Adding Italian To Ellicott City

Table talk

Portalli's Opens Where Jordan's Steakhouse Was

December 23, 2009|By ELIZABETH LARGE

In tough economic times, I would open a steakhouse if I had to open a restaurant. But what if you're opening a restaurant where a steakhouse failed? Then I would make it an Italian restaurant.

That's the route the owners have taken with Portalli's (8085 Main St., 410-720-2330), the new restaurant where Jordan's Steakhouse was. Lee Biars, managing partner of Diamondback Tavern in Ellicott City, says the owners of Diamondback have teamed up with new investors to open Portalli's. When I asked him why they decided on Italian, he said, "It's one of those things lacking in Ellicott City."

Jordan's building was in good shape, Biars said, so major renovations weren't necessary. The owners did want brighter rooms, so they painted, added light fixtures and put candles on the tables.

Portalli's menu is divided into traditional Italian dishes and Italian-inspired dishes. I asked for examples of the latter, and Biars mentioned the crab and risotto cake with two sauces, roasted red pepper and parley pesto ($18) and the seasonal gnocchi - right now sweet potato gnocchi sauteed in brown butter with walnuts and sliced pear ($12).

Prices range from $10 for spaghetti and meatballs or pasta primavera to $23 for a filet mignon with truffle butter.

The executive chef is Keith Holsey, who was a sous chef at Jordan's and was last at Greystone Grill.

Portalli's wine list is made up of Italian varietals and bottles from producers with an Italian heritage. Prices range from $24 to $56. but the owners are planning to add higher-end wines to the list.

Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day except Sunday, when the restaurant currently closes at 8 p.m.

Four-star closure : Julia's Casual Fine Dining Restaurant in Centreville was one of two four-star restaurants I reviewed in 2004. (The other was Big Bad Wolf's House of Barbeque, which outraged some people.) Now Julia's is closing at the end of this month.

Owner David Clark is moving on to a new restaurant in Grasonville, Bistro 321, where he will be executive chef. It's scheduled to open in March.

Christmas changes : Last week I got a call from Mary Antonas. She and her husband Nickolas owned the Eastern House until last month, when they sold it after 44 years. She was calling to tell me that the new owners were planning to keep it open until Dec. 27, but had decided at the last moment to close on Monday, Dec. 21, for a few weeks of remodeling.

"I'm sorry to let you know so late," she said. "We've always enjoyed working, especially the holidays."

That means, of course, the Eastern House won't be open on Christmas after all. However, I have some new ones to add to the list:

* Mo's Fisherman's Wharf (219 President St.) downtown will be open its regular hours, 11 a.m. to midnight.

* Chiyo Sushi (1619 Sulgrave Ave.) in Mount Washington will be open 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

* Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet (2033 E. Joppa Road) in Parkville will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

* Rams Head Tavern restaurants (area locations) will be open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

* Asian American Restaurant (1309 Francis Ave.) in the Halethorpe/Arbutus area will be open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. This is a Thai/Japanese/Chinese place that I've been hearing good things about. It might be worth checking out (not necessarily on Christmas Day).

Closing of the week : My Closing of the Week is the Grind-On Cafe in the Hamilton/Lauraville area. City Paper named it Best Coffee Shop in its Best of Baltimore issue this year. Owner Greg Bandelin's commitment to being socially conscious and eco-friendly was striking even in an era when everyone has jumped on the green bandwagon.

I haven't been able to get hold of him to talk about future plans (the phone just rings and rings), but there is a possibility he may find another location in the area. A regular commenter on my blog e-mailed to say he had talked to Bandelin, who had told him he plans to reopen farther up Harford Road "near Los Amigos."

Deal of the Week

Where: : Sammy's Trattoria, 1200 N. Charles St., Mount Vernon

The Deal: : half-price bottles of wine (under $55)

When: : Monday and Tuesday

Call: : 410-837-9999

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