Remember Cafe Mezzanotte in Severna Park? No, we didn’t either. Too many new Baltimore restaurants have edged out the 25-year-old Italian stalwart in Anne Arundel County lately. But as we found out recently, it’s time for a revisit. The restaurant underwent a $1-million renovation in 2018 that has transformed its appearance, menu, and personality. Owner Kosmas “Tommie” Koukoulis, who has been Mezzanotte’s sole owner for the past five years after being involved as a partner for 10, wanted to modernize his business without “losing its essence.”
He closed the restaurant for six weeks and went to work. When it reopened in September a year ago, just about everything was updated: the furniture, floor, paint, tables, chairs, logo, signage, uniforms, and kitchen. “The renovation of Mezzanotte was my way of declaring to the community that I’m not going anywhere, and my heart is still there,” he says.
When we entered Mezzanotte, we were taken with its subtle serenity. The surroundings elicit the calm of a yoga studio. Immense artistic renderings on the walls look lovely and also represent the local purveyors and farmers that Koukoulis works with. He asked his sources to send digital images of their landscapes, animals, and products and then fabricated them to fit the space.
Hanging planters are another gesture that is both aesthetically pleasing and practical, adding green to the room while also breaking up the space, which has several dining areas. The physical menu also went through a redo. It’s now one page instead of a leather-bound book.
Customers will still find Italian-American classics such as veal scallopini and lasagna on the menu, but chef Zack Trabbold is also delivering dishes starring confit duck leg, lamb shank, rockfish, and Chilean sea bass. Two of the restaurant’s most popular items are fettuccine Mediterraneo with shrimp, crab, scallops, and a choice of sauces and the Ora King salmon with caper-butter cream sauce, Koukoulis says.
We’re traditionalists and started our meal with beef, veal, and pork meatballs in tomato sauce—a bowl of deliciousness topped with dabs of whipped ricotta and fried basil.
We also dug into a mozzarella Caprese, a test of any kitchen, especially at the height of tomato season. It was a success with ruby red slices interspersed with fresh mozzarella and ribbons of basil, capturing the colors of the Italian flag.
Our entrees were also a pleasure. We were smitten with the scallop risotto tossed with shaved prosciutto and tomatoes, crisscrossed with stalks of lightly charred asparagus. The eggplant Parmigiana, served with spaghettini, also struck the right chords, except we would have been happier with less tomato sauce. If you can squeeze in dessert, go for the miniature cannoli with ricotta and chocolate-chip cream.
Koukoulis, who is a partner in Uncle’s Hawaiian Grindz in Fallston and Craft American Eatery in Severna Park, calls Mezzanotte his “crown jewel.” “It’s a special place,” he says. “Restaurants are like children. They require attention and time.”
CAFÉ MEZZANOTTE 760 Ritchie Hwy., Severna Park, 410-647-1100. HOURS: Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Lounge open until midnight daily. PRICES: Appetizers, soups, and salads: $7-17; entrees: $16-34.