End of an era for Trattoria Alberto in Glen Burnie

Changes, too, at Cunningham's and Bistro Blanc

January 14, 2014|By Richard Gorelick, The Baltimore Sun

Trattoria Alberto, whose unlikely location in a Glen Burnie shopping center made it a dining discovery for almost 30 years, has closed. The Italian restaurant's last night was Dec. 31.

"I have retired," owner Alberto Contestabile said. "I am going to relax a little bit."

Contestabile said he has sold the business to Arturo Ottaviano, the owner and chef of Osteria 177 in Annapolis. Ottaviano, who used to work for Contestabile, said that he will reopen the restaurant as Trattoria Arturo. Ottaviano said his restaurant will continue in the northern Italian vein of its predecessor but offer more lower-priced and contemporary options. He could not give a date for the opening but was hoping to have Trattoria Arturo open by the end of February.

Contestabile opened Trattoria Alberto in 1985. The location, a shopping center on Crain Highway, was almost invariably referred to by critics and diners alike as "unlikely" or "improbable."

In her 2000 review of Trattoria Alberto for The Baltimore Sun, critic Elizabeth Large wrote, "In the 15 years of its existence, Baltimoreans who are serious about their food have gotten used to trekking down to a strip mall on Crain Highway in Glen Burnie for imaginative northern Italian cuisine served up with a healthy dollop of attitude."

Contestabile, a native of Elba, an island off the coast of Tuscany, immigrated to the United States when he was 19. When Trattoria Alberto opened, its northern Italian cuisine, while not a novelty, was less familiar than the southern Italian cuisine Baltimoreans were used to in Little Italy restaurants.

Contestabile was known as an effusive proprietor. "Alberto is part of the reason why people went there," said his daughter, Lina Contestabile, "because he treated people like they were old friends. His passion for what he did his entire life was insurmountable."

"I feel great," Contestabile said. "Because I think I did for Glen Burnie a lot of wonderful things."

Contestabile said he is looking for new opportunities. "I want to have a food show on television," he said.

Covering the waterfront Marc Dixon has left Bistro Blanc. The chef, whose last day at the Glenelg wine bar was Dec. 31, is now the executive chef at Bond Street Social in Fells Point. The new executive chef at Bistro Blanc is Janny Kim.

At Bond Street Social, Dixon is taking over from Neill Howell, who left last fall. "Neill did a fantastic job," Dixon said. "In a way, it was a mirror of what I did at Bistro Blanc."

Howell, who developed Bond Street Social's small and shared plates concept, will soon be opening his own cafe, The Corner Pantry, in the Lake Falls Village shopping center.

Dixon said that he will not depart radically from Bond Street Social's existing format and will keep some of Howell's most popular items. But his menu, Dixon said, will reflect his own culinary style and interests.

Dixon said he plans to launch his first Bond Street menu this Monday.

Dixon will also be the executive chef at Barcocina, the restaurant that Bond Street Social's owners are developing in the Brown Street Wharf complex. Barcocina will open in midspring, following extensive renovations to the waterfront property, according to Bond Street Social's general manager Shane Gerkin.

Changes at Cunningham's Thomas Herrmann is the new executive chef at Cunningham's, the Bagby Restaurant Group's recently opened restaurant in Towson. Herrmann is replacing Chris Allen, who left the restaurant for what the Bagby group said were personal reasons.

A Baltimore native, Herrmann had been the executive sous chef at Cunningham's, which opened in November.

The culinary operations for the Bagby Restaurant Group, whose other restaurants include Fleet Street Kitchen and Ten Ten American Bistro, are overseen by its corporate executive chef, Chris Becker.


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