We were a little short of time for lunch but we still wanted something fabulous, so we put in a call to DiPasquale’s, Highlandtown’s Disneyland of imported Italian foods, and for a mere $36.70 three of us fed ourselves handsomely.
DiPasquale’s is justly celebrated for its Italian cold cut sub and its deep-dish lasagna. But did you know that the deli does wood-fired brick oven pizza the way it’s supposed to be done?A great brick oven pizza should puff and blister the moment it hits the hot floor of the oven. The dough should cook very quickly, with a crisp crust and tender crumb, and the wood fuel should impart a light smoky taste to the toppings. The toppings should be flavorful enough to stand up to the smoke and the intense heat of the oven.
We ordered a Lorenzo di Arabia ($11.95), a 14-inch pie piled high with eggplant, feta cheese, roasted peppers, Kalamata olives and rapini, the delicious bitter green also called broccoli rabe. It came out of the oven blistered and a bit charred, which is a very good thing in the brick oven pizza world, and the smoky eggplant and rapini paired very well with the feta and olives. It was a great pizza–maybe not one you would order for the football game, but one for date night with a DVD. Or “Brideshead Revisited.” Or, hey why not, “Lawrence of Arabia.” Buy a nice bottle of Chianti to go with, and you have a very promising evening.
Other intriguing pizzas are the Caspian, with tuna, capers, onions and olives; and the Constantino, with chicken, spinach, tomatoes and mozzarella; each $11.95.
DiPasquale’s has wonderful salads. I am devoted to the grilled chicken Caesar, which features a delightfully sharp and vinegary dressing, and the garden salad. So for something different we tried the Insalata Pescara (large, $11.95), which is mixed greens with squid and shellfish and tuna on top, brightened with capers and red onions. The salad came with a house-made balsamic dressing, but the seafood was so good we ate the salad naked.
The insalata pescara is also available as a side salad for $6.95.
For vegetarians, there’s the Calabrese ($8.95 sub, $6.95 sandwich) which is stuffed with artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, onion, olives and tomatoes, dressed with oil, vinegar and herbs and topped with sharp provolone. I suppose vegans could order it without the cheese, but the provolone is seriously good.
One of the most enjoyable things about DiPasquale’s is the wait for the food, because the store has a great selection of wine and beer, coffee, cold cuts, bread, oil and every Italian delicacy imaginable. We picked up a bottle of espresso-flavored soda and a big bag of chocolate cookies.
DiPasquale’s, 3700 Gough St. in Highlandtown, is open every day but Sunday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. To order call 410-276-6787. There are some tables for eat-in.
by Jacqueline Watts