Nearly all of us are familiar with the term pub crawl, but how about Dishcrawl?
One of the newcomers to the Baltimore culinary tourism scene, Dishcrawl executes a simple concept of progressive dining in various communities around Charm City. Diners are led by an enthusiastic tour guide and have the opportunity to taste some of the best offerings at each of four restaurants, all while enjoying the ambiance of the neighborhood and the company of the other tourists.
Invited to join the last Dishcrawl of the season, in November, I had the pleasure of “ciao-ing down” in Little Italy with Rebecca, our energetic guide, and about forty other guests.
The first of our four courses began at Cafe Gia, a gorgeous restaurant in Baltimore’s Little Italy, adorned with beautifully painted murals and run by the always welcoming and warm Gia, herself. A meal at Cafe Gia is always a treat, and this was certainly no different.
Our plates included three samples of the kind of savory deliciousness one can expect to find at this cozy Italian bistro. First, a tasty bruschetta on crusty bread was prepared with creamy crescenza (an Italian cow’s milk cheese), perfectly salty prosciutto, and the bright touch of arugula. A sweet balsamic glaze was drizzled on top. The second sample on the plate was a warm grilled octopus over mashed garbanzo beans. Finally, we tasted the spinach and ricotta manicotti in a decadent and perfectly rich bechamel sauce.
After enjoying our first course, we headed out for a short walk to our next destination, Ciao Bella, a long time member of the Little Italy community of restaurants. Originally owned by his father, Ciao Bella now has Tony Gambino at the helm of this mainstay where traditional Italian cuisine is served in a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Once we settled in to the bar area, we enjoyed some of the house made sangria before diving into a fresh garden salad with a balanced house dressing as well as penne alla vodka and chicken marsala. On a chilly night in November, nothing hits the spot like some Italian comfort food.
Next, we popped down the street to the newest addition to Little Italy – Ozra. Ozra serves Persian food in a bright and elegant atmosphere with some of the best service around. While we weren’t dining on traditional Little Italy style cuisine, we were able to taste traditional Persian cuisine, which was a nice twist on the Italian-focused tour. Our meals included chicken saffron, beef kubideh, and a shrimp kabob, all garnished with a roasted tomato, lemon and onion and served homestyle to be shared amongst the new friends made along our dining travels. The simple preparations of meat and seafood resulted in ridiculously delicious and comforting dishes.
Finally, to top the night off, our group stopped at Vaccaro’s for our last course of the evening – dessert! While Vaccaro’s has an amazing selection of cookies, pastries, and any other Italian dessert you can dream of, we were able to dive into some of their amazing gelato. As though that weren’t enough, we were actually able to each choose three different flavors. It was a sweet end to a pretty fantastic dine around experience.
Now that the weather has warmed, it’s time to check out upcoming Dishcrawl adventures! Check them out at http://dishcrawl.com/baltimore/.