Chef Paolino Café
3419 Plum Tree Drive
Ellicott City, MD 21042

This month, our night out took us to Chef Paolino Café just off Route 40 in Ellicott City. It’s fair to say that most everyone loves Italian food and, whether you’re an adventurous eater or a picky one, Italian cuisine offers many delicious dining options. At Chef Paolino Café, you are sure to find something on the menu to please everyone in your party.

Chef and owner Paul Delfico opened Chef Paolino Café in June 2014 in the former home of Serafino’s. Many of you may remember Chef Paolino Café at The Mall in Columbia’s food court; it was known for its delicious sandwiches and subs. Many of you may also know his successful Chef Paolino Café in Catonsville.

Delfico has been serving diners in Maryland for 30 years. He began his restaurant career soon after immigrating to New York from Italy. He worked in restaurants in his early teens and learned the business from the ground up, by washing dishes, baking and then developing his cooking skills. He draws on his years of restaurant experience and his family heritage to fill his menu with fresh, authentic Italian favorites.

Family Night Out

Chef Paolino Café is very informal and family-friendly. The interior is wide open, comfortable and well lit, with plenty of booth and table seating. Walk up to the counter displaying a variety of pizzas and calzones, and place your order. You can also order from the full menu; and don’t forget to check out the daily specials board.

The menu is packed with familiar Italian dishes. There is a selection of antipasti, soups and salads. The pasta section offers many different types and styles, along with a variety of sauces. You’ll also see an impressive collection of baked pasta, poultry, veal and seafood dishes. And, of course, there’s pizza in either Sicilian or New York style. You can also choose from a variety of subs and deli sandwiches.

We were welcomed by Delfico and seated at a table with a view of the display counter. He sat with us and shared stories of his years in the business, his family and his passion for cooking. With his help, we chose a variety of dishes that allowed us to sample the many different areas of the menu.

We started with the Antipasto Freddo. This was a generous portion of crisp greens topped with salami, prosciuttino, provolone, olives, marinated mushrooms and roasted red peppers, with anchovy fillets on the side and their homemade vinaigrette dressing. All the ingredients were fresh and tasty, and the dressing was a nice balance of olive oil, herbs and vinegar. This was great with a couple of the buttery garlic knots.

Next, we tried the Mussels Marinara, a bowl of tender mussels sautéed with white wine and marinara sauce, accompanied by slices of crispy garlic bread for dunking. I highly recommend it if you love mussels.

Instead of full meals, we sampled three pasta dishes. The Fettuccini with Pesto Sauce was a creamy combination of pesto, garlic and parmesan cheese. The Penne with Vodka Sauce was fresh tasting with its hint of crushed red pepper spice; the Spaghetti Capricciosa is a tasty combination of artichokes, mushrooms, roasted peppers and garlic in a white wine sauce. In all of these dishes, the pasta was cooked perfectly, the sauces fresh and light.

Hat Trick

We sampled three entrées. The Veal Fioretina is tender scallops of veal topped with garlic, spinach and creamy fontina cheese. The Shrimp Scampi is large Gulf shrimp with a buttery garlic, white wine and lemon sauce. The Chicken Marsala is a chicken breast sautéed with marsala wine and mushrooms. In all of these dishes, the meat and seafood was tender and juicy, and the sauces fresh and spiced just right.

We made a comment to the chef about how light and fresh all of his sauces were on both the pasta and the entrées. He said that he uses extra virgin olive oil in his cooking instead of butter for texture and flavor.

Up to this point, everything was so tasty that we didn’t have much room left for dessert. As you would expect, you will find Canoli, Taramisu and Tartufo on the dessert menu, along other sweet treats. We had some Tartufo with a slice of Panettone, just to top off a delicious meal.

You can get beer and wine served in the main dining room. You can also head downstairs to The Cellar for drinks in the full-service bar. The Cellar also can accommodate business functions and special occasions. Check out their daily Happy Hour specials, as well as the small plates menu.

We had a wonderful night out at Chef Paolino Café. The menu is loaded with Italian favorites to satisfy every taste and features the daily specials. The freshness and quality of the food is excellent and very reasonably priced. It’s the perfect place for a great dinner out with the whole family.

Sam Audia is a former advertising and marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience in the wine and spirits industry. He holds a Certification Diploma from the Sommelier Society of America and an Advanced Certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. He can be reached at [email protected].