Artful Gourmet Bistro

by Randi Rom

Artful Gourmet Bistro's executive chef and owner Paolo Romeo, and his wife Julie are one of a handful of husband and wife teams on the Baltimore restaurant scene. He is the personable, culinary artist handling the backend, while she operates the business affairs, though by Paolo’s own admission—she is the boss.

Chef Romeo is self-taught, hails from Naples, Italy and started cooking at the age of 16. He believes he was born with the talent to learn and received what he calls a genetic education of the art and appreciation of creating and eating good food. His mother taught him how to prepare her original Italian dishes and she served as a catalyst—guiding him into the life of a gastronome. He also learned how to pair wine with food, as his father made his own wine and his grandfather owned a vineyard.

He always knew he wanted to be a chef and create challenges by fusing different cuisines. Romeo takes pleasure in being a connoisseur of good food and has a natural talent for bringing flavors together. When asked about some of his favorite moments as a chef, he at first replied in his inimitable wit—“what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” He continued by saying that he has enjoyed catering a number of in-home jobs for Ed Reed, the Baltimore Ravens safety.

Chef Romeo created his menu so that it would offer enough variations to suit customers' varied tastes as well as their moods. The menu offers Italian fare and contemporary cuisine with an international flair that includes French, Caribbean and Latino influences. The menu changes twice a year and adds new items along with the mainstays that are popular with his regular customers. The dishes are presented in an appealing manner and are named after famous artists. For example–the “Raphael” is a healthy portion of pork chop topped with creamy Dijon sauce, served with red skin mashed potatoes and sautéed broccoli. Another customer favorite is the “Mona Lisa”—grilled salmon topped with chopped tomatoes in a rose cream sauce over mashed potatoes. Romeo considers his signature dish to be one of the five daily specials that are crafted based on his creative instincts and his ability and imagination to invent and produce unique dishes.

Paolo and Julie chose the location because they wanted a place that would provide a comfortable atmosphere for the Owings Mills area. It has also become a destination—drawing customers from Pikesville, Towson and Mount Washington. The restaurant is considered “the place to go” in the neighborhood. In fact, the restaurant opened in 2002 at another location in the same shopping center but in order to keep up with demand they moved to a larger place after three years. In 2007 they opened their bar; it features happy hour specials every night and acoustic music on Thursday nights. Chef Romeo recounts that one night, during a heavy snow storm the restaurant was packed with locals and the camaraderie was such that there was an impromptu sing-along—starting with the theme for Cheers.

Artful Gourmet Bistro has received a number of accolades including being rated one of the "Top Ten Restaurants in Baltimore" by OpenTable and "Best Neighborhood Restaurant" by Baltimore Magazine. That success has spurred Romeo to open (in August) the Upper Crust Pizza & Grille in the Owings Mills Valley Village shopping center. It will feature gourmet pizza and cheese steak subs with carved sirloin on a baguette.

The restaurant is designed to create a warm atmosphere and is known for good food and good company. Vibrant colors adorn the walls and in keeping with the art theme, reproductions from famous artists are showcased including Degas, Klimt and Da Vinci.

During the day the restaurant is less formal and customers order at the counter: in the evening it is transformed into a comfortable white tablecloth spot.

Chef Romeo says the design is based on his motto—“Cooking is an expression of art and dining is an experience of the art of cuisine.”


www.ArtfulGourmet.com  |  410.356.2606


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