There was a certain amount of déjà vu as I walked into Patrick’s of Cockeysville on a recent visit. The familiar shamrocks are still on the door, and the traditional décor hasn’t changed much since I was last there nine years ago. But behind the scenes, there are big differences.
Carole M. Brosso, a Culinary Institute of America grad, is in the kitchen now, and she and her mother, Mary Lou Brosso, have owned the restaurant since April 2006. The mother-daughter duo is adding an imprint in subtle ways.
Many of the restaurant’s signature seafood and beef dishes are still on the menu, probably a comfort to regular customers at this neighborhood spot in a suburban strip-shopping center. There is also a nod to former chef Tomas Sanz, a Tio Pepe alum who died two years ago, with Spanish themed weekends every other month and menu items like shrimp in garlic sauce and pine-nut rolls. Diners also will find pub grub in the lively bar area—at least, it was rockin’ the night we were there with an older clientele.
But Brosso is also dishing out her own pasta specialties—from pesto to Marsala to Alfredo—each night, celebrating her Italian heritage. She likes to describe her restaurant as three spots in one—fine dining, casual pub, and cocktail lounge.
We went the fine dining route and sat in the salmon-shaded room with a gas fireplace, which, unfortunately, wasn’t flickering the night we were there. Our server helpfully recommended wines by the glass when we hemmed and hawed about which red to order. We were pleased with her suggestion—a spicy Peter Lehmann Shiraz ($8.50 a glass).
I am always happy when a basket of rolls or bread—in this case, crusty rolls—is brought to the table immediately. I know the strategy. Many restaurants wait until after you order your food, so you won’t fill up on carbs. Me, I’d rather chew and peruse the offerings.
This is mainly an Americanized menu. We started with mushroom caps stuffed with crab imperial ($9.99) and the shrimp in garlic sauce ($8.99). The aforementioned rolls came in handy in mopping up the flavorful tomatoey sauce with a subtle undercurrent of garlic. There was a generous amount of tender shrimp, too, enough to take home for leftovers. The seven mushroom caps were large and packed with crab. The only deterrent was the lackluster orange cheese topping. It subtracted from an otherwise great appetizer.
We focused on the light fare portion of the menu, a misnomer since the portions are large and include a big green salad (filled with crisp peppers, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes) and a vegetable of the day. We were told it was asparagus, and then minutes before our entrées arrived, it was switched to green beans.
Sour beef and dumplings ($15.75) has been on the menu for years, and we couldn’t resist trying this hearty dish, which came with sweet-and-sour red cabbage. Again, there was enough to take home. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender in gingersnap gravy with two good-sized potato dumplings on top. We also went for the single crab cake ($16.50), a fist-size ball of lump crab that didn’t need any enhancement from cocktail or tartar sauces. Um, no leftover this time because we had to eat every delicious morsel.
The desserts are house made, our server said, as she recited the choices. We have fond memories of the pine-nut roll from Tio Pepe and wanted to renew our acquaintance. Our recollection didn’t disappoint. Patrick’s version ($6.25)—an airy sponge cake filled with a creamy custard and topped with pine nuts—is a wonderful way to end any meal. The three-layer chocolate mousse cake ($5.99) was also a nice finish. Stronger coffee would have made the desserts even more memorable.