A nice new feel, good old smells

TAKEOUT

Well-stocked deli has fine food fragrance

July 21, 2004|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ceriello has that reliable Italian deli smell - lots of cheeses and meats, with a hint of garlic. What it doesn't have, at least not yet, is the character good delis develop over time.

Sitting in the refurbished Belvedere Square in North Baltimore, Ceriello still has a nice new feel. The deli cases are clear, and the food is incredibly fresh-looking. There's a full selection of fresh meats, as well as frozen pasta and the usual assortment of Italian grocery items.

In the back is the well-stocked deli, with a host of salads, entrees, sandwiches and a pizza or two. Service was friendly and efficient, and we were pleased with our meal.

The Capri sandwich ($6.49) was a winner - thick slices of good mozzarella cheese, with thinly sliced tomatoes and a layer of flavorful, almost minty, basil, swabbed in olive oil and served in a crusty Italian roll.

Also in the win column was the Americano sandwich ($6.49), roasted pieces of chicken breast with more mozzarella and roasted red peppers, again served on an Italian roll (baked by Atwater's bakery next door). The staff will heat the sandwiches up for you, if you like.

Lasagna ($6.49 a pound) had no surprises, which is a good thing for one of our most comforting foods. Pasta was layered with cheese, plenty of flavorful ground meat and an unobtrusive tomato sauce.

We tried several side dishes, with mostly good results. Delicious potato croquettes ($6.99 per pound) were deep-fried, crusty puffs of mashed potatoes. Broccoli rape ($8.49 per pound) was steamed and served with olive oil and big cloves of garlic. The rape was fresh, although a bit chewy, and the slightly bitter taste may not be for everyone.

Roasted eggplant ($9.99 per pound) featured extremely thin slices of eggplant wrapped around pieces of provolone and roasted peppers. I'm still not sure how the deli managed to slice the eggplant so thin, but the whole creation was unusual and quite tasty.

Finally, I couldn't pass on the stuffed squid ($14.99 per pound), which had little squid bodies with shrimp tails poking out of one end (like a freeze frame from Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom). Unfortunately, the dish was a disappointment, chewy squid stuffed with small shrimp and some pieces of mystery seafood. It turns out the squid, unlike most of the other dishes, is made somewhere else, and I'm sorry I bothered with it.

The only dessert was a cannoli ($3.25), which was creamy and just right, especially accompanied by an Italian orange soda.

Ceriello

Food: ***

Service: ***1/2

Waiting area: ***

Parking:*** 1/2

Where: 529 E. Belvedere Ave., North Baltimore

Phone: 410-532-1840

Web site: www.ceriello finefoods.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Italian salads, entrees, sandwiches, up to $14.99 per pound; credit cards accepted

Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *

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