Little Italy vs. Little Havana

baltimore vs. miami ethnic enclaves

January 03, 2009|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,jill.rosen@baltsun.com

What Baltimore's Italia lacks in size, it makes up for in red sauce-steeped charm - just like mama used to make. After bowls of pasta at Amicci's or Da Mimmo's or Aldo's or Sabatino's - all various Italian terms that roughly translate to "entrees that cost more than you think they should" - couples could stroll the crisscross of short streets in minutes, but instead take a more circuitous path, licking heaping gelato cones from Vaccaro's and stopping to watch someone's grandfather toss the bocce ball. When the neighbors aren't toasting saints with meatballs and fried dough, which, truth be told, seems to happen every other weekend, they're inviting the city over for movie night, cinema al fresco, bring your own chair.

There's no shortage of cities that claim a little piece of Italy. Miami stands essentially alone with its piece of Cuba. Long the hub of America's Cuban-American population, Little Havana smells like hand-rolled cigars and Caribbean spices and simmers with a distinctively Latin cultural, political and artistic energy. If you can't get to Cuba, this will suffice. While Little Italy gets nostalgic over Nancy Pelosi, Little Havana has Elian Gonzalez. Arroz con pollo. Fried sweet plantains. All Little Italy's feasts combined might equal one Calle Ocho - home to the world's largest conga line.

EDGE: : Little Havana. Hard to argue with the world's largest conga line.

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