Posted by: mchleen | June 16, 2009

Brava (piccolla) Italia! Grazie mille!

mmmmeatball Saturday the we hit-up the Saint Anthony’s street festival in Little Italy, Baltimore with fellow american-italian Greg and “proxy italians” Ross and Sarah. I guess I could say we went for cultural enrichment, but if I were honest I’d admit that we were there for the food and booze (precisely in that order).

Baltimore’s Little Italy loves itself a party! And with just $1 admission it’s better than a bargain. They close off the streets, and because it is a residential neighborhood many of the sidewalks are staked-out stoops where you can meet many a friend and their family. There’s a big bandstand where musicians play all the old favorites and everyone dances in the street – be you 1 or 100! And honestly, I’ve never seen more spirited and truly talented dancing as I did with some of the more senior couples. Matching outfits? Check. Perfect foxtrot? Check. Twinkling eyes and cheek-cracking grins? Check and double check! One elderly couple in matching red satin (claiming 7 children of their own!) took a particular shine to Ava, dancing with her, playing hide-and-seek in the crowd, and clowning to beat anything a Ringling Bros. clown could muster.

Food glorious food!!! Everything is good except, in my humble opinion, the pizza (surprising I know, but the crust was too thick and the sauce and cheese too sparse). I don’t have the energy to go into the specifics of it all but suffice it to say that you will find all of this, and all of it DELICIOUS: olives, fried dough, pizza, meatball subs, sausage subs with peppers and onions and optional broccoli rabe, calzones, pasta and lasagne, gelato, infinite assortments of cookies, wine, beer, italian cocktails (Italian Iced Tea: vermouth and ginger ale, Italian Sunrise: OJ and amaretto), and a few more things that I’m sure I’m forgetting. **BURP**

Sundays during any festival include a bocce tournament. Do NOT get between an italian man and his bocce. Trust this. Watching these fellas who have honed their games (technical and psychological) for years is a treat. It’s something you’d expect to see on “The Sopranos”, minus the gratuitous violence; lots of talking with the hands, shouted insults and challenges, true skill and competition. Great beer-in-hand entertainment!

Continuing on in this carnival-like atmosphere we hit up what else but carnival games!…pass up the gypsy-looking scammer, trust me…Ang won for Ava (a purple unicorn doll which I promptly lost for her), and Greg won for Kathee (a penguin, unceremoniously dubbed “Fingers the Penguido” which testifies to the number of beers already consumed, but seriously is that not the most fabulous name??). There are also roulette games for $0.25/bet where you can win mugs of cash, wine and cookies, or gift baskets. And the silent auctions always have great prizes like sporting event tickets and vacations and yet more gift baskets.

I’ve neglected to mention that since Kathee couldn’t join us, Greg brought along a whole stinking cooler to load up with booty to bring home and place at his lady’s feet when he returned home. So he quizzed some of the more senior Little Italians about the best local deli/bakery and off we went!

Isabella’s Deli and Brick Oven Pizza: made-to-order brick oven gourmet pizzas and panini, as well as a small but quality selection of antipasti, meats and cheeses (we picked up some sopprasotta and parmesano reggiano…savory delights!).

Vacarro’s Italian Pastry Shop: any cookie or gelato (we had the chocolate sorbetto and a chocolate dipped cannoli…gah! delicious!) that you can imagine, made the true italian way, and if you don’t want to go to Baltimore they also have satellites in DC at Union Station and in the GWU neighborhood, as well as in Annapolis!

So be sure not to miss the next street festival August 22-23 to celebrate the end of summer (Feast of Saint Gabriel) and again in September for the Taste of Italy! I’ll be there, but you’ll never see me: my face will be eclipsed by either a tilted cup of Peroni beer or a gigantic meatball sub – alternately and at all times.

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