Getting better with age Restaurant: Germano's in Little Italy has maintained high standards over the years serving old favorites and Tuscan specialties.

September 21, 1997|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

Germano's is one of those rare Baltimore restaurants that over the years has gotten better and better. Looking back at my review when it first opened in the late '70s (the place was then known as Trattoria Petrucci), I see nothing about the place that really differentiated it from other restaurants in Little Italy at the time.

Through the '80s, though, owner Germano Fabiani gradually changed the menu to reflect more of the food of his native Tuscany. Periodically he would have Tuscan dinners, featuring dishes like bruschetta, bread soup and mixed grills of meat and poultry. What I like about the menu now is the balance: regional dishes for the more adventuresome, plenty of old favorites when you just feel like fried calamari followed by lasagna. A thoughtful wine list that emphasizes reds, particularly Chiantis, complements either.

I also like the dining room. It's a warm, comfortable setting with exposed brick walls, a cream and brown color scheme and art nouveau posters. A charming, attentive waitress added to our enjoyment of the evening.

This food is comfort food, not haute cuisine. The bread is chewy, flavorful and fresh -- just right for dipping in marinara sauce. Luckily the small, tender mussels we started with were bathed in just what we needed: an admirably fresh-tasting marinara. It was quite spicy, but the flavor of the tomatoes burst through.

You could start with a piping hot puff of a spinach souffle, baked to order and surrounded with bechamel sauce. (Not, I have to admit, what I would choose as a sauce -- it's a bit heavy.) Follow it with Germano's signature dish, osso buco. The generous portion of tender veal shanks in an intricately seasoned white wine and tomato sauce usually comes with oven-roasted potatoes. My friend ordered instead a heavenly swirl of mashed potatoes seasoned with a little garlic and Parmesan cheese.

Germano's has a fine selection of grappas (a dry, colorless brandy), and grappa adds zest to the sauce of another signature dish, gigantic pink shrimp in their shells. They are superb, played off against gently charred, grilled zucchini, onions, peppers and other vegetables.

A special of clams in white sauce over linguine sounded too ordinary to bother with. But the friend who ordered it had the last laugh: The tiny clams were wonderfully tender. Perfectly seasoned, the pasta was so hot that the cheese our waitress sprinkled on it at the table melted deliciously. The dish was decorated with a few small clams in their shells and spangled with a confetti of parsley -- very pretty.

On the dessert front, things weren't quite so flawless. The thick coffee sauce smothering a panna cotta (a delicate egg custard) was flavorful but unappetizing-looking. Zabaglione was mousse-like in texture rather than a light froth. But all was forgiven because of the Amaretto sponge cake, light as a cloud, studded with strawberries and sauced with the warm froth I expected when I ordered the zabaglione.


Where: 300 S. High St.

Hours: Open every day for lunch and dinner

Prices: Appetizers: $1.95-$6.75; entrees: $12.25-$24.95; major credit cards

Call: 410-752-4515

Pub Date: 9/21/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.