East County Times Dining Guide

Owner Maurizio Illiano serves up delicious Italian fare at his newest Italian Sensation restaurant in Perry Hall



Italian Sensations
8911 Belair Rd, Suite A
Nottingham, MD 21236
Phone: 410.256.4061
Other Locations - Fallston - Bel Air

- Article & photos by Allison H. McAlister -

Got a hankering for a really good Italian meal? Then you must visit the new Italian Sensation restaurant in Perry Hall. With two other locations in Harford County, owner Maurizio Illiano opened the restaurants third location here in Baltimore County in July. Maurizio, 41, came to America from Naples, Italy when he was 18. Hes been in the restaurant industry ever since. Italian Sensation isnt a full service restaurant, although it isnt fast food either. The eatery is part of a growing trend of fast casual restaurants, offering high quality food without full table service. You place your order at the counter and pay, fix your own beverage from the machine, grab silverware, napkins, etc., then go to your table and a friendly staff member (like Adam, who was so personable and went out of his way to make sure our dining experience was a good one) will bring your order out to you when its ready. Maurizio explained he wanted his restaurant to be the kind of place where customers could feel comfortable coming in to dine in a suit or just running in to get a slice of pizza to go. Its casual dining, fair pricing and great food! he said, noting the restaurants slogan - Where Friends Meet to Eat! really says it all. Its a family place where you can bring your kids, but its also the kind of restaurant you can bring a date. And the food? Well, the food is pretty amazing. As soon as you get out of your car in the parking lot, an amazing aroma permeates the air and your stomach starts to rumble. When you step inside, it smells even better and you are greeted by a gorgeous display of mouthwatering pizzas and calzones. However, if youve passed by and thought Italian Sensation was just another pizza joint, you are sadly mistaken. In addition to pizza and calzones, the extensive menu features an impressive selection of pasta dishes, appetizers, salads, subs and paninis. When my coworker and I visited on a recent weekday for lunch, we agreed everything listed on the menu sounded incredibly good so we let Maurizio decide for us what we should try. We started out with an appetizer and a salad. A heaping plateful of Fried Calamari served with marinara sauce on the side came out first. I love fried calamari and this dish did not disappoint. The calamari was fresh and tender, the breading well-seasoned and the marinara really tasty, making for a scrumptious beginning to our meal. We also tried the Mozzarella Caprese salad - fresh mozzarella, fresh plum tomatoes and fresh basil leaves tossed with extra virgin olive oil and served with a side of balsamic vinaigrette. Spectacular! Now when I say fresh mozzarella, I mean fresh mozzarella. So creamy, so smooth, my coworker summed it up best when she exclaimed, The mozzarella here is to die for! Speaking of Caprese, we also sampled the Pasta Caprese, a dish featuring fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella saut? with a lite marinara sauce and served over spaghettini. Again, the fresh mozzarella is superb, the sauce so flavorful and the spaghetti cooked to perfection. This pasta was incredibly delicious. Another pasta dish we tried is called Tashas Favorite Pasta. This one consists of rigatoni tossed with garlic, olive oil, roasted eggplant, kalamata olives, sundried tomato, broccoli, peppers and Parmesan cheese. This is a vegetarians delight! The combination of the various fresh vegetables with its different textures and chewy sweetness made for a truly delectable entr? We also had a side of the garlic bread, which I have to say is simply scrumptious. The fresh, crusty bread is buttered, rubbed with real garlic cloves and baked for a taste that is undeniably authentic. Even though we were pretty full after all this, we managed to also sample two of the panini. All panini are served on homemade focaccia bread. The Al Fresco, which is made with thinly sliced imported prosciutto, grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, fresh spring mix and tomatoes, was very good. As was the Tuscany Chicken - grilled chicken breast with pesto mayonnaise, fresh spring mix, crisp red onion and imported Asiago cheese. Both panini were incredible. It was like a burst of flavors - the meat, the veggies, the bread - all coming together to create a mouthful of yummy goodness. Everything we had the opportunity to eat at lunch that day was fantastic. I cant wait to go back - I want to try a slice of their gourmet pizza, which looked tantalizingly tasty. Most entr? are made to order, using fresh, quality ingredients. They make their own pizza dough, their own sauce, they grate their own cheese from the finest cheeses. I take a lot of pride in the things we serve, Maurizio stated, adding he would never serve to customers something he would not consume himself. So if youre looking for an authentic Italian meal - whether to share with the whole family, a special date or just a group of friends - look no further than Italian Sensation, located at 8911 Belair Road, Suite A in the Perry Hall Shopping Center. Open seven days a week, Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon - 9 p.m. For more information, call 410-256-4061 or visit their website at www.italiansensation.com.

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