The big news at Squire's, a pasta and pizza place in Dundalk, is that Bunky's Body Shop is being demolished so that Squire's can expand.
Small wonder. On a recent Saturday night, Squire's two floors were nearly full.
Small wonder. The food is good, the portions are big, the prices are low. For families on a budget or folks who want a tasty meal without a lot of hoopla, this is the place. Add to that one of the best cannoli my husband and I could recall having and you have Squire's, a small wonder.
The food is a notch above the decor and the service.
The decor: two bright, fairly unadorned rooms -- one downstairs for smokers; one upstairs for non-smokers. The service: Lacking a little in polish (a soup and our coffees had sloshed into the saucers), but well-intentioned. We sensed that our waitress had enough tables to wait on and did not feel comfortable taking much time with us. She did, however, relax a bit toward the end of our stay.
I began with a cup of Maryland Crab Soup and a salad, which was included in the price of my entree. The soup was nicely seasoned but had been simmered longer than I like and didn't have much crabmeat. But for $1.95, it's difficult to complain. The salad was fresh and crisp, though a bit heavy on the lettuce.
My husband started with the Small Antipasto ($4.95). Did they say small? They lied. The platter was brimming with lettuce peaking out from under a blanket of prosciutto, mortadella, capicollo and provolone and garnished with black olives, tomato wedges, peppers and slices of Italian sausage. It could have been a meal in itself and it was, frankly, better and more abundant than what is often served in Little Italy.
For entrees, I had Chicken Cacciatore ($7.75) and my husband had Fettucini Alfredo ($7.45).
The chicken was very good and was twice as much as I could eat. The two boned chicken breasts were tender, tasteful and smothered in a thick, homemade tomato sauce rich with chunks of green pepper and slices of mushroom.
My husband found the fettucini good, but not great. The sauce had quite a cheesy edge and lacked the creamy taste and texture that he finds the most appealing part of this dish. But there's probably no place around to get great fettucini alfredo for such a low price, so expecting greatness is probably not fair. The dish was certainly worth the money, and, like the antipasto and the chicken, was so large we took leftovers home.
On the side, we had an order of Eggplant Parmigiana ($2.95). It could more aptly be called Eggplant Mozzarella. The beautifully cooked eggplant and the obviously homemade tomato sauce were separated by a thick layer of mozzarella that yielded to the knife only after some work. The taste was fine, but would have been finer with less mozzarella.
Now, the surprise of the evening: the cannoli.
In a city where baked-on-the-premises cannoli are becoming ever-rarer, thanks to the influence of a bakery in Little Italy that turns out thousands of the Italian pastry (and does a fine job), it is certainly unusual to find a pasta and pizza house that makes its own -- and does a better job of it.
We split one cannoli ($1.95) that had a slightly thicker, slightly more flavorful shell than we usually encounter. But the real prize was the filling -- so creamy, with such a delicate balance and just a hint of chocolate drops. This cannoli, the only dessert Squire's makes itself, was the product of a truly fine cook.
It was, like much of the rest of the evening, a small wonder.
The bill -- at just less than $40 -- was small, too, by today's standards.
6723 Holabird Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Reservations: Recommended on weekends
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted
Handicapped access: Accessible