I spent a week in Baltimore, Maryland in September and made the opportunity to visit and eat in the Little Italy neighborhood three times. Little Italy is just east of the Inner Harbor area and west of Fells Point, an easy walk from either. Just follow your nose and the smell of baking bread and you'll find it.
Little Italy is an authentic neighborhood where Italian Americans grew up and live, it is not some gaudy tourist trap where everything is designed to sell you something, unless you include the food.
A local woman walking her dog saw me fumbling with a map (occasionally I still use one, especially if I'm looking for a great pizza) and asked me if she could help (you don't find this kindness everywhere). I told her I was looking for someplace to eat with a great pizza, and I was looking for the neighborhood bocce ball courts I had heard about. As it happens, they were very close. She didn't hesitate and said Isabella's is the very best pizza in Little Italy, and the bocce ball court was right behind the pizzeria. A 14 inch two topping thin crust pizza (is there any other kind?) and a drink came in at under $20.
As I sat waiting for the pizza I saw maybe a score of customers come in who knew the man behind the counter. This was a place that sold to the local community and neighborhood, not just to tourists who may wander off the beaten path and venture into the neighborhood. Clearly, this place could survive without tourists.
After some of the best pizza I've had in a long time, I walked the 30-40 steps to the bocce ball courts and watched some neighborhood teams playing against each other and took some pictures. Next it was time for dessert.
|Two men play guitar on a bench along an uncrowded street|
Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop is one of those places where even at 46 I felt like a kid in a candy shop. All sorts of exotic looking pastries, cannoli, gelato and eis lined the glass cases and counters inside. What to have?
If you find yourself in Baltimore for any reason for a day or more, go to Little Italy for dinner. Get off the beaten path and chain restaurants lining the Inner Harbor and venture a few blocks to be rewarded with the great food and ambiance of this charming little neighborhood.