With its homemade pastas, early interest in seasonal ingredients and responsible sourcing, and enthusiasm for wine, Columbia's Aida Bistro and Wine Bar has had a successful run, earning a loyal clientele and good reviews over the past eight years.
So if you asked owners Joe and Mary Barbera if there is anything they'd want to change about Aida, they'd say: YES! For one thing, the kitchen has always been too small for Aida to fully accommodate a lunchtime business, and the bar is only big enough for a few people to dine at, with no room for gathering and mingling.
Come September, Aida Bistro will shut down its current location and move to a new one, directly across the street in the Columbia Gateway office park. Even within an office park, though, there are good locations and better ones, and Aida's owner Joe Barbera says that the new location will not only bring the bistro the space it's been craving since it opened eight years ago but will increase the bistro's visibility, too, both within the park and from Route 175.
The space Aida is moving to was built as restaurant space but has never been occupied. It has everything Barbera and his wife Mary have been looking for, not only the larger kitchen and expanded bar area but also meeting rooms and more space for outdoor dining.
Construction will start in late summer, with an opening of the new location tentatively scheduled for mid-September. Barbera foresees no interruption in business, though, and he's fortunate enough not to have to rush into the new or out of the old location.
"One thing we learned from the first opening is that we have to be ready for the customers." The new location will open with a dinner-only schedule until it finds its legs. "Mary and I are really excited because we've gotten such tremendous support from our patronss and from our community. And now we have a chance to expand the way we always wanted to."
Aida Bistro and Wine Bar is open Monday through Saturday for dinner and Tuesday through Friday for lunch. Its address, for now anyway, is 410-953-0500. Reservations are recommended and can be made online at http://www.aidabistro.com
Farmer's Market report The Baltimore Farmer's Market began its season on May 2 with a crazily big crowd. At 8 a.m., it was still manageable. By 10 a.m., with the unseasonable heat, it was rough going. A steel band made it seem hotter and more crowded.
Ethel & Ramone's had more sales and sold out earlier than on any previous market day. "I was flabbergasted," said Ed Bloom, the chef and co-owner of the Mount Washington restaurant. Without very much to swoon over from the farms, there were especially long lines at Beef Barons and In a Pickle. Zeke's had its typically long line for coffee. One friend said that he was going to have to rethink the whole thing, but another compared it to Jan. 1 at the gym, when everyone is starting a new regimen, only to abandon it after a week or two.
As far as I could tell, all of the major farmers and concessions that were there last year came back for another year. A few new ones have been settled in what used to be the crafts-only area across from the main loop. I was hoping to track down a few chefs and restaurateurs to see what they were buying, but I think they must have been long gone by 8 o'clock. Presumably, they were buying the same thing everyone else was – asparagus.
Sascha's cooking classes The cost of admission for Sascha Wolhandler's cooking classes at Sascha's 527 — a happy hour drink at the bar. The classes, which Sascha started last month, are informal affairs, held two Wednesdays a month. Next up, tonight, Sascha will be making crepes. (Remember her creperie in the Park Plaza Building?) And next Wednesday night, she'll be demonstrating something else, maybe spring pastas. Sascha's is at 527 N. Charles St., 410-539-8880. You can sign up for Wolhandler's email newsletter and get more information at saschas.com.