Restaurant Deconstructed Oh Donna

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Donna Crivello—yes, that Donna—has historically created restaurants where she herself wants to eat. Serene specialty coffee shops in the days when Starbuck was still just the mate in “Moby-Dick,” casual eateries with neighborhood appeal. Now she’s cooked up the restaurant of her dreams. Inspired by Crivello’s Italian heritage—and many trips to Sicily—Cosima, named for her grandmother, is a southern Italian restaurant that goes beyond red sauce, with grilled meats and seafood, Italian wine and a prime location at Mill No. 1 overlooking the Jones Falls.

Chef. Crivello opened the first Donna’s in 1992 in Mt. Vernon, and it has been a fixture in Baltimore ever since—with branches in Mt. Vernon and Charles Village, at the BMA and Cross Keys. A native of Massachusetts, Crivello has roots in Mezzogiorno; her mother’s family is from a small town near Naples and her father’s people hail from Porticello.

Space. Mill No. 1, the former sail factory on the Jones Falls, is home to 80-plus luxury apartments (nearly all occupied). A steep drive leads to the restaurant’s entrance, where valets whisk cars to a parking garage and guests are greeted by the smell of wood smoke and the churning of the river, steps away. “The courtyard reminds me of a piazza in Italy,” says Crivello. Architect Charles Alexander kept many raw elements of the 5,700-square foot interior intact. High ceilings, brick walls and rough wood beams dating to the 1850s complement slate floors and muted upholstery in cream, rust and grey. There’s a pizza oven embedded in a wall and a separate kitchen for baking breads and desserts.

Food. Guided by her Sicilian roots, Crivello has created a menu of grilled fish—whole branzino and swordfish—and baby octopus. Her tuna crudo haspickled fennel and a drizzle of anchovy vinaigrette, and her New England upbringing inspired a take on lobster—chunks of buttery meat in squid ink fettucine, topped with a whole grilled lobster. Pizza: a thin-crust Neapolitan as well as thicker Sicilian-style pies.

Drink. The twelve rotating draft beers are a mix of near and far, with the “driving force that they go with our menu,” says co-owner Alan Hirsch. The cocktail list highlights the bittersweet herbal liqueur, Amaro, along with small-batch spirits. Wine, says Hirsch, consists of Southern Italian varietals, many unfamiliar to casual drinkers. “We’ll have no cabernet or sauvignon blanc, no chardonnay or merlot,” he says. Instead, look for ruby-red nero d’avola, pinot noir-like nerello mascalese and crisp white torbato.

Verdict. We anticipate many special meals to come.

Cosima

3000 Falls Road
Mill No. 1
443-708-7352

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