way, is named after a lake in England. Nicholas Batey has a picture of it he loves, so he decided to name his restaurant after it even though it isn't Italian.
The restaurant is open right now Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday till 10 p.m. On the weekend, a late-night menu is served in the bar until 12:30 a.m. Lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays should start Dec. 14. Brunch is planned starting in January.
Concept seeks location It's embarrassing when the Wyman Park newsletter scoops you, but at least two people pointed out to me an item in it about a new coal-fired, brick-oven pizzeria, Earth, Wood & Fire, set to open in the renovated police station at Keswick Road and 34th Street.
The owner/chef would be Mark Hofmann, known for his work at the Pavilion at the Walters, Linwood'sDue, Rothwells Grille, Henry's Bistro and most recently Tark's Grill as general manager.
I knew Hofmann was working on a new project, but not that it was a done deal, so I gave him a call.
"The project fell through," he told me. "It had some zoning issues."
The problems seem to center on opening a restaurant with a coal-fired oven. Apparently Hofmann was originally involved in the Bagby Pizza Co. in Harbor East, but moved on when it wasn't possible to have a coal-fired oven there. He's still actively looking for another property in the area for his Earth, Wood & Fire.
"We have a concept," he said. "We just have to find a home for it."
Closing of the week El Rinconcito Peruano in Upper Fells Point, a favorite spot for those who love little places that serve authentic ethnic food, in this case Peruvian, especially roast chicken.
Christmas dinners Once again I'm getting requests for restaurants open Christmas Day. There are many fewer of them than were serving Thanksgiving dinner. I've heard from Sotto Sopra, the Italian restaurant in Mount Vernon, that it will be offering a limited regular menu from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Dec. 25.
Other than it, the usual suspects are the Eastern House on Eastern Avenue, hotel restaurants, and your favorite Chinese place. If I hear of others, I'll write about them here.
Deal of the Week Where:
Diabilita Cantina, 1300 Bank St.
The Deal: $5 classic margaritas, $5 red and white sangria, 1/2 price glasses of wine, $3 drafts and rail drinks
When: Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.