Donnie Marino gazed across the room to ask his friend a question.
“Where else did Brent Fife work?” asked Marino, referring to the chef at his new restaurant, which is set to open next week.
But his friend didn't answer, because she wasn't there. Marino didn't know—he has trouble seeing.
“Basically I have bad eyes myself,” Marino said. “I have diabetic retinopathy.”
The 57-year-old's condition inspired the name for the new Fallston restaurant: Magoo's Smokehouse. Marino chose it in honor of the poor-sighted, mid-20th century cartoon character Mr. Magoo, who was also portrayed by Leslie Nielsen in a 1997 movie.
Marino said he and his business partner, Kathleen Barbuti, 58, have three areas of focus for their new establishment: barbecue, cartoons and music videos.
“We’re going to feature ribs, beef brisket, pit beef ... we’re also having pizza,” Marino said. “Of course we’ll show Ravens games on Sundays. But for the most part we’re going to show music videos.”
The Forest Hill resident hopes his eatery will succeed in the Pleasantville Road location where other businesses have failed. Most recently, Caffe Italia closed its doors.
And Marino is not concerned about the barbecue giant, , which opened less than a year ago about 10 minutes away.
“I’m not famous, I’m good,” said Marino, who thinks there are enough customers to go around. “You can’t even get in it’s so busy.”
Marino plans to be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and later for bigger events like Ravens games. Magoo's features four high-definition TVs of 42 inches or larger.
“The décor is going to be classic cartoons that have become motion pictures. For instance, Mr. Magoo … Alice in Wonderland … Batman, of course, Superman,” he said.
Marino thinks his unique atmosphere will be enough to revitalize the space, which is just off Maryland Route 152. He hopes to open by July 18, pending a health department inspection Wednesday.
“We want this place to work for a change,” he said. “We just wanted to do something different to give the community an alternative. Basically, it’s going to be fun.”