Top Ten Italian Places Outside Little Italy
Little Italy gets all the attention, but Baltimore and its environs have plenty of good Italian food elsewhere. Here's my list of the Top Ten Italian Restaurants Outside Little Italy, which of necessity left out a lot of places. (La Piccolo Roma in Annapolis comes to mind -- I just haven't been there recently enough, and no one I know has.) And I could probably have made up a whole other list of best Italian delis, judging by the comments under Next Tuesday's Top Ten.
Here's my list. Let me know what you think. ...
(Kim Hairston/Sun Photographer)
*Aida Bistro in Columbia. Too bad about the shopping center location, but this moderately priced bistro and wine bar has more style inside than out, plus freshly made pasta and a fresh fish of the day. A small plate menu offers versatility. It's family-owned and family-run.
*Cafe Troia in Towson. This is my choice when I want a relatively quiet place for good conversation and reliable Italian food. The dining rooms have a European feel to them, and the food ranges from competent to sumptuous. (Don't miss the osso buco or the gnocchi.)
*Cinghiale in Harbor East. It's too new for me to have eaten there yet, but it belongs on this list if only because of its aspirations: to be Baltimore's first authentic enoteca, a place to drink wine, and osteria, or tavern. The chef is from the highly regarded Maestro in McLean, Va., and the food is traditional northern Italian.
*Liberatore's, area locations. I'm not going to pick one from this local restaurant group. This family-operated business does a good job of figuring out what type of Italian restaurant the neighborhood needs and supplying it. (The Cosmopolitan Bar & Grill in Canton is part of this group, with some of the same family dishes.)
*Pazza Luna in Locust Point. The folksiness is gone, replaced by authentic Italian cuisine and a new seriousness about wine. It's an earthier, more casual place than its sibling, Sotto Sopra, with a short menu that changes regularly. Prices are lower and portions are bigger.
*Osteria 177 in Annapolis. In spite of the name, which no one seems to be able to remember the number of, this is an entertaining restaurant, from its funky high style to its engaging food. The food sometimes strays from classic Italian, so a case could be made it shouldn't be on this list, but if you try the pasta, the seafood stew or the tiramisu, you'll forgive me.
*Sammy's Trattoria in Mount Vernon. Sammy's combines Little Italy-style southern Italian food and service (big portions, attentive servers) with the good-looking decor of a Mount Vernon townhouse restaurant. Your best bet is the family-style dinner where you put yourself in the chef's hands.
*Sotto Sopra in Mount Vernon. This was the first Italian restaurant in Baltimore you could describe as chic. The northern Italian fare usually lives up to the setting. Don't miss the pizzas, as well as imaginative pastas like squid ink ravioli filled with escargots and Brie. And the vitello tonnato is a must-have.
*Trattoria Alberto in Glen Burnie. This is no longer the well-kept secret it once was, and plenty of Baltimoreans now trek down to a strip mall on Crain Highway to get excellent northern Italian food and Old World service. I've even heard -- gasp -- that the decor has recently been updated.
*Victor's Cafe in Timonium. I wanted to include at least one quick casual Italian place on this list, and this is the one that got the highest marks from LIVE's cheap eats reviewer Karen. You no longer get the water view, but it sounds as if the food (mostly pastas and pizzas) is actually better.