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Jan 6, 2008 09:02 PM

Baltimore Italian once again.

I just thought I'd update everyone on my recent Baltimore Italian experiences. My Fiance and I had lunch at Chiapparelli's on Sunday and it was a wonderful experience. The food was great, service satisfying and I really liked the decor and atmosphere. I had ravioli with ricotta cheese and spinach and she had penne pasta with vodka sauce. I'm looking forward to going back again.

We also tried Ciao Bella for lunch on a Sunday and although it's a pretty place and our Waitress was very professional and helpful, my Fiance did not like her dish - the breaded chicken was sort of dry and I had chicken parm and the chicken was a little dry as well. I actually liked my dish - I've always preferred my chicken cooked "well". I would go back, but I don't know about my Fiance

We have had good luck with Amicci's. We've been there about 4 times recently and the food was always good and they are probably the least expensive Italian restaurant in Little Italy. The decor looks like a Ruby Tuesday's or something, but the food and reasonable prices make up for it.

We tried Giovanna’s on Harford Road once and I just loved this little "hole in the wall" place. Their prices are dirt cheap and the food was so good. The people that run the place were very nice and seemed to appreciate our business. They don't have Servers, so you either take out, or grab one of the few tables when you can.

Roma's in Cockeysville actually had outstanding food. I had spaghetti and meatballs and my Fiance had swordfish. The garlic bread was amazing - especially if you like soft bread with tons of melted cheese on it. The Waitress was nice, but it seemed like a quirky place. They had some kind of Persian rugs for sale in the dining room, and everything seemed so "no frills" (plastic table clothes, thin cheap paper napkins, wall hangings from the 1970s)- kind of a Working man's place. Our tab was only $30.

We tried La Tavola in Little Italy several months ago for dinner, but all in all I don't think I would go back. The calamari appetizer was good, table bread was boring, my Fiance liked her dish although I thougth it was bland and I was really dissapointed that my piece of lasagna was such a small portion. The Waiter was sort of awkward as well. I did not enjoy it enough to recomend them. To their credit they did have lots of seafood dishes to choose from.

Liberatore's in Perry Hall is not too shabby. I've been there a couple of times in the past year. The decor at Liberatore's is very nice which make it the kind of place where you can make an impression, or take your time over drinks. I had been to Liberatore's in Timonium, but it was too many years ago to make any current judgement about them - it was good at the time.

I pretty much enjoy the red sauce, basic Italian type places. Some Italian restaurants on my list to try are Pasta Plus in Laurel, Sabatino's, Rocco's Capriccio, Vinnie's in Dundalk, and Fazzini's in Cockeysville. I'm sure there are more - I am open to suggestions. Another idea is too find a really good basic/red sauce place in New York City. I have family up there and would love to find one of those ledgendary old places where people line up because the food is so good.

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  1. Sammy's Trattoria on Charles is great

    3 Replies
    1. re: sas

      I have good friends who love that place, and so have been forced to go there a few times. I find the food horribly overpriced and mediocre to bad. I think the chicken marsala was horrid. While eating that, I understood why people used the term "shoe leather" to discuss inedible food.

      1. re: baltoellen

        I'd have to concur with baltoellen. We tried it once and won't be back. I wrote a review on it when we went.

        Funny how some people love some places you can't stand, and vice-versa. As the old saying goes, there's no accounting for taste....

      2. re: sas

        I have had wonderful food at Sammy's Trattoria, it is a bit expensive, but the Chicken Parm is wonderful.

      3. I wasn't aware that Liberatore's was a chain until now (I've only been to the Timonium one). I found it to be only so-so food: unimpressive but not inedible. Mostly it just didn't feel like it was worth the bill. Nice to hear you enjoyed yourself at the Perry Hall one though.

        Used to be a regular at Fazzini's and what I remember was overall pretty great. Their specials are traditionally good; I used to love when they made cream of crab soup. Old standby's included their pound of pasta with clam sauce (Red or White), the Shrimp fra Diavolo, the Chicken Marsala, or the Pasta Fazzini. They make a tasty calzone as well. Unfortunately I haven't been there in awhile. I should change that.

        Another place in the Lutherville area that I thought of was Pasta Blitz in this shopping center with REI and Superfresh. I was reminded when you said that Giovanna's was this order and sit down yourself kind of place. It seems to be getting good recs; I've only been there once. The portions are hearty and it's definitely flavorful. I think I remember both hits and misses in the little group I went with. I'll probably try again in the future though.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Wangus

          Another good place to try if you ever get down around the Glen Burnie / Airport area is Cantina Mama Lucia on Rt. 176 / Dorsey Road, near Arundel Mills. Great quick food. Order at the counter, take a seat and then pick it up when called. Everything is very fresh and delicious and they have quite a few specials every night. Also they have a buffet at lunch with Salad, Pizza, garlic bread, Italian vegetables, and a Pasta and Meat selection, for like $8.59 with Drink, all you can eat.

          1. re: RJJR

            Squires in Dundalk on Holabird Ave. My favorite eggplant parm and the best meatsauce pizza ever.

        2. Gotta give another plug to Cafe Gia in Little Italy.GO NOW!!! Bring your own wine and prepare to be wowwed by simple, fresh and delicious food. Take friends and get to know both the Gia's.

          17 Replies
          1. re: kimmer1850

            Isn't there a $7.50 corkage fee?

            1. re: hon

              Yes, $7.50 per bottle for wine, and $1 per bottle for beer.

              1. re: JonParker

                For something thats trying to be a neighborhood kind of place, I think thats silly. If you don't have a liquor license thats fine but just let people bring stuff in and don't charge them!

                1. re: hon

                  I think it's really silly too, and actually told Gia that. In fact, I see corkage fees at BYO places wrong on many levels, since i's not as though you're not ordering their wine/beer/etc. (Yes. I understand that there is extra work and extra glassses to wash, etc.) But, this all may be moot soon, since they will be going for a beer/wine license.

                  While I'm really enchanted by the place, they also have a $8 splitting fee for entrees at dinner!

                  1. re: baltoellen

                    $8 splitting charge???
                    BTW there are pix of Gia's wedding in the latest issue of Style magazine.

                    1. re: baltoellen

                      Even more silly, there's a charge for splitting appetizers, which I found really weird. It was one of the places that led me to start this topic:

                      1. re: JonParker

                        I saw your post. I didn't know Cafe Gia was the place that inspired it!

                        1. re: baltoellen

                          Geez, I wanna check out the place but I am not sure now that there are so many rules and charges!

                          1. re: hon

                            Hello Hon and JonParker,
                            Just to clarify, Cafe Gia does NOT charge for splitting or sharing appetizers and to clarify once more Cafe Gia charges $6.00 to split dinner entrees, not $8.00. Considering the average price is 16.95 for a dinner entree, $6.00 is quite reasonable. Hope to see you soon.

                            1. re: siciliana

                              My apologies for being off by a couple of dollars on the splitting fee. The post JonParker mentioned above talked about a splitting fee versus a sharing fee. I assume that there's no charge unless the plating is done in the kitchen?

                              Thanks for any clarification, since we're ready to try dinner at your place, but often order a few apps, and split an entree....

                              1. re: baltoellen

                                Yes, the splitting fee refers to the kitchen plating one dinner entree on two plates. we have never and plan to never charge a 'sharing' fee for apps or entrees, for that matter. see you soon.

                                1. re: siciliana

                                  What do you say to people who think your corkage fees are a bit high or that they even exist at all?

                                  1. re: hon

                                    I have eaten at and enjoyed the food at Gia's on a number of occasions. I think the $7.50 corkage fee is high but did not tell Gia that. I should have suggested Samos' charge of $2 per person which seems to have worked well there for a few years. As you say the acquistion of a liquor license makes the question moot.

                        2. re: JonParker

                          we do not charge for splitting appetizers. we have an entree splitting fee if one wants the items separated in the kitchen. as you well know when separating one full course unto two full size plates,the full course seems to look pretty lonely. consequently our kitchen staff begins to add a little more food to keep it company. thus the extra fee.however, if you guys want to share at table side, go for it ,i am happy that you enjoyed your meal ,will love seeing you again,but please,correct the statement, about the appetizer fee, as it is creating a misunderstanding with some of our diners who read this site.
                          thanks again.
                          the mom

                          1. re: giovanna blattermann

                            I am more than willing to take your word for it. I wouldn't want anyone confused.

                            1. re: JonParker

                              But did you eat there and were charged a fee for appetizer splitting, I am confused.

                              1. re: hon

                                I did eat there but did not have appetizers, and I was alone. I was pretty sure I read it on the menu, but I will defer to what they say.

              2. definately give pazza luna a shot. the homemade pasta is the best i've had. the mussels are perfect. the fish is very fresh, and the specials always deliver.

                1. On the recommendation of this board I tried Aida Bistro in Columbia and liked it quite a bit. They were inventive and had a light touch. A couple of us had the prix fixe while the guy who had the roasted chicken said it was terrific.

                  In contrast I was disappointed in Trattoria Alberto in Glen Burnie. The service was attentive but the food was unmemorable, even down to the bread. I didn't really mind that the decor was a little worn, but simple places like Trattoria da Enrico in the two Columbia locations I think offer better authentic food at a lower price.

                  I haven't been to Pasta Plus in years. I had a horrible experience with cold pasta and overly heavy and sweet sauces, and wrote them off my list as a place that emphasizes quantity over quality. A friend said the mistake was going at lunch but that seems a poor excuse.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: 2stepper

                    I stopped by Giovanna's Friday night. The place was packed. What happpened! didn't wait but moved on to Tyson's and ate at the bar. Great mashed potatoes with the hot beef sandwich and homemade gravy. Hospitable owner as advertised on this board.

                    I happened to pick up a Thursday Sun "Live" section and saw Karen Nitkin's January 3 flattering review of Giovanna's. Every word well deserved. But it looks like it will be hard to get a seat if the customers like it as much as Whitemarsh John and I do.

                    Maybe it will be easier now for Marie Rose and Valentino to sell the place although their personal warmth will be much missed.

                    1. re: baltimorejim

                      Bella Napoli in Pasadena (Mountain Rd) has the best pizza Ive tasted since NJ.

                      1. re: Turkeybone

                        I ate at Bella Napoli last night based on some of the rec's here, especially of Turkeybone due to the fact I too am from NJ. Well I was sadly dissapointed.
                        My wife and I had the garlic nots (frozen and re-heated not fresh) and bruschetta (OK but again, not great at all) to start.
                        For dinner I had the Chicken Voldostana (Chicken covered with prosciuttto, mozzarella, mushrooms and marsala sause over spaghetti and my wife had the Chicken parm with pasta.
                        The chicken in both dishes was flavorless as far as the actual meat was concerned and except for the extremely metalic and over salted taste of both sauces, the dish was uninspiring and bland. The pasta quality could have saved both meals but it was pretty terrible itself, undercooked, and seemed to be prepared using the terrible tradition in some kitchens of preparing (boiling) the pasta well before hand in the afternoon and reheating the pasta a toughness and destarched taste.
                        The service was GREAT though. and the atmosphere friendly. The food was not good and I would not return. I have a high bar set for italian food due to growing up in a very ethnic part of NJ and being used to 100% authentic from scratch italian food. This place will not give you that, but if you have a less sophisticated Italian food taste and never really had the "good stuff" I could see this as an alternative to a chain.
                        This Jersey boy will not return.

                        1. re: Bulldogg65


                          Sorry to hear your experience wasnt as good as all of mine have been. I live right down the road so we've eaten there often. I am Italian and my roommate as well, as is the entire kitchen running the place, very fresh off the boat.

                          That being said, it sounds like you went on a night the dad wasnt there, because Ive never experienced any of these off tastes, and the knots are definitely some of the best Ive had -- not at all frozen. I'm pretty sure Ive had the "good stuff", but if you dont think bella napoli is, youre going to have to travel a lot further than Baltimore to find what you're looking for.