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Jan 23, 2008 07:56 PM

Baltimore vs Washington for "red sauce" Italian Restaurants.

Does the Baltimore Metropolitan Area have better traditional "red sauce" Italian restaurants then the D.C. Metro Area? I'm not talking about trendy and creative Italian cuisine - I'm talking about classic, "old school" Italian restaurants.

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  1. You mean classic, old school Italian-American restaurants?

    Probably the various places in Little Italy rule surpreme. I'd give Baltimore the advantage in this competition.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Roland Parker

      Advantage Baltimore. Kinda helps when you actually HAVE a Little Italy; DC's died a long time ago. Since Gustis, Bella Roma, and now AV have passed, I'm pretty sure the only real Italian-American places left worth going to downtown are Famous Luigi's and Bistro Italiano. DC's market is skewed toward the higher-end Italian; not enough people want spaghetti and meatballs to make it profitable and those who do end up going to Bucca di Beppo.

      1. re: monkeyrotica

        We are going to be in Baltimore Saturday to christen our daughters new apt (Water St in the city). I don't think she's that far from LI. Do you (or someone) have a rec for a good moderately priced old school Italian-American rest where we can order wine along with some good red sauce dishes? This would be for lunch, not dinner.

        1. re: bnemes3343

          Amicci's is open on Saturday 11:30-11:00 PM serving from their dinner menu. They are Little Italy's bargain basement and serve lots of the "old school" Italian dishes. They are a favorite on Digital City for Cheap Eats and Italian food. Amicci's also is rated well by Zagat. I've eaten there about 5 or 6 times in the past year or so and really like them. They have wine and a full bar. The Waitresses are very young and laid back but the food makes up for it. I would make a reservation or get there before you're too hungry because they are very popular. My Fiance swears by their rigatoni bolognese and their garlic bread w/ cheese appetizer is good.
          231 S. High Street
          (410) 528-1096

          1. re: Whitemarshjohn

            Thanks. I actually found a reference to them on an earlier post and was thinking of heading there. I hadn't thought about a reservation for lunch, but if they will take one I'll certainly make one. Assuming we end up there I will post a review.

            edit: Ok, they don't take lunch res. for just 3, but we'll probably get there on the early side.

            1. re: bnemes3343

              Vinnie's is a little off the beaten path in B-More but very worth it and I think better then Amiccis, the couple of times I ate at Amiccis I didn't like the food at all.


              1. re: bnemes3343

                I second the Amicci's rec...we always make a point to eat there when we're in Baltimore. My husband loves their eggplant parm and I love the lasagna as well.
                Helpful advice: forgo the desserts at Amicci's and head across the street to Vacarro's for some excellent canollis and almond cookies (you can eat in or get it to go--you might want to do to-go for an afternoon snack since you'll be stuffed from the yummy Amicci's lunch).

              2. re: Whitemarshjohn

                So we ended up at Amicci's on Saturday for lunch; me, my wife and our daughter. I guess I asked for a 'red sauce' place, and I certainly got it (for better or worse). The bad part: (1) Way too much sauce (I'm pretty sure I heard Mario Batali crying somewhere) although I think that's what people are expecting and they are just catering to it. It's not like the sauce isn't tasty (2) the pasta (rigatoni and ziti) was cooked a little too far beyond al dente (well, ok, more than a little). The latter they should work to correct.

                BUT, the portions were large, decent flavor, good prices, great service, multiple choices for wine by the glass in each category. Highlights were the Caesar salad (very good and served chilled as it should be) and the shrimp in my daughters pasta dish - nice size, cooked properly, good flavor.

                The garlic bread with cheese was good and the calamari weren't as rubbery and overcooked as some that I have had (it's pretty much impossible to get good fried calamari in a restaurant, so I only ordered it to be ornery).

              3. re: bnemes3343

                La Scala on Eastern Ave. IMO is one of the best in Little Italy.


                  1. re: kelarry

                    La Tavola looks very interesting and is on my list as a possibility. La Scala looks good too, but does not appear to be open for lunch.

                    1. re: bnemes3343

                      Would La Scala and La Tavola fall into the catagory of classic, old school, red sauce Italian?

                      1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                        Looking at their menu, I would say Amicci definitely 'Yes', La Tavola, maybe not (well, they do have a good old Lasagna with meat sauce), but their choices look good too! La Scala pretty much 'No', but they are not open for lunch anyway.

                        1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                          I second the motion on La Tavola, kelarry. May very well be the best Italian in Lil Itlee.

              4. How about splitting the difference? Pasta Plus in Laurel serves very good, simple red sauce dishes.

                3 Replies
                1. re: ILoveBacon

                  I really have to check out this "Pasta Plus" - seems everyone is recomending them. I thought with a name like "Pasta Plus" it would just be another place like Olive Garden or some other cookie cutter, but it's got to be good from all the recomendations on the forums.

                  1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                    i dont have time to write up a review on it but i went to Pasta Plus and wasn't impressed. In fact, I liked my local (at the time) Mama Lucia better (the one off of Rockville Pike in MD) for red sauce italian-american fare.

                    1. re: MarcDC

                      Pasta plus used to be one of the best Italian around. Been a few years but the veal with fontina and the homemade pastas were fabulous. The Italian subs in te other side were very good too.

                      Mamma Lucia of of 104 near TJs is excellent too. I think the bolognese sauce is killer. I prefer it over Aida Bistro which many enjoy.

                      In LI I don't really go for the red sauce joints but we have a few favorites there as well depending in what you want.

                2. Baltimore wins hands down. Famous Luigi's is a disappointment.

                  1. I'm a big Chiapparelli's fan for old school type Italian. The spinach ravioli's are the best, get them with the marinara sauce and you'll be pleased.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tennisgal1206

                      I went to Chiapparelli's with my Fiance a couple of weeks ago for lunch/dinner on a Sunday. I absolutely fell in love with the place. My Fiance thought it was pretty good, but was not as impressed as I was - she likes the food at Amicci's. I had the spinach ravioli and it was out of this world. The Better Half had some kind of pasta with vodka sauce, but she should have ordered it with chicken. I loved the atmosphere. When we first walked in there was an older Italian looking guy who rushed over to us and found us a table. The front dining room we sat in had lots of light coming in - it was a really nice day and the people at the next table were speaking Italian. There were families and extended families eating there (probably many of them Italian Americans). I will definately go back again sometime soon.

                    2. i'm sure Baltimore is better w/ their Little Italy but if you are in DC, you must try Anna Marias in Dupont. It is fantastic, mom & pop old world italian. And you actually get a salad w/ your meal instead of having to order it separately! The marquis out front says it all...there in all her glory is Anna Maria from probably back in the 50s or 60s. Classic! And the pics inside show all the famous folks who have dined there. prices are pretty reasonable for dupont also.