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


Jul 1 2011

Adventures in Coffee

There’s nothing I love more than a good cup of coffee (well, very few things anyway). I recently took a self-guided tour of the coffee shops in Towson for the local Patch.com news site and discovered what I like best about each.  You can read my article here.

Atwater's in Towson

Jun 29 2011

Truly a Feast

Driving through Mt. Vernon, with Baltimore's Washington Monument straight ahead.

Feast @ 4 East is a hidden gem in the Baltimore neighborhood of Mt. Vernon. Home to the Walters Art Museum, The Peabody Institute, Baltimore CENTERSTAGE, and the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center, the Mount Vernon Cultural District is a destination neighborhood for visitors and native Baltimoreans alike.

Feast @ 4 East is the dining room of 4 East Madison Inn, a Mount Vernon townhouse that boasts a rich history. Now a boutique hotel, the building formerly housed The 4 East Madison Orthopedic Association, and its physicians are said to have treated celebrities such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Katherine Hepburn, Joe DiMaggio, John F. Kennedy, and Mickey Mantle.

Dining at Feast @ 4 East is a distinctive experience, and my husband and I had a memorable dinner there one night last spring. Walking through the door, I felt as though I was entering not a restaurant, but someone’s home. A Chesterfield sofa and old-fashioned chair with an embroidered seat welcomed us into the foyer, and my eyes traveled up the staircase to the guest rooms on the second floor. The hostess took our name and led us past the parlor and into the dining room. Filled with antique furniture and featuring a regal blue and gold color scheme, triple crown molding, and ornate architectural details, the townhouse is certainly grand. But the space also has a lived-in feel. While some visitors might find the crack in the marble fireplace and edge-worn rugs slightly shabby, I appreciated the authenticity of the surroundings and immediately felt at ease.

The restaurant is BYOW (with a  $5 corkage fee), so there’s no need to wait to place a drink order. After taking a sip of the pinot noir we brought along, I noticed some offbeat touches in the traditional room. Two bulldogs standing sentinel (as candle holders) on the mantle gave me pause, as did the tiny figurines of people and pigs scattered near their feet. Each table was set with a bright pink tulip in a bud vase—unexpected, but a nice contrast to the blue and gold.

The dining area had only 10 tables, mostly set for two, and included a few overflow tables in the front parlor. Despite the intimate arrangement, the space didn’t feel crowded. Jazz, originating from a bookshelf stereo in a corner, streamed in the background.

The menu had something for everyone, with entrees such as grilled bison, half rack of lamb, and even a nightly vegan creation. Entrée prices hovered around $20, and starters, salads, and desserts ranged from $8 to $12.

The food arrived quickly and was served on mismatched china; a chipped blue and white plate only added to the charm.  As we made our way through a gruyere and onion tart, olive tapenade bruschetta, and mixed greens salad with blue-veined cheese, fresh fruit, and roasted walnuts, I mentally revised my initial assessment: I was not just dining in someone’s home—our host had tremendous culinary skill.

The sweet potato gnocchi with sage butter and linguine in a truffle cream sauce that arrived next were both rich and comforting. Although they were listed on the menu under “Light Plates,” they were filling, and just the right portion size for pasta.

Everything so far had been delightful, and dessert was an offer I could not refuse. Belgian chocolate pot de crème and apple bread pudding, accompanied by strong French pressed coffee, were perfectly sweet endings.