When I asked Blake Smith, who has a degree in finance, why he decided to open a pizzeria, he sounded incredulous: "You have to love pizza. C'mon."
His new brick-oven pizza place is the Bagby Pizza Co. (1006 Fleet St., 410-605-0444, BagbyPizza.com), just open this week in Harbor East. It's in the old Bagby Furniture building, which is where it gets its name.
His chef, if you can call a pizza maker a chef without sounding a little high-falutin', is Kyle Gillies. The menu features gourmet pizza, sandwiches, salads and pasta.
With all its restaurants, Harbor East was lacking that most obvious choice for a successful eating place in a recession, a pizzeria. But still, Baltimore has a lot of them, from the sentimental favorite, Matthew's in Highlandtown, to Joe Edwardsen's Joe Squared coal-fired pizza in Station North, with Iggies in Mount Vernon falling somewhere between.
I asked Smith what made his pizza unique, and he mentioned its thin crust, made with Italian flour and Italian tomatoes and fresh, not frozen, ingredients.
His personal favorite pizza, he said, is the four cheese with chicken. But you can get any topping from grilled vegetables to fennel sausage with caramelized onions.
Hours at the moment are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., but Bagby could be open later on the weekends if things go well. The eatery is BYOB.
Tapas plus : Restaurants cannot survive on tapas alone - at least not in the harbor area. I don't have a lot to back this up; but first Pazo went from a trendy small plates restaurant to offering dinner as well, and now Talara, the new tapas and ceviche bar in Harbor East, is following suit.
Recently it added "mid plates" to its menu, which sound an awful lot like traditional entrees. These include seared duck breast with three-bean medley, chili-rubbed salmon, and a chimichurri filet mignon. All are priced under $20.
Talara has also just started serving lunch seven days a week.
Gluten-free goods : There is something sinful about how tempting a cupcake can be, but most bakeries won't admit it. Now a new one has just opened in Charles Village, and the name says it all: Sweet Sin Cupcakes & Cafe (123 W. 27th St., 301-305-1491).
The baked goods don't sound too naughty to me; they are made with all-natural ingredients and are gluten-free.
The offerings change daily, but they might include pumpkin, Key lime, mango-gingerbread, lemon cheesecake or chocolate ganache cupcakes.
Gluten-free breads, muffins and cakes are also available. The cafe serves local favorite Zeke's coffee.
Hours right now are Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Reopened : La Piccola Roma (200 Main St., 410-268-7898), for many years Annapolis' premier Italian restaurant, has reopened under new owners.
It closed last New Year's Eve. Maureen and Marc Lucas, the new owners, have hired back chefs Jose Ayala and his brother Ulices.
The restaurant is open daily 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. until "whenever the last people leave."
The Deal of the Week
Where: Oceanaire Seafood Room, 801 Aliceanna St., Harbor East
The Deal: Surf and turf (6-ounce filet and 1 1/4 -pound lobster) for $29.95
When: Through October