Chef Paolino Cafe has become one of my favorite Catonsville eat-out places!
It’s not the easiest to find the first time – Though the address is in the heart of downtown Catonsville at 726 Frederick Rd., technically it’s tucked behind businesses facing Frederick Road with its parking lot entrance off of Ingleside Ave just north of the intersection with Frederick by about a block.
Chef Paolino is a casual eatery – you enter, grab one of the plastic covered menu’s, eyeball the long counter full of calzones and hot pizza and other Italian goodies then place and pay for your order. At dinner, you’ll be given a metal stand with a number on it that identifies you and then you go off and find a table in the dining room – when your meal is ready, the staff of young men will whiz your order out to your table. (At lunch with all the evening’s staff of young men probably off at school, they’ll call your number out over a speaker system and you have to pick it up yourself.)
There are three dining rooms with a mix of booths and tables; there are large pleasant murals of Italian scenes and the walls show off Trompe L’oeil (food the eye) painting of “stone” and “statuary”
Owner and chef Paul Delfico is normally to be seen roaming behind the counter or in the dining room keeping a watchful eye out and insuring that customers are well taken care of (You’ve always got a good chance of spotting him if you know what he looks like! <Wink>)
There are extensive food choices! The calzones and stromboli at $5.50 are a great bargain in addition to being delicious (I personally am a big fan of the sausage or spinach varieties! (My buddy Tom gets hungry just thinking about the bruschetta!)
Another winner at Chef Paolino are the salads (All about $8). My buddy Tom goes for the “Mista Verde” with mixed field greens, cherry tomatoes, and red onions which are all tossed in a honey balsamic vinaigrette and topped with lots of crumpled goat cheese and sliced almonds. When I’m hungry, I’m a great fan of the “Grilled Chicken Salad” (though I prefer optional ranch dressing in place of the house vinaigrette).
In contrast, Marty swears by the Coffey salad (which Marty hasn’t found anywhere else since the old Pimlico Hotel closed more years ago than he wants to remember!) with Iceberg lettuce, diced tomato, onion, egg, Parmesan, and anchovies tossed with a special homemade dressing. He knows that the dressing probably has more calories and fat than his doc would want him to have – BUT it just tastes so good, he can’t resist! (and before you ask! There’s no coffee in the Coffey salad!)
There’s also a wide range of Italian pasta dishes to choose from (most $13-$16). All of the entrees include a wonderful side salad and garlic bread. My personal favorite is the Eggplant Parmigiana. Mmm! Mmm! Good!
But making a choice isn’t easy! There’s lasanga or chicken marsala…
Or Stuffed Shells or (if you’re up to splurging…) Veal Parmigiana
Particularly at dinner, the staff of young men are like friendly whirling dervishes who are friendly and eager to refill your drink or get more garlic bread or boxes (most times, the portions are so big that we end up taking enough home for another meal!). Sad but true – we’re usually so satisfied and so full that by the time we’re done with our entree, there’s no room to even think about dessert!
FACTS: Chef Paolino Cafe, Catonsville, http://www.chefpaolinoscafe.com/ , open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week from 11 am to 9 pm (except Sunday when they open at 12 noon); wine and beer available; lots of vegetarian options; lots of adjacent free parking. (FYI – During the day, make a stop by the almost adjacent Plymouth Wallpaper Co where you’ll find more rolls of wallpaper and borders in stock that you’ve expected to see in one place!)