Let me pick a restaurant to try and 9.5 times out of ten, it won’t be Italian. Most of the Italian restaurants I tried while growing up provided uninspired pasta dishes drowning in sauce, something I never enjoyed. For the most part, Italian food in America just isn’t my thing. Still, there are always exceptions to any rule, and one of the places that I frequent in Baltimore County is Carlo’s Italian Bistro, a family-run restaurant that is now located in Cockeysville. Full disclosure though, I’ve been eating at Carlo’s restaurants since I was a baby, so my positive opinion of the place has been ingrained in me since before I can remember.
The large BYOB restaurant is decked out in warm colors and often plays soft music in the background; it fits perfectly into that smart-casual category that seems to broadly categorize many restaurants nowadays. There is a real family vibe to it all as the owner, surprisingly named Carlo, or his daughter usually go around to catch up with regulars and make sure newcomers are enjoying their meals. It’s not pretentious, which is probably why it’s such a popular choice for private events. We even had my graduation party here a few months ago, and there’s almost always been a large party in the upstairs dining room whenever we’ve come in since.
Since I’ve been eating at Carlo’s restaurants for twenty-some years, I know the best dishes. Appetizers that shouldn’t be passed up are the Mozzarella Positano, featuring prosciutto, milky mozzarella, and tangy balsamic vinegar; the Shrimp Rolando, which is named after a friend and best appreciated when sharing due to the decadent garlic cream sauce; and the Bruschetta that highlights fresh, flavorful tomatoes. You could make a meal out of the appetizers themselves.
Still, you’ll probably want to try some of the entrees as well. The ones that I prefer are the Seafood Pescatore where a huge mound of seafood is served over pasta in marinara sauce, the tender Veal Marsala, and the Pork Shanks, which aren’t on the menu but are frequently featured as a special. These all come with salad and a nice portion of pasta, so I’d recommend planning on having some for the lunch the next day! It’s what I always do.
Overall, the servers are friendly, the food comes out promptly, and the atmosphere is comfortable. It’s a solid choice if you’re looking for an Italian restaurant in the Hunt Valley area, and you definitely won’t be leaving hungry. There are billions of choices for Italian food all over this area, but Carlo’s is one choice that we always make.