Italian around Baltimore
I'm sort of on an Italian kick. I use to pre-judge Little Italy as being expensive and not worth it, but since I've had some good experiences at Amicci's I have regained faith. Last weekend my Fiance and I ate at La Tavola which I found had a high rating for food on the Zagat site. The food was ok - they had lots of fish-dishes which I was not really in the mood for - maybe it's because La Tavola is Northern Italian - I was looking for old school food like lasagna and baked ziti and the like which is what comes to mind when I think of Italian. I had lasagna and my Fiance had some kind of pasta with white sauce. I am very tempted to try Sabatino's - even though everyone tells me their food is not good like it once was and it's a tourist trap. Sabatino's seems like such a Baltimore institution and I almost feel left out because I've never eaten there.
Before I became a Foodie, I remember getting a lot of enjoyment out of simple, family type Italian places such as Squire's in Dunalk and Fazzini's in Cockeysville. My Fiance was not as passionate about Squires as I was. I remember eating at Fazzini's in Cockeysville a bunch of years ago and I enjoyed every dish I had. The Owner would come out into the dining room and chat with patrons. I was told they are still there - it's probably been 8 or 9 years since I've been up that way.
The guy who cuts my hair suggested a place on Holabird Ave in Dundalk called Vinny's. I have been reluctant to try it because it does not get recognition from Zagat or the attention of some of the local Critics. Maybe I should try it anyway.
Another consideration is to try some of the really "top shelf" places rated by Zagat and Baltimore Magazine such as Trattoria Alberto in Glenn Burnie, Boccaccio, La Scala or Aldo's. I don't really mind spending $150 on dinner for two - I just wonder if it might be lost on me since I crave garlic bread, lasagna, and ziti when I'm in the mood for Italian as opposed to whole fish and other fancy gourmet dishes.
When I was a little kid I had a Great Aunt (a little old Italian lady) who would wake up at the crack of dawn with her daughter every Sunday and slave away all morning preparing the family dinner. She would make things like hand-made ravioli and pizza bread. It was un-pretentious and all of us agreed that it was the best around. Where can I find that?
It would seem to me that if homestyle Italian was what you were craving, La Tavola might not have been the most apt choice. If I'm craving homey Italian i usually hit Chiapperelli's, their ravioli's are hand made on Mondays and that, as welll as Osso Bucco and their meat sauce are the things i crave when in the mood for Italian.
Sabatino's is worth it for the right stuff- only get the old school pasta type dishes. My favorite is baked rigatoni with meatsauce- melts in your mouth! and of course they are famous for the bookmaker salad/dressing. One nice thing I've mentioned on CH before is that you can get 1/2 portions of many dishes, and they are still large for less $. So, it's not too pricey for you to try out!
and if you're ever bored or venturous, drive to the Italian market in Philly for even better old school dishes than LI.
Bocaccio's is the best Italian resto in Balto. Having said that, I add that there is no such thing as "Italian" food. The cooking in the North is very different esp Venice, (no tomatoes) than in the South. Most people who think of "authentic" Italian are thinking of the red sauce places they went to when they were young. Those places, like Chiapparelli's, do not exist in Italy (except in some tourist areas).
For my money, Bocaccio's is the only above-average restaurant in Little Italy. The food is great and, though relatively expensive, has a homemade feeling and taste to it. The dining room is rather opulent in an old world sort of way. The only good thing about Sabatino's is that it stays open after midnight. It's good if you've got a real intense Italian craving in the wee hours. But the food is pretty lousy. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Sotta Sopra. Great Italian food, but also a bit on the costly side.