Ristorante Donatello: New Chef Brings Classic Italian Cuisine to Mount Vernon

By Cathy Adams

     Before Don Davis, the owner of Central Station in Mount Vernon, decided to separate the entrance to the second floor restaurant from the rest of the night club, you had to walk through the bar and pool tables to reach some of the most attractive dining rooms in Baltimore.

     Now the atmosphere upstairs is "Edwardian clubby" with oak paneling, rich, jewel-like colors and hanging glass lamps. The new entrance complements the new name, new chef and menu. Davis hired chef Salvatore Alfeo, formerly of Piccolo's in Columbia, and Ristorante Donatello now serves moderately priced classic Italian cuisine.

     Mark Housden, the general manager, said that when Davis was looking for a new chef he went to eat at Piccolo's twice before he even approached Alfeo about taking over the kitchen. Alfeo, originally from Carini, a small town near Palerno in Sicily, described the menu as "a little bit of everything," representing the various regions of Italy. During his forty years of being in the restaurant business, one of the things he has seen is that customers today are "more knowledgeable about food, have more expectations and more experience."

     Among the Antipasti there are Cozze (mussels) steamed in either white wine and garlic or marinara sauce, Vongole Casino (Clams Casino), Vongole al Guazzetto (clams steamed with white wine, plum tomatoes, and spring onions) and the untraditional Salmone Affumicato con Mozzarella (smoked salmon and fresh mozzarella drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil).

     Pastas range from the simple Capellini al Pomodoro e Basilico (with a tomato sauce and fresh basil), Fettucine Alfredo, Linguine alle Vongole (with either a red or white clam sauce) to Penne alla Puttanesca (tossed with a spicy Neapolitan style marinara sauce with capers, anchovies and black olives).

     Primi Piatti (main courses) include veal dishes such as Scallopine Piccata (veal medallions sauteed with capers in lemon butter sauce), Scampi all 'Aglio (sauteed shrimp with in a garlic butter sauce and served with fettucine), Pollo al Carciofo (chicken breast topped with fontina, artichoke hearts with a sage flavored white wine sauce). Housden said one of the dishes that makes a dramatic presentation is the Bull in the Pan, a New York sirloin served sizzling on a hot plate, and finished with merlot, garlic and herbs that perfumes the dining room.

     Ristorante Donatello presents a tempting dessert tray, on display at the entrance of the dining room. The selections change but recently included cannoli, tiramisu, Italian cheesecake with a touch of lemon, hazelnut cake, and Italian rum cake. Chef Alfeo has expanded the wine list to include 32 Italian wines, with five selections available by the glass.

     On Thursday and Sunday nights there is a piano bar in the back dining room, and on Sundays Ristorante Donatello has a popular a la carte "American Brunch" featuring omelettes, prime rib hash served with eggs, creamed chipped beef and waffles.

Ristorante Donatello
1001 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Hours: 4 to 11 p.m.
Sunday Brunch 11 to 3 p.m.

Appetizers and Salads: $2.95 - $7.95
Entrees and Pastas: $7.95 - $16.95
Visit The web site at http://www.ristorantedonatello.com/

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