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Recommendations in Little Italy?

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I just moved to Baltimore and would like to explore Little Italy for lunch soon. Any recommendations - from a food and espresso perspective - would be appreciated.

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  1. My rec? Skip Little Italy and head over to DiPasquale's on Gough Street in Highlandtown for lunch. It's a great little Italian deli. Most of Little Italy is mediocre at best. Bocaccio is good but pricey.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ko1

      My family has lived in the Baltimore area for 2 years. My husband and I have recently made it our personal mission to eat at each and every restaurant in Little Italy. So far, Amicci's has my vote for flavor and value. It is a great family restaurant. Especially like the appetizer with round bread covered in a shrimp and sauce. I have heard that their desserts are not made here, so might want to steer clear and head to Vaccaro's Bakery after a walk around the block. Sabatino's is also quite good and has a cute "date" atmosphere, and I love their salad and garlic bread. Chipperelli's has great callimari. Da Mimmo's was fun, but very, very pricey, and I didn't think that the food was that much better than the less expensive restaurants above.

    2. an espresso perspective? Heh heh. Heh. Erm, no.

      Have you ever seen Big Night? The movie about two Italian immigrants who really know how to cook regional cuisine, but go out of business because patrons expect spaghetti and meatballs and Louis Prima on the sound system like Pasquale's Italian Grotto up the street?

      All of Little Italy is Pasquale's Italian Grotto. Pasta, red sauce, clam sauce, fried calamari, meat parmesean, Catcho di Giorno, ugh....I'm so sick of trying to find any place down there that isn't just phoning it in. I had a passable meal at Della Notte last year, so that's the best I can do. Maybe someone else has discovered a recent gem. I hope so.....

      1. I've always found La Tavola to be a cut above!

        http://www.la-tavola.com/

        2 Replies
        1. re: hon

          I agree with the rec for La Tavola - I went there for the first time a few months ago and found the food to be rather good. We had a mix of pasta, veal and fish and every one at the table was pleased with the food.

          1. re: hon

            I also liked La Tavola back in the day when I lived in B'more. Have not been on some years, though. It is still being posted about on these boards as being good by B'more's Little Italy standards (okay), so FWIW, it was always my "go to".

          2. Well, unfortunately, I don't have much to offer for fine dining, or really eat-in options, as I have always been disappointed. However, I highly recommend the sandwiches at Il Scalino, the Italian deli. You should definately hit Piedegrotta as well for fantastic Italian breads and pastries. Of course, Vaccaro's is good as well for a slightly less traditional take on Italian desserts...I do love their giant eclairs.

            1. I've always liked Amicci's for it's reasonable prices and good food (in that order), but it does seem to have slipped recently. We had a good and non-traditional saltimbocca recently at Chiapparelli's. Also inexpensive by Little Italy standards.

              Many of the restaurants in the area get their desserts from Vaccaro's. Don't know about the espresso, but the cannoli at Vaccaro's are excellent.

              1. I think Baltimore's Little Italy gets a bad rap on chowhound. My mother is first generation US born: I grew up on my great grandmother and grandmother's Italian cooking. And I think there are several restaurants serving very good food to be found there!

                (Not to mention that it is a warm, vibrant and welcoming community. Even if I thought the food were only mediocre, which I don't, I'd still go there to support it. Neighborhoods like LI give Baltimore its character and charm. It's one of the many things I love about the city.)

                On the more expensive side, I'd try Aldo's, particularly over the comparably priced Da Mimmo's. Meals are usually well paced and the service just the right balance of being unobtrusive yet attentive. Pasta dishes are simple and traditional, featuring only a few ingredients. But they manage to be light (not overly sauced or portioned) with elegant flavor combinations.

                I would also second the recommendation for La Tavola. They serve the old standbys, but there are usually some more inventive dishes on the menu as well. I think last time I was there I tried a gorganzola walnut ravioli and enjoyed it very much. Would also toss in a positive word for La Scala.

                For a more down home, heaping-plate-of-pasta-that-satisfies experience I'd recommend Sabatinos. You won't get anything particularly new or sophisticated(and I've definitely had some misses here), but I keep going back because when they're good, they're good. Stick with the basics. Be prepared for it to be loud, especially the later in the evening you show.

                Luchtime? Amicci's is tasty, as is the deli attached to La Scala.

                For bakeries love, love, LOVE Piedegrotta. Breads are fresh, soft and chewy; cookies amazing. But don't buy into the "skip Vaccaro's because it's for tourists" hype. The cannolis are excellent. And if you're sharing with three or four, their huge gelato sundaes are a decadent (and satisfying!) way to end a night out.

                1. La Sacala and La Tavola come to mind as solid Italian dining options in Little Italy, with the edge to La Scala.

                  1. I almost agree with the last poster, la scala and la tavola are the best two restaurants down there, but I'd give the edge to la tavola.

                    1. Thanks all, for your feedback...

                      1. Haven't been to La Tavola, but after reading these recs, I'll have to check it out.

                        La Scala is one of my LI faves. More on the Southern style cooking, but fantastic. Boccaccio is superb for a Northern flavor. These are the two LI restaurants I frequent the most. Unfortunately, I need to get down there more often.

                        Charmed Girl is right - don't let the touristy vibe of Vaccaro's dissuade you. They make some of the best cannoli in the nation - and I've tried them all over the nation. Servings there are usually big and plentiful. The coffee and espresso is okay as well.

                        The best thing about Sabatino's is that they're open late. I mean way late. Like 2am gnocchi and sausage late. Tasty and fantastic at 2am. But I've never been there during "normal" service hours.

                        DiPasquale's is an excellent lunch recommendation. Light, casual and the food is tasty. It's a deli/market, so you go in, place your order, then come back to the register to pay. They've got wines and other stuffs you can stuff yourself too.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: onocoffee

                          If you like La Scala, try Il Scalino (the little step). Its a deli with some nice grab-and-go options. You can see the chef from La Scala in there sometimes, but generally it is run by a very nice guy named Rocco. He knows his stuff. Give it a shot.

                          You should definitely try La Tavola. I spent about 2 1/2 hours in there on Saturday eating almost everything. By far, their best stuff is there homemade pasta. They had a fresh black spaghetti (squid ink) pasta in spicy tomato sauce this weekend as a special that was fantastic.

                          One question re Vaccaro's: "The coffee and espresso is okay as well"? Is this the REAL onocoffee? Try the coffee at Il Scalino (especially if Rocco makes it). They use imported Italian beans (read into that what you will) but Rocco makes a very nice ristretto, usually pulls two and drinks one with you.

                          Definitely agree with the diPasquale's rec. Its the best lunch place in the city. Period.

                          Ciao.

                          1. re: KAZ

                            Hahaha - Kaz, I find the Vaccaro's Cappuccino to be what it is: something that goes along with their cannoli. Is it the "ultimate" cappuccino? Probably not. But that sugary sweetness with superheated milk and just too much whipped cream is almost a comfort food in Baltimore.

                            I will have to try Il Scalino soon.

                            1. re: KAZ

                              Unfortunately, Rocco is no longer at Il Scalino (and I miss him.) But, if Nino or Nick happen to be there you'll find the espresso as wonderful as ever.

                          2. I know you said Little Italy for lunch, but one of my favorite Little Italy experiences is there movie night. This isn't a food thing, per se, but they have vendors or you can grab dinner before of get something to go and take it there. I can't give you an address as a Hon-friend took me there one night. It was truly a great experience though.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ktmoomau

                              www.littleitalymd.com