By Staci Wolfson

Like many Baltimoreans, I was delighted to find out that the construction clogging Aliceanna Street at the Eden Building in Harbor East this spring was all for a good cause – a new restaurant.

In particular, Chazz: A Bronx Original. Driving past, I was instantly intrigued by the bright, marquis-style sign and the awnings that advertised the Italian delicacies inside as well as the signature of someone named Chazz Palminteri.

Yes, I admit it. I had no idea who Chazz Palminteri is, but I assumed a restaurant’s namesake would be the chef. As it turns out, Palminteri is one of the partners and a 58-year-old actor who starred in “A Bronx Tale” and “The Usual Suspects,” films I have not seen, as you may have guessed.

After dining at Aldo’s Ristorante Italiano in Little Italy, Palminteri, a native New Yorker, decided to open Chazz with the owners of Aldo’s. The group worked to bring the Bronx atmosphere of an Italian-American neighborhood restaurant to the space.

When I think of little Italian restaurants in New York, I see cozy, welcoming spaces filled with red and white-checked tablecloths. This is not the case at the Baltimore version.

Instead, the space is huge, designed around a giant coal pizza oven. Inside, plasma flat-screen TVs line the walls throughout, playing Palminteri’s movies. And the decor, accented by a healthy dose of stainless steel, has the upscale feel of other Harbor East restaurants like Oceanaire and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. The menu prices were upscale as well. But I put my doubts aside when I saw a mozzarella bar, which in my opinion, could only mean good things.

Unfortunately, the best part of the meal was the Tuscan bread with a hint of garlic that came out first. The server was friendly, but neglected to mention that the menu was on a soft rollout plan; because the restaurant had opened so recently, only certain items were offered. For the table, we ordered two appetizers, two pizzas and an entrée. The pizzas came out before the appetizers.

Overall, the food was decent. I would recommend the tomato, onion and goat cheese bruschetta. Its pico de gallo-like tomatoes were well complemented by the sharp flavor of the goat cheese and a sweet touch of orange blossom honey. But the veal meatball in marinara sauce was over-seasoned.

I was also not a fan of the prosciutto and arugula pizza; the crust from the coal oven was delicious, but the prosciutto and cheese combination is probably better left to those with a penchant for salt.

I enjoyed the margherita pizza, but again, it doesn’t necessarily stack up to the more economical slices I’ve had in corner pizza joints around New York.

Because of the soft rollout and possibly new opening growing pains, Chazz was obviously not at 100 percent. I plan to visit again and give that mozzarella bar another chance.

Serving dinner from 5 p.m.


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