Parallel 38 makes big change in the kitchen and more local restaurant news

Owner Justin Ross has taken over chef duties at Parallel 38. Photo: Martyn Kyle Owner Justin Ross has taken over chef duties at Parallel 38. Photo: Martyn Kyle

Parallel 38 makes big change in the kitchen

Award-winning Mediterranean powerhouse Parallel 38 quietly underwent a major change five months ago. Owner Justin Ross let his heralded executive chef, Alfredo Malinis, go in February and assumed executive chef duties himself.

According to Ross, the move was all a part of his original plan. He says he intended to have Malinis aboard just “to help us get up and running and guide the menu.” His stay of nearly a year was longer than anticipated.

“It was time for him to explore a new challenge,” Ross says. Malinis is reportedly now running Nordstrom’s food and beverage program in Annapolis.

Back at Parallel, Ross is managing the kitchen with help from new hire John Shanesy, who’s been brought on as chef de cuisine. Shanesy heads over to The Shops at Stonefield from the Downtown Mall, where he was sous chef at Blue Light Grill. He also has experience under local celebrity chefs Tomas Rahal (Mas) and Craig Hartman (BBQ Exchange).

“John has a solid foundation and an insatiable thirst to invent, explore and most importantly to learn,” Ross says. “He is a rare find, and we’re very luck to have him on our team.”

Shanesy arrives as the Parallel menu has been treated to Ross’ own personal touch. He says that while he’s continued exploring the restaurant’s Mediterranean flavor profile, he’s tried to put it in “a more rustic, approachable package.” That means adding house made pastas like the Tagliatelle (braised lamb, eggplant and feta), flatbread pizzas like the MTA (manchego, olive oil poached tomatoes, arugula and prosciutto), a new steak kabob and more vegetarian options like grilled asparagus with romesco and roasted and lightly fried cauliflower.

Ross says the menu’s been a success, and even Malinis’ most ardent followers have been impressed. That’s no small claim considering during the chef’s short reign in the kitchen, Parallel was named C-VILLE Weekly’s Best New Restaurant and received an invite to cook at the James Beard Foundation, while drawing a rave review from the Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema.

Ross is no slouch in the kitchen himself. After starting his career on the line at several Maryland restaurants, he thrived as a wine director and found himself training under Jose Andres at ThinkfoodGroup’s Zaytinya. Still, he credits his team for making the transition a success.

“Parallel is my baby, so I imagine that I will always be paying close attention to all aspects of the restaurant including the back of house, [but] I will be the first to tell you that it is only a title and has very little to do with Parallel 38’s success,”
he says.

Ciao, bella

Change ain’t easy for anybody, and restaurant owners are no exception. Pizza Bella, a family-owned restaurant that’s been serving up Chicago-style pizza and Italian entrées on Mill Creek Drive for about 15 years, got a facelift this summer in an effort to keep up with the local-food-and-craft-beer trend. Goodbye, Pizza Bella—hello, Brick & Mortar Bar and Bistro.

“It did really well for most of the 15 years it was here. But the families that grew up with Pizza Bella, the kids moved out and the parents are downsizing and moving out of the area,” general manager Brett Cassis says. “Younger couples and families are moving into the area, and the idea was to come up with a concept that would be more appealing to that age group.”

Both the space and the menu were completely overhauled—the dining room now features a sleek, modern-looking bar with 11 rotating taps, and the menu went from classic pizzas and entrées to small plates and flatbreads. Daily specials include organic roasted half chicken and fresh seasonal fish, and Cassis says they’re using as many local ingredients as possible for menu items like salads and sandwiches.

“We want to make it comfortable for everybody, and make it a place where people can bring the kids for dinner or gather at the bar before a game,” Cassis says.

The extensive renovation hasn’t been cheap though. Owner Christine Manning’s daughter Tracie created a GoFundMe page in an effort to help her family offset some of the unexpected costs of turning Pizza Bella into Brick & Mortar. At press time, the effort had raised just over $2,500 of a $15,000 goal and listed items the kitchen needs that weren’t covered by the overhaul budget, like a commercial food processor, espresso maker and dishwasher.

“A pizza oven was the first priority, and that we’ve paid for. The other stuff, we can get by without it for now,” Cassis says. “But to really be able to do what we want to do and provide the food and product that go with the whole concept, we do need those items.” 

Brick & Mortar held soft openings last weekend, and as of Monday, July 13, was officially open for business. For a menu and operation hours, check out the Brick & Mortar Bar and Bistro Facebook page.

—Shea Gibbs and Laura Ingles

This article was updated September 9 to correct the spelling of Tomas Rahal’s name.

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