I like to watch Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (DDD) on the Food Network. We all know that great food can be found at hole-in-the-wall places. But Guy Fieri has a way of legitimizing these places and making the food sound spectacular. Sometimes I feel dejected because there’s a pretty strong likelihood that I am never going to get to Mac & Ernies in Tarpley, Texas or The Rock Café in Stroud, Oklahoma. As a result, I decided to only watch episodes that feature places nearby or where I am likely to travel in the near future. I’m much happier now.
When I happened to catch the DDD episode “Real Deal Italian” featuring DiPasquale’s Marketplace in east Baltimore, I knew it was time for an outing. I have friends who consider themselves dive connoisseurs. They have earned the title. I knew they would be the perfect companions. We decided to combine our journey with a visit to Dangerously Delicious Pies in Federal Hill. Because really, why should we limit ourselves to only one DDD destination.
Dipasquale’s is more of an Italian Market than a restaurant. They have a decent selection of wines, fresh fruit and vegetables, dried pastas and beans, and prepared foods that look amazing. The tables are squeezed into the back and the atmosphere is …well it’s kind of a dive. The restaurant is clearly proud of its status as a DDD destination. Guy Fieri posters are on the wall and his book, with a page dedicated to Dipasquale’s, is on display near the register.
When it came time to order, we had some decisions to make. The episode highlights homemade lasagna and Arancini rice balls, so those were a given. We also ordered a vegetable lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and a Greek salad. We were tempted to order a pizza as well because it looked incredible, but that seemed like too much food, even for us. Next time.
What makes the dishes so good in my mind (and in Guy Fieri’s as well) is the homemade ingredients—the sauce, the noodles, even the cheese, is made on the premises. The sauce is chunky and a little sweet and I could pretty much be happy slathering it on anything. In fact I took some home and just had it on eggs. The surprise of the meal was the salad. The wonderful taste of the feta cheese reminded me how important the quality of an ingredient can be, even in something as simple as a salad.
Dipasquale’s is definitely worth an outing but beware: they are only open until 6:00 pm Monday through Saturday, so plan accordingly.
If you have any interest in making arancini yourself, here is a link to the recipe:
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 4.5
Zagat rating: 27
DiPasquales, 3700 Gough Street, Baltimore
From Dispasquales we drove into the heart of Baltimore to Dangerously Delicious Pies. Our friends had been there before and were particularly excited to have us try the “Baltimore Bomb,” which is made from melted Berger Cookies. (if you haven’t had Berger Cookies you may not be able to fully appreciate the decadence and the sheer delight at the thought of such a pie, but trust me).
Unfortunately, we were told that they only had a few pies available, and we should look to see what was listed on their blackboard. No Baltimore Bomb. A crushing blow.
I ended up with a key lime pie. It was heavenly. I don’t want to know how much butter is in the crust. Truth is that at that moment, I didn’t care.
We also had a piece of chocolate chess pie and a piece of the Mobtown Brow (pecan pie with Swiss chocolate and caramel). I didn’t taste the pecan pie (yuck) but I thought the chocolate chess pie was just average. My husband, who comes from a family of pie mavens, thought the crust on the chocolate chess and the Mobtown Brow was “lousy.”
We were ready to leave when we overheard two people order and receive a slice of the Baltimore Bomb. What? They had it all along? We were incredulous. How could they have told us otherwise! After a brief skirmish with the staff, we left with a piece of Baltimore Bomb. We couldn’t even manage a bite at that point. But a few hours later we were ready to dig in. You know what? I am going to stick with the actual Berger Cookies. The pie is just too sweet for my taste.
My string of visiting restaurants that connect to reality TV remains unbroken, at least for now. Rodney Henry, the mastermind of the operation, was on an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay (Bobby won). Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes mentioned the Baltimore Bomb on the “Guilty Pleasures” episode of The Best Things I Ever Ate. And finally, Rodney Henry will appear on a future episode of Chopped. That’s a lot of reality for one guy. I may have to give the Baltimore Bomb another shot sometime.
Dangerously Delicious Pies, 1036 Light Street, Baltimore (also a location in DC on H Street, NE)
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 2.8 (except for the key lime pie which I would give a 4)
Happy New Year to All Who are Observing Rosh Hashanah. I’ll be taking a blog break to enjoy 5 star meals in the homes of friends and family. See you in 5771!