Thanks to my love of The Wire, I have had an irrational fear of Baltimore, as well as the unfounded belief that the dining scene there is limited to lake trout, hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants, and crab shacks. While I maintain that The Wire is arguably the best show that has ever been on television, Mark and I learned that the Baltimore dining scene has a lot more to offer during our recent day trip, including ridiculously delicious deli subs (an area in which D.C. is sorely lacking).* For lunch, Mark's sister and brother-in-law, who live in Baltimore, were kind enough to take us to Di Pasquales Marketplace, an adorable grocery/deli offering "everything Italian." Di Pasquales was featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," and for good reason. On our visit we were able to get a wonderful lunch picnic to eat at Baltimore's Patterson Park.
The store was filled with all sorts of goodies, including kitchen and houseware tools, imported Italian products, and housemade cheeses, meats, and pastas. I very nearly walked out with an armful of salamis and other deli meats, but realized it was not the best for either Mark or me to have such irrisistible yumminess in the house. The deli section of the market offers a wide variety of prepared items, including pastas, pizzas, subs, salads, and desserts (and the mouthwatering strombolis (?), pictured below).
I got the Old World Italian, with sopresseta, cured capicola, prosciutto, fontinella cheese, tomato, and Di Pasquale's homemade olive spread (below). The amazing and delicious variety of meats dominated this sub, and yet, the star of the show was the fresh baked Italian bread - crusty, chewy and full of flavor, which balanced perfectly with the salty meats. I'm pretty sure it was the best Italian bread I've had. I also loved the extra flavor and tang imparted by the olive spread.
We also got a couple orders of arancini, Sicilian rice balls made with meat or vegetables (below). These enormous concoctions were not like any rice balls I've ever seen - massive, sliced in two, and very, very rich - Mark likened them to lasagnas made with rice.
Mark got the Santino, with prosciutto, fresh housemade mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and tomato (below). The sub was served on the same incredible bread, but unlike my all-meat selection, got a refreshing boost from the inclusion of the beyond-creamy cheese, basil and tomato. We switched subs for a bite or two, but each of us preferred our own choice.
We went on to have a first-rate dinner that evening, and with that, one day was able to change my mind completely about what Baltimore has to offer. I think we may even make another day trip to sample more of the city's cuisine...but I'm still gonna keep my eyes peeled, and steer clear of Hamsterdam.
*Taylor Gourmet is a very good start, but I'd like to see D.C. move more in this direction.