Especially for those of us who stayed on campus during spring break, this time of year tends to feel a little monotonous; You can only look out the windows of Brody for so long before you go a little stir crazy.
As the weather warms up in Charles Village, I, for one, am beginning to experience some serious wanderlust. Unfortunately, the mid-April workload prevents most students from escaping Baltimore for some place a little more fun (and the ticket prices don’t help).
Luckily, south of the Inner Harbor lies a mini-European vacation: Little Italy.
The neighborhood was a hub for Italian immigrants in the late 1800s, and still retains much of that old-world charm. There are tons of local attractions, including bocce ball courts and Segs in the City, Baltimore’s own Segway touring company.
Of course, most folks associate the area with its mouthwatering restaurants. Some of my Italian-American family’s favorites are Amiccis and Chiapparelli’s.
Amiccis, located at 231 High Street, prides itself on being “a ‘very’ casual eatery” and offers tons of seafood and gluten-free options in addition to traditional Italian fare.
Perhaps the most charming aspect of the restaurant is its decor: It’s covered in Italian movie posters, with everything from The Godfather to Life is Beautiful.
Chiapparelli’s is right next door and offers a slightly more formal dining experience. They are well known for their Chip’s Salad, a house-made Caesar salad that goes great with their fresh bread and house-made Sangria.
The waitstaff of Chiapparelli’s is known to be particularly friendly. My last visit featured a waiter chatting about his recent adoption of a fish, complete with video.
And any night in Little Italy would not be complete without a trip to Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop.
Around the corner from the above restaurants, Vaccaro’s is best-known for their 60-cent cannoli days. The deal happened on the second Thursday of each month last year, and while a similar deal has yet to be announced for May, the pastries are certainly worth full price.
If you’re uninterested in delicious Italian food, the ambiance of the neighborhood is more than enough reason to stroll down its sidewalks. At night the streets are lit up with colorful, homemade milk jug lights and, of course, the iconic “Little Italy” signs.
Furthermore, the classic Baltimore row house architecture combined with the cobbled streets of the neighborhood produce a visual that’s romantic, even poetic.
For those who are staying in Baltimore for the summer, the neighborhood offers tons of things to do. In both June and August there are festivals honoring Saints Anthony and Gabriel. The events are open to everyone and are a great taste of Italian-American culture.
Throughout the summer is the annual Open Air Film Fest. Screenings take place outside, and viewers sit in Ristorante Da Mimmo’s parking lot, on the corner of High and Stiles Streets.
With free popcorn and dozens of fellow patrons, the screenings were some of my favorite nights in the city this summer.
The Fest has been going on since 1999 and features a wide array of films, both classic and contemporary. It always opens with Moonstruck, the Cher-Nicholas Cage rom-com.
Non-Italian-specific attractions in neighborhood include the Civil War Museum and the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House.
Whatever time of year you’re going, Little Italy is convenient to get to from Charles Village. Simply hop on the Purple Route, and get off at the Inner Harbor stop. From there, walk down Pratt Street about a half mile, and turn right on Albemarle.
As we head in to finals period, the longing to leave campus is palpable. Whether you go there for festivals or just an Insta-worthy cannoli, let Little Italy be your mini-vacation.