A Big Night In Little Italy

Going out with the family or on a romantic date? Our guide will help you choose just the right ristorante.

July 13, 2003|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

Ask a visitor to name three things about Baltimore, and they're likely to be crab cakes, the National Aquarium and Little Italy. But ask a Baltimorean where to eat in Little Italy, and he might not be able to tell you.

If you don't know your way around the city's most famous neighborhood (at least as far as eating goes), we're here to help. We've grouped the restaurants in categories as a guide, but don't take them too seriously. You could argue -- and somebody surely will -- that most of these restaurants fit into more than one of the categories. That's a large part of their enduring appeal: Most of Little Italy's eating places offer a little something for everyone.

Special occasion

Aldo's, 306 S. High St., 410-727-0700, entrees: $18-$45

* Veal is a specialty at this very pretty restaurant. You can reserve a private table for four in the wine cellar.

* Signature dish: tournedos Rossini, filet with foie gras and black truffle-porcini mushroom sauce

Boccaccio, 925 Eastern Ave., 410-234-1322, entrees: $18-$27

* Known for its seasonal menu of northern Italian dishes. Fine dining in a quiet atmosphere.

* Signature dish: this time of year, soft shell crabs in a lemon-butter white-wine sauce

Da Mimmo, 217 S. High St., 410-727-6876, entrees: $19-$40

* Cuisine of every region, but particularly the south. A limo will pick you up if you live in the city.

* Signature dish: veal chop Florentine style with garlic, olive oil and rosemary

Rocco's Capriccio, 846 Fawn St., 410-685-2710, entrees: $15.95-$32.50

* Northern Italian dishes and Mediterran-ean seafood. Flambeed dishes like steak Diane and cherries jubilee are a specialty.

* Signature dish: grilled veal tenderloin with shiitake mushroom sauce

Family outing

Amicci's, 231 S. High St., 410-528-1096, entrees: $10.90-$15.90

* This very casual spot has mostly pasta dishes -- except for the signature dish. Great for kids.

* Signature dish: pane rotondo, toasted Italian bread with six jumbo shrimp and scampi sauce

Cafe di Roma, 413 S. High St., 410-685-1151, entrees: $11-$25

* The gelateria now has a dining room upstairs serving moderately priced, traditional Italian food.

* Signature dish: 36 different flavors of gelato

Vaccaro's, 222 Albemarle St., 410-685-4905

* Little Italy's famous pastry shop supplies restaurants around the city with cannoli and other goodies.

* Signature dish: cannoli, of course

Baltimore institutions

Chiapparelli's, 237 S. High St., 410-837-0309, entrees: $13-$28

* Italian comfort food like Mama Chiapparelli's ravioli and motherly waitresses.

* Signature dish: the famous chopped salad

Sabatino's, 901 Fawn St., 410-727-9414, entrees: $9-$29

* A huge restaurant with inviting small dining rooms. Keep an eye out for politicians and local celebrities.

* Signature dish: pan-fried shrimp parmigiana

Velleggia's, 829 E. Pratt St., 410-685-2620, entrees: $11.95-$21.95

* Excellent homemade pasta, warm-hearted service, and moderate prices.

* Signature dish: Velleggia's Pasta Trio, lasagna, manicotti and stuffed shells

A taste of home

Caesar's Den, 223 S. High St., 410-547-0820, entrees: $12.50-$31

* Casual family atmosphere, mostly south-ern Italian cooking. All Italian wine list.

* Signature dish: grilled tuna with tomatoes and capers in balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Ciao Bella, 236 S. High St., 410-685-7733, entrees: $13-$30

* A little bit of both: family-oriented but still a white-tablecloth restaurant. Lots of Italian classics.

* Signature dish: Veal Chesapeake with crabmeat tossed in a seafood cream sauce

Germano's, 300 S. High St., 410-752-4515, entrees: $12.50-$26

* True regional cuisine. (The region is Tuscany.) Lots of red sauces with a bit more kick than usual.

* Signature dish: osso buco, braised veal shanks

La Scala, 1012 Eastern Ave., 410-783-9209, entrees: $13.95-$29.95

* Dishes from Sicily, especially fresh seafood. Think of it as the chef-owner's dining room.

* Signature dish: grilled Caesar salad

Al fresco dining

Dalesio's, 829 Eastern Ave., 410-539-1965, entrees: $14-$25

* A small, intimate restaurant with a balcony that seats 20. Northern Italian and spa cuisine.

* Signature dish: duck ravioli with sun-dried tomatoes and brown butter sauce

Luigi Petti, 1002 Eastern Ave., 410-685-0055, entrees: $12.95-$27.95

* Traditional southern dishes. Three plant-filled decks that seat 150 diners.

* Signature dish: lobster fra diavolo

In a class of their own

Della Notte, 801 Eastern Ave., 410-837-5500, entrees: $12-$36

* A large menu and more than 700 wines. An imposing Mediterranean villa decor and, more important, a free parking lot in back.

* Signature dish: frutti di mare, seafood in marinara over linguine

La Tavola, 248 Albemarle St., 410-685-1859, entrees: $14-$24

* The chef is from Venice, the menu is classic Italian while the specials are more sophisticated.

* Signature dish: zuppa di pesce, an Italian fish stew

Off the beaten track

India Rasoi, 411 S. High St., 410-385-4900, entrees: $9-$17

* Northern Indian food -- no, that's not a misprint -- including tandoori dishes, curries and vegetarian meals.

* Signature dish: chicken tikka masala, a mild curry in a tomato-based sauce

Mo's Crab & Pasta Factory, 502 Albemarle St., 410-837-1600, entrees: $12-$35

* Casual seafood, homemade pastas, crab cakes, steamed crabs and some Italian dishes.

* Signature dish: garlic crab, a hard-shell steamed, cut in pieces and tossed in garlic sauce

Mo's Fisherman's Wharf, 219 S. President St., 410-837-8600, entrees: $19.95-$33.95

* The upscale, tuxedoed version of the other Mo's. Seafood, including 23 different fresh fish daily.

* Signature dish: crab cakes

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