Shark sanctuaries, by the numbers; making a sound investment in New Orleans; South Korean grocery shopping goes underground; a cutting-edge craft in Germany; Scotland’s island escape for whiskey lovers; Chazz Palminteri brings Bronx flavor to Baltimore
A one-time nightclub doorman turned Hollywood tough guy, Chazz Palminteri strides into his restaurant in Baltimore’s Harbor East neighborhood. He passes beneath a subway sign (“Uptown & The Bronx, 4, 5, 6″) and climbs the stairs to the main dining room, where he stops to examine the pasta bar. Opened earlier this year, Chazz: A Bronx Original is intended to evoke his home borough’s culinary center, Arthur Avenue, and it does a good job of it. But as any restaurateur will tell you, launching such a venture is no stroll down the red carpet.
“I can’t believe how much work this is,” Palminteri says. “On a movie set it’s crazy, it’s stressful, but it’s three months and then it’s over. Here, it’s nonstop.”
Palminteri first visited Baltimore a few years ago during a revival of his one-man show, A Bronx Tale (which was turned into a film by first-time director Robert De Niro), at the Hippodrome. “Everyone told me I had to try Aldo’s,” he says, referring to a popular fine-dining spot in Little Italy. ”So I did, fell in love and went back every night.”
He also met chef and future restaurant partner Sergio Vitale there. After endless months of planning and with the help of a third partner, Alessandro Vitale, Chazz: A Bronx Original debuted, serving “Bronx-style pizza” and homemade Italian specialties like Calabrese-style bible tripe and veal spezzatino.
Palminteri, who lives in Westchester County, N.Y., is becoming a big fan of Baltimore, attending Ravens games and even throwing out the first pitch at Camden Yards. “This place is about family,” he says. “When I’m here, my kids come here. This is a great place to take a weekend trip, to see the incredible harbor. This city is the best-kept secret.”
Still, he’s proudest of his own contribution. “If you’re in Baltimore, go to the restaurant,” he recommends. “I even say this to some hardcore Sicilians, who normally can’t wait to tell you something bad.” —LAURA DATTARO