Since it was founded in 1849, Little Italy continues to be a hub of international culture and a gathering place for Baltimore’s Italian population. But at the crossroads of zones like the Inner Harbor, Harbor East and historic Fells Point, the area sees other influences too. While High Street bustles with many of the city’s prime trattorias, a variety of restaurants in and around the area also defines the ’hood.
Here’s where to go in Little Italy if you’re looking for;
When Gioacchino Vaccaro opened his pastry shop in the heart of Little Italy in 1956, he filled a cannoli-and-rum cake void that Baltimoreans didn’t know existed. Today the family at Vaccaro’s, led by son Nick, continues the Italian traditions of fresh biscotti, tiramisu, cassata cake (cannoli cream and almonds), gelato and cannoli shells at the flagship and at other locations in Belair, Canton and Hunt Valley.
Once the home of Gunther and National breweries, Baltimore is known for its role in the history of beer. Today, inventive brewers revive the brewing culture and craft beer reigns. Although Heavy Seas Beer brews about 8 miles outside the city, its Little Italy outpost Heavy Seas Alehouse serves pints and Loose Cannon IPA-spiked dishes in the old Holland Tack Factory.
Chef Nino Germano at La Scala takes a new approach to the area's traditional Italian plates with his “Mexitalian” happy hour menu (4:30 to 7 p.m. weekdays, 3-8 p.m. Sundays). The $6 specials include "Italian quesadillas" (gorgonzola and prosciutto) and Mexican flatbreads as well as classic antipasti like calamari and caprese salad. After recent renovations, La Scala has Baltimore’s first indoor bocce court.
Bagby Restaurant Group’s own Cunningham Farms in Cockeysville, Maryland, supplies its three neighboring eateries set between Little Italy and Harbor East. Bagby Pizza Co. serves brick-oven pies like simple tomato and basil or inventive duck confit and pear, all topped with farm-fresh ingredients. Steps from the pizza parlor via the shared courtyard, upscale bistro Ten Ten offers a sandwich-heavy lunch menu with options like the house-made corned beef reuben plus hearty shareables (deviled eggs, short rib mac and cheese). At dinner, "land and sea" options include the pork ragout or seared rockfish with root vegetable ratatouille.
Fun ‘n’ Games
Mustang Alley’s ups the beloved Baltimore pastime, duckpin bowling, with indigo lighting, cocktails and crab cakes in a former factory. Players aim grapefruit-size balls at squat pins that “fly” mallard-like through the air, a game said to have been invented by two Orioles teammates at the turn of the 20th century. Eight 10-pin lanes are also available for the more traditional set.
Brooke Sabin and Kerri Pinchuk also contributed to this story.