Scoozi Gets It Right: Italian Flavor with Local Flair

Feast on relaxed trattoria fare in the north part of Baltimore

By Tamar Alexia Fleishman,

When picking a Baltimore restaurant for your evening meal, there’s a desire to have some aspect be something special. Whether it’s a simply – but expertly – prepared sandwich or artfully created amuse bouche using tweezers to perfect its arrangement, dinner brings a level of anticipation that other meals don’t.

So many times, though, when we think of our options, we compartmentalize. We compromise. We settle. One restaurant uses farm-fresh ingredients. Another has grandma-style ethnic recipes. One restaurant has outdoor seating and on and on. Why can’t we get all that we want, when we want it?

Maybe you can, at Scoozi.

Delicious pasta at Scoozi restaurant in Baltimore — Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

Baltimore’s Radisson Cross Keys, in general, has had a parade of restaurants go through its dining space over the years. Generally indistinguishable, they didn’t have much of a culinary direction, other than having a distinct “hotel restaurant” quality to them.

There’d be forgettable “American” offerings at a mid-price point and some steak or other higher-priced entrée for the expense account patrons. When local news anchors stayed at the hotel during blizzards – the local stations are nearby – it definitely seemed like there was more drinking at the bar than eating at the restaurant going on.

Now, there’s a game-changer: Scoozi.

It’s an Italian trattoria-style restaurant that’s appealing to locals, too.

Though there have been some renovations to the décor, the ambiance still feels a bit hotel generic. Don’t let that deter you or cloud your experience!

During pleasant weather, they have al fresco dining in the Cross Keys courtyard that’s dog friendly (as is the hotel). Shady umbrellas cover several of the tables. When you sit outside, you’ll notice the planters filled with fresh growing herbs for the kitchen.

The service is reliably much friendlier and consistent than some of the “hipper” places in the area that serve this style of menu. Also, the presentation touches show extra caring: even toasted herb focaccia pieces served in a little cone to open your meal are value-added.

Especially recommended is the stone-hearth baked Kennet Square [sic] pizza with local wild mushrooms from up the road, as well as caramelized onions, roasted garlic, garlic-herb ricotta cream and white truffle oil. (Note: Kennett Square, Penn., is considered the “Mushroom Capital of the World.") Their pizzas have thin, crunchy crusts – as are common in Italy.

All the cheeses available for selection on the charcuterie plates are from some of Maryland’s most premier artisan cheesemakers. The responsibly sourced seafood on the menu, including crab (in season) and clams, are from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The pork chops are locally raised. So, that’s a taste of the area for those who are visiting.

If delectable, perfectly done pasta dishes are on your mind for dinner, then Scoozi is your place. But they get more than just the pasta right.