Da Mimmo's nightly entertainment will be music to diners' ears

March 31, 2010|By Richard Gorelick | Special to The Baltimore Sun

In a slow season, a reporter of restaurant news will take to scouring the Baltimore City License Board's notice of transfers and even, occasionally, the want ads under Hospitality on Craigslist, hoping that a new restaurant has posted hiring notices. And that's how this turned up: "Entertainer who plays the piano/synthesizer and sings is wanted nightly from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. for the Da Mimmo Cocktail Lounge."

Mary Ann Cricchio, owner of Da Mimmo (217 S. High St., 410-727-6876, damimmo.com), explained it all to me. Having a lounge space that could double as a waiting area was the main reason behind the March 1989 addition of an adjacent town house to the original Da Mimmo. Before then, it wasn't unusual for customers to have to wait for their table on the sidewalk.

The lounge featured live entertainment from the start. On opening night in March 1989, Aldo Locco sang traditional Italian songs, and 21 years later, the Calabria native is still there on Thursday nights. Mark Meadows plays jazz piano on Wednesday. (Meadows is a Hopkins pre-med student, with a minor in piano at Peabody.) The timeless Stef Scaggiari plays the lounge's baby grand on Friday, and Julie Hall takes over on Saturday.

So, what was intended as a comfortable waiting area has become a post-dinner destination for diners of other Little Italy restaurants.

There had been live entertainment every night in the lounge until last year, when the longtime holders of the Sunday-through-Tuesday slot retired. Now, Cricchio is ready to take it back to seven nights a week.

"We try to give our patrons a complete dining experience," says Cricchio, who will send a complimentary limousine to pick you up for dinner if you're downtown.

There is still time to audition for the gig. Applicants should call Cricchio on weekdays between 10 a.m. and noon at 410-925-7912.

Openings Generally, big news of restaurant openings and (thankfully) closings has come in trickles so far this year. Not much has been heard about Boccaccio since Peter Angelos bought it at auction Feb. 17, and the Baltimore Development Corporation remains quiet about its negotiations with Mahmoud Karzai for the old Chesapeake.

Things are slowly starting to perk up, though, and there are new places to try. On March 20, George Dailey, owner of Bolton Hill's On the Hill Café, opened Centro Tapas Bar (144 Light St., 410-869-6871, centrotapasbar.com) in the old Bicycle spot in Riverside.

A few items from the opening menu jump right off the Web page: roasted pork belly in agave-chile pan sauce, lima beans in Cabrales cream sauce, and crispy corn-dusted chicken livers with bacon hominy grits. Centro is open for dinner seven nights a week. Reservations are being taken.

And opening tonight in SBIC/West Federal Hill is Patrick Morrow and Jorbie Clark's Southern-inspired Bluegrass (1500 S. Hanover St., 410-244-1500). The late-afternoon grand opening is invite-only, but Bluegrass (also known as the long-awaited Bluegrass and the much-anticipated Bluegrass) will be open to the public right afterward for dinner. My gut tells me to leave Bluegrass to the likes of Mr. and Mrs. Betherefirst at least for the first weekend, but that Centro should be ready for a look-see right now.

Beard Awards updates Brian Voltaggio, owner and chef of Volt in Frederick, made the final list of nominees for the Best Chef: Mid Atlantic category of the James Beard Awards, along with Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va.; Jeff Michaud of Osteria, and Michael Solomonov of Zahav, both in Philadelphia; and Peter Pastan of Obelisk in Washington.

Also representing D.C. will be José Andrés of Café Atlantico's mini bar, who is competing in the big Best Chef category. Among his competitors is Tom Collichio, the host of "Top Chef," the show that brought Voltaggio to national attention.

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