Jan 25 2012

A Taste of Italy at Home

I know I said I would post more about Rome (and I will!), but last weekend I introduced a friend from out of town to some of the charms of Baltimore, and I was inspired to write about the little gem that is Iggies Pizza.

Baltimore may not be New York or Chicago, but it is possible to find delicious pizza if you know where to look. Located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, Iggies is laid back, with an artsy vibe. The walls are a warm yellow, the ceiling and duct work are painted brick red, and fanciful paintings of Italian greyhounds add to the cheerful atmosphere. Diners can sit at small tables for four or a long communal island. On this recent visit we were seated at the island and had some fun conversations with the people around us.

Iggies is a self-service establishment with no wait staff—you order at the cash register, they call your number, and you pick up your food from the counter. They have a cart where you can grab your own silverware, plates, and glasses. Instead of tipping, diners can donate gratuities to charity if they wish, and Iggies donates to a different local organization each month.

The restaurant is also BYOB (with no corkage fee), and the staff will even provide metal buckets with ice to keep it cold while you eat. Water and soda are available for purchase.

The Menu

The restaurant uses imported flour in the dough and 100% D.O.P San Marzano tomatoes in the sauce. Iggies also boasts house-made mozzarella.

The menu selection includes several unexpected taste combinations, and delightful options for vegetarians as well as omnivores. Purists will enjoy the back-to-basics Margherita: tomato ragu, fresh mozzeralla and fresh basil. Cheese-lovers might try the “Cinque Formaggi” with mozzarella, parmigiana, goat cheese, asiago, fontina, sea salt, and roasted garlic.

The "Selvaggio" and the "Alice" (with sausage added to half for my non-vegetarian friend).

If you’re in the mood for something sweeter, the “Pera Saporita” features pears and gorgonzola with a balsamic reduction. My personal favorite is the “Alice,” with basil pesto, mozzarella, fresh tomato, garlic spinach, goat cheese, and parmigiana. Pizzas are available in small and large sizes and range in price from $8.95 to $16.95.

If you can’t decide, consider the Iggies designated “Pizza of the Month” or “Pizza of the Year.” And, if you’re in a rush, the restaurant offers carry out or a pre-made take and bake option for fresh-from-the-oven pizza at home.

Starters include an antipasto plate ($8.95) or a selection of salads ($5.95-$6.95). And, if you still have room for dessert, Iggies offers gelato, cannoli, and pignola cookies.

Useful Info:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Noon-9:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, Noon-10:00 p.m.
Sunday, Noon-8 p.m.
Closed on Mondays

Address: 818 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410.528.0818


Jan 18 2012

Roman Holiday

My husband and I decided to buck tradition this holiday season, and instead of racing around the country trying to visit every branch of our family tree we flew to Italy and spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s in Rome. Our trip wasn’t as spur-of-the-moment as it sounds…my husband proposed at the Pantheon, and ever since our wedding in 2002 we’ve been saying we would go back to celebrate our 10th anniversary. With grad school, work, and travel plans already filling up the coming year, we decided it was now or never. It was a great choice–not only did we take advantage of off-season pricing, but we discovered that winter is a great time to visit the Eternal City. Now that I’ve had a couple of weeks to catch up at home and the office, I’ll spend the next few blog posts sharing the highlights.

The Pantheon

The Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese

I first need to give props to our hotel, the Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese. We landed at Leonardo da Vinci airport at 7:11 am after a very long flight and, even though we arrived at the hotel way before check-in time, our room was ready. They even upgraded us to a corner room with three windows overlooking the gardens across the street. (“Our Christmas present to you,” said the attendant at the front desk.) The decor was elegant yet comfortable, and the lobby had a hint of old-Hollywood glamour with sparkling chandeliers, rich wooden bookcases, and dramatic black and white photos on the walls. A breakfast buffet was available each day, but at 30 euros per person it was pricy. Most mornings we opted to order a la carte or grab the complimentary breakfast-on-the-go (croissants, apples, and bottled water with a news summary available in English, Italian, or French). The new rooftop restaurant, La Tarrasse, had fabulous views of the city skyline and St. Peter’s Cathedral, and it was the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine after a day of sightseeing.

The streets were filled with light.

When I think of Rome, the first thing that comes to mind is the juxtaposition of ancient and modern. I love seeing legions of Smart Cars zipping past the Colosseum. Wandering the narrow streets, it’s amazing to see so many Italian women navigating the cobblestones in sky-high heels. And tourists use smart phones to snap pictures of historic monuments like the famous Fontana de Trevi (Trevi Fountain) and the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps). In December, the city was decorated for the season, with lights strung between buildings, store windows filled with gift displays, and a huge decorated tree next to the Colosseum.

The Spanish Steps

The first day, we focused on the ruins. We started at the Colosseum and then spent hours wandering around Palatine Hill, where the city of Rome originated in 753 B.C., and The Roman Forum, where the monuments have curious, magical names like the Arch of Septimius Severus and the Temple of Vesta. The weather was perfect — sunny with a clear blue sky and temperatures in the 50s — and the crowds were much smaller than the last time we had visited, in the peak tourist month of June. It was the perfect beginning to the week.

The Arch of Septimius Severus