Nick Sharpe is coming to town with a résumé full of Michelin-starred restaurants, strong pizza opinions and a sarcastic sense of humor. After he admits he’s not the biggest fan of crab cakes (he prefers to pick his own), he jokes this story will say: “Nick Sharpe hates crab cakes and he’s coming to Baltimore to feed you.”

Okay, so the Frederick native won’t be putting crab cakes on the menu at Cece’s Roland Park, the highly anticipated new eatery at Cross Keys in North Baltimore that the chef is set to open June 13. The two-pronged restaurant aims to serve both everyday customers and foodies in search of something more upscale.

“We don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, this is a special-occasion restaurant,’” Sharpe said. While the main dining room will feature elevated dishes such as hand-filled ravioli and Dover sole carved tableside, neighboring Cece’s Kitchen will be pizza, meatballs and other casual Italian American fare — “things you can eat with kids after soccer practice,” the father of two said. The concepts will be connected by a 3,500-square-foot open-air courtyard.

Wood-fired pies at Cece’s Kitchen will take the form of a “hybrid New York style,” which Sharpe called more kid friendly than a charred Neapolitan version, which can be a little intimidating. As for toppings, Sharpe wants to keep things artisanal but simple. “I don’t want anybody to have to Google anything when they get in there,” he said. Look for a pepperoni Bolognese with fontina and hot honey.

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The dual concept was always the vision for the space in Roland Park and was refined during Sharpe’s talks with the Cordish Companies, which owns the new restaurant. Sharpe said he and owners Reed and Maggie Cordish are all parents and understand the need to have a place that caters to diners of all stripes. Sharpe compared the model to Foreman Wolf’s family-friendly Johnny’s, which is in the same historic shopping center as their Petit Louis Bistro.

Prior to getting recruited for Cece’s, Sharpe worked at Washington, D.C.’s Cranes, which won a Michelin star in 2021. He’s also worked with titans of fine dining such as Jeffrey Buben, Fabio Trabocchi and Michael Mina, spending time at Mina’s Wit & Wisdom in Baltimore, once located in the Four Seasons Hotel. Sharpe’s first kitchen job was washing dishes as a “young punk” at Frederick’s Red Horse Steakhouse, and he later learned pizza-making skills at Luke’s Pizza Co. Today, he lives in the Frederick area with his family.

Though he’s worked for Michelin-starred establishments, getting such accolades isn’t on his mind with Cece’s, he said. “I want to be someplace that people really want to come all the time and can’t wait to get back.”

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