Make Yourself at Home at Turf Valley
A GENUINE FAMILY TRADITION CONTINUES
written by Carl Danbury, Jr. | photos courtesy of Turf Valley
Soon, Northern transplants like myself will be heading up the I-95 corridor on the way to their old stomping grounds in the Northeast or simply seeking cooler climes in the late spring or early summer. Maybe it will be a beach trip to Ocean City, Md., Rehobeth Beach, Del., or Long Beach Island, N.J., for example, or perhaps a trip to D.C. or Baltimore is on the slate?
Turf Valley is situated amidst the lush rolling hills and horse country of Maryland, just 20 minutes by car from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and approximately 45 minutes north of D.C. In addition to its prime location, I appreciated finding Turf Valley a bit of an oddity in this age of corporately owned and operated resort hotels.
Privately own by the Mangione family since 1978, the beginnings were a resurrected country club and special events facility that has blossomed into one of the area’s finest resorts boasting 172 guestrooms, including 70 suites, three buildings offering 26 spacious two- or three-bedroom, extended-stay villas, two 18-hole golf courses, a luxurious, full-service spa, indoor and outdoor pools, three tennis courts, a 24-hour fitness center, 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space and Alexandra’s restaurant.
The resort sprawls over more than 1,000 acres near historic Ellicott City and Columbia, Md., and is within cannon shot of a dozen or so Civil War sites, numerous antique shops and a myriad of microbreweries that call Howard County and the surrounding area home. While the amenities truly categorize Turf Valley as a resort, it’s the absolute genuine service and care provided by the staff that sets this remarkable venue apart.
When Nick Mangione, who passed away six years ago, and matriarch Mary Mangione, purchased the property, it was a mere shadow of what Turf Valley has become. One of the Mangione’s 10 children, Pete, is the general manager of the property, and has overseen the advancement of it since graduating from nearby Loyola University.
“It has been a fun project because it has changed a lot over the years,” Pete said. When his family took over, Turf Valley was a country club with a public restaurant, two ballrooms and a clubhouse. “In a way, we are kind of an oddity in that we grew up on the country club side first, and were doing events before the hotel was even here. All that changed when we built the hotel in 1988. It was my father’s vision and my father’s money, and my blood and my sweat,” Pete chuckled. “My father really was a brilliant man.”
FAMILIAL FEEL, SIMPLE PHILOSOPHY
The Mangione’s business enterprise extends from assisted facilities, hotel property management, construction, risk management, property development, interior design and the legal field.
“We are a true family business. I have 10 brothers and sisters, and 37 nieces and nephews. We run it like a family business, and the employees truly become part of the family,” Pete said. “It’s a nice place to work. It’s fairly casual. I have fun doing this every day and I like to make it fun for everyone else. Probably what I am most proud of is that we have 15 directors or department heads whose average length of employment here is 19 years. It is a team that has been together for a long time. I came here right out of college. I learned from the school of hard knocks.”
That education is partial to leading with the heart, rather than from the checkbook. Those we met during our visit were polite, straightforward and genuine. “We lead that way, the directors lead that way and the sta follows the program. We’re not following a corporate plan that was sent to us by someone out of New York. We do it all right here. We believe there are two sets of customers: the external customers that come here to get what they want, and the internal customers, which is our staff. You take care of the staff, and they, in turn, take care of the external customers. It’s a simple philosophy. It’s a nice place to come to relax, and we try to take care of everyone the best that we can,” he said.
HIGH CULINARY MARKS
Chef Chris Vocci’s cuisine at Alexandra’s Restaurant comes with high praise. After spending five years at Baltimore Country Club where he learned to demand excellence, not perfection from himself and his staff, Vocci calls upon his mix of Italian, Pennsylvania Dutch, Scottish and Dominican heritage to create dishes from the bounties of the Chesapeake Bay and local farms. He and his staff create a plethora of customized menus for guests‘ special events, and he changes Alexandra’s menu three times per year. Traditional regional dishes like crab cakes and Maryland Crab soup mustn’t be redefined, but rather fulfilled.
“We don’t reinvent the iconic dishes guests expect; we have to deliver the expectation to the name of the dish,” Vocci said. His staff makes six gallons of crab soup three times per week, allowing each batch to settle overnight for maximum flavor.
Attentive customers will enjoy Vocci’s seared scallops, Louisiana shrimp and grits, and his amazing White Lasagna, which features roasted chicken, roasted mushrooms, truffle Parmesan cream, broccolini, oven-roasted tomatoes and crostini. For dessert, look intently toward the lemon Marscapone cheesecake and the pecan pie bread pudding with bourbon ice cream. If you are just passing by Turf Valley along I-70 one Sunday, make plans to stop for brunch. Served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., it’s a treat you should experience at least once.
THE TRADITION CONTINUES
Truly, one experience here will likely lead to regular visits in the future. Turf Valley is comfortable, like a visit to an old friend.
“They treat everyone with respect,” Vocci said. “The environment here is incredible. For people to stay here 22, 25 or 37 years speaks huge volumes.” It is simply part of the enduring legacy handed down from parents to children and beyond.
“We truly are the luckiest people on the face of this earth,” Mangione offered. “Everybody is healthy and we’re now introducing the grandchildren into the business. They have choices, just like all of us had choices. My father didn’t demand that we all come into the business, but this looked like a pretty good opportunity to me, so I took it.”
He said he doesn’t expect all 37 to come into the family business, but those who want to work are welcome, although he does hope tradition endures.
“I don’t foresee the resort changing so much in the future. I think we have grown up, and this is what we are,” Mangione said. “I expect for the property to be in the family forever. We have no intentions of selling it, and I can tell you that it is more for pride of ownership than it is about making money. This is really the showcase of our family portfolio.”
For guests, it’s a genuine masterpiece.
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