Harford Hotspots: At Scotto’s Café, the Special of the Evening is Called “Special” for a Reason

Believe it or not, I rarely get a chance to eat out. Crazy, isn’t it? So when I do have the luxury of a night on the town, I don’t mind spending a few extra bucks. So last Saturday after a full day at the office, the last thing I wanted to do was grocery shop and cook a meal. Instead, I jumped onto the Open Table app on my phone and booked a table at Scotto’s. Funny, back in my younger days, I was quite the barfly at Scotto’s. But for some reason I hadn’t been there for at least 2 years. Two years! And The Festival is a hop, skip and a jump from my house.

On a Saturday evening, I definitely recommend having reservations. Their establishment is small, but beautifully decorated with lots of marble and an Italian villa-esque feel. We arrived early and had cocktails at the bar. The drinks were delicious but I was disappointed that their long-time bartender, Brian, no longer worked there. Brian mastered the art of hand-crafted cocktails long before they were even en vogue. But, the barmaid whipped up a wonderful Cosmopolitan in my own personal mini-shaker, almost worthy of the $9 pricetag. As I sat at the bar people-watching, I could view the kitchen through its large, glass window. If a restaurant is willing to let you see the inner-workings of their kitchen, you can best believe that the kitchen is spotless. Plus it’s fun to watch the chefs setting their pans on fire and tossing the food into the air.

Since this was “date night” with my husband, I was happy that we scored a corner booth away from the hustle and bustle. Our waitress was absolutely superb from start to finish and I would expect nothing less in a restaurant of this caliber. We ordered a bottle of Rose which was excellent and I am typically more of a Pinot Noir drinker. The wine list has some room for improvement. I am certainly not a wine aficionado, but nothing on their list really jumped out and grabbed me. Our first course was a mixture of clams and mussels in a white wine garlic sauce. It was served with little seafood forks which I was tempted to stab my date’s hand with every time he reached for another piece – it was just THAT good! Even though I, like everyone else, has sworn off bread after New Years, I found myself dunking the bread in the sauce after the shellfish was long gone.

I learned something at Scotto’s a long time ago – always order the special of the evening! They call it a “special” for a reason. This particular night they offered two different types of steak and a rockfish with crab. And that is one reason I love Scotto’s – they have something for everyone if you aren’t in a pasta kind of mood. I opted for the rockfish and although it was served with capellini, I asked for mashed potatoes instead (yeah, yeah, I already had the bread at this point, so might as well keep going with the carbs). The asparagus with grape tomatoes paired perfectly with this dish (side dishes are a la carte). The rockfish was fresh and cooked beautifully. Our other entrée was Veal Saltimboca (you may order Chicken Saltimboca if you prefer poultry over veal). The Saltimboca is a thin piece of veal cooked in a white wine sauce and topped with mozzarella, sautéed mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. The remainder of Scotto’s menu contains the usual Italian suspects like lasagna and chicken parmesan, but also lots of seafood, veal and chicken dishes with ingredients like artichoke hearts, capers, fresh tomatoes, garlic and wine.

When the dessert tray was presented, I noticed a bottle of Kahlua Gingerbread – a flavor I did not recognize but it was a magnificent ending to a flawless meal. My husband ordered the cake in a To Go box but I’m pretty sure he gulped most of it down during the short ride home.

Our total bill came to $145 before tip for cocktails, wine, appetizer, dinner and dessert (wow!). A great way to experience Scotto’s without a triple digit bill would be to go for lunch. Or you can skip the cocktails but who wants to do that? I would like to see them at least serve a small salad with their entrees because the side dishes can really add up quickly.

On their website, www.scottosbelair.com, I noticed that they also have a catering menu. What a great idea if you are trying to pull together a last minute Super Bowl party.

So I say bravo and thank you to Scotto’s for bringing fresh and scrumptious cuisine to Harford County for over 20 years!

Scotto’s Café
Festival at Bel Air
(410) 515-2233



    Finally a restaurant review. And Scotto’s. A favorite. I am hoping to see them expand some day and move out of that silly Festival.

    Pretty good wine list fairly priced. When they have the lamb shank on the menu don’t hesitate.

    Beware. Anything prepared at Scotto’s Fra Diavolo is really ‘Fra Diavolo’, as it should be. There isn’t another Italian restaurant in Harford County to touch it.

  2. Jeff says

    $145!!!! You must not be living on a teacher salary! I love Scotto’s but I can only manage being able to afford to eat their once a year! Must be nice!

    How I wish!

  3. F.L. says

    1st, thanks for and very much appreciate the review. $145.00 for two? Wow! I realize probably a total different atmosphere, but my Family of 4 had a Christmas dinner @ Applebee’s in Aberdeen (including beverages and appetizers) for $80.00. Tip not included. Again, different atmosphere but very nice experience. Anyone else on reviews for the Harford area?

  4. Peggysue says

    I can easily feed a family of 4 for a week on $145.00.

    Keep the reviews coming because it will be the only way I’ll get to experience the pleasure.

  5. Pavel314 says

    Scotto’s is a very good restaurant but their prices have gotten out of control in the last year or so. The first time the bill for two went over $100 we started going elsewhere.

    • RTFU says

      Agree, I have lived in HarCo for less than a year and with all of the competition in the area, you would think they would be more “economical”.

      Call me old fashioned, but I’ll take the under $10 meal at Panera any day! hahaha

    • The Money Tree says

      Really overpriced? The menu complete with prices is posted on their website and for high-end food it’s more than fair; in fact by restaurants of similar quality Laurapin in Hdg, or Bonefish in the mall for example it’s comparable if not even slightly cheaper. Plenty of entrees at $18 including chicken, pasta and fish.

  6. noble says

    The trend all around is that the chains are lowering prices (and portions, which is fine by me) because they live off volume and the non-chains are raising prices. You also have a few dummies who are raising prices and cutting portions and/or quality. As soon as I see a price increase and a decrease in quality /portion, I immediately stop going there.

    There is one regional pizza chain, I won’t name them, in the area guilty of this and we haven’t been there since it started 2 years ago. It used to be one of our favorites.

    A lot of people like to bust on chains, but they are just another option. I will give a kudos to Famous Dave’s who, after we called in a to-go order, called us back and told us they had a special that was the same thing for a few dollars less, plus a free dessert– no reason they had to do that, so that scores points in my book.

  7. The Money Tree says

    Scotto’s is great – not everything on the menu will end up costing you $145 – and you don’t have to order a $9 dollar cocktail either. There are $25.00 entrees plus another $7 for a nice glass of red wine and two can get out of there spending easily less than $75 plus tip. It’s handmade high quality food and that means lots of people are involved in the process. Never had a bad meal there and they never made me feel rushed to turn the table.

  8. ALEX R says

    Noble, Please name them – my guess is Papa John’s – and save me having a bad experience. Of course there is a lot of very average pizza around and not very much really great pizza. I agree Famous Dave’s is a quality operation.

    Money Tree, Likewise I have never had a bad meal there. Most places you can get in and get out for $75 including the outrageous 9% sales tax on wine/liquor if you are careful what you order. You certainly can at Scotto’s.

    • noble says

      No, actually Papa John’s is my preferred national pizza delivery chain, if I don’t use a local pizza shop.

      The place I’m referring to is a regional family restaurant chain that serves regular carry out fare including pizza and it’s NOT named Pat’s. As recently as 5 years ago it was one of our favorite carry-outs, but after trying a new location that opened a couple times, we deemed the increase price and decreased quality and portions unacceptable. I emailed them specifically outlining my concerns and didn’t hear back from them. So they haven’t heard back from me.

      You can see these things all over the place, like adding extra lettuce to salads, extra fries to entrees, and removing more expensive components. I can accept that as a statement of our national condition, quite honestly, but not along with a price increase.

      • ALEX R says

        Name some good local one’s then. I struggle to find a good one but I don’t order pizza very often. Here is your chance to tout a few good ones.

        • NeverCease2BeAmazed says

          My local favorite is LaCucina in Havre de Grace. You can get everything from pizza or a sub to homemade Italian dishes the likes of which I have not had since…well….since I was in Italy! Family owned and operated. The only drawback is that there is no delivery. Perfect for an evening out, though!

        • The Money Tree says

          Matthews Pizza in Highlandtown is really great pizza, but it’s still pizza so sketchy whether it’s worth such a long drive. I find pizza to be most often amazingly average when all it would take would be better dough and a few well paired toppings. There used to be a place in SF that I would regularly go to that served pizza pie with a sprinkling of a lovely flavorful olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh parsley, generous romano tomato slices and a hint of tangy parmesan. If all the ingredients are top notch it’s all you need. The dough is the key.

        • noble says

          I’m honestly not a big pizza fan, so not sure I can help. We don’t get it much. If we do, we usually go with My Three Sons on Philadelphia Rd, or Fortunato’s on Emmorton. A lot of people in that area will swear by Box Hill, but I thought their pizza was crap.

          • Insane says

            Box Hills pizza is crap. You go to Box Hill for the crab cake. However they have raises prices. Doesn’t seem worth it anymore. Its a shame too. I used to get their cream of crab soup every Friday but now they want $5.95 for a little cup. Two crabs cakes their is now $27. Its good but not that good