Italian food is never high on my list. Actually, it’s never on my list at all. If people ask what I’m in the mood for, it’s never Italian. No particular reason, it’s just Italian food never really thrilled me. It’s a different strokes for different folks, variety is the spice of life, to each her/his own type of thing, whatever.
So, it was a bit odd, to say that least, that I was even interested in, let alone found my way, to Café Gia in Little Italy, a place recommended by kimmer1850 on the New Baltimore Routine thread.
Anyway, I find a spot right outside this cute little place on Eastern Avenue at the corner of High Street. It’s cute inside, too. I mean, cute with a capital “C.” It verges on too cute, but manages, somehow to just feel comfortably instead of overwhelming, well, cute.
There were a few tables of people—blue-collar workers and business people—eating in the downstairs dining room, and definitely a party upstairs. I waited for a few seconds and was invited to come and sit at the counter. (I adore lunch counters, btw, so much warmer than eating at the bar!)
It didn’t take long to realize a few things. One, this is a real-live Baltimore place. The kind of place where one immediately feels comfortable, in fact, it doesn’t take long to feel like “family.” (The ‘mother,’ who was working behind the counter, kisses her fingers and touches your hand. And, it’s not forced, just warm and friendly.) And, two, it’s the kind of unpretentious yet non-divey type of place that I always wish there were more of.
So, I get the one page menu, check it out a bit, and say, I’ve heard that the eggplant parm is very good. The woman also eating at the counter chimes in to say its great. (Talking to fellow diners is one of the reasons that eating at the counter is so wonderful.) A short conversation ensues, and who should this fellow counter diner be? None other than fellow ‘hound, kimmer1850! We went through a few rounds of ‘this is TOO funny’ and settled down to talk food.
Anyway, on to the sandwich: It’s on good Italian bread, with eggplant that’s very thinly sliced and lightly breaded and lightly fried, piled on like so much deli meat. The cheese is minimal, and the sauce is also minimal, and tastes, well, just sort of sunny. (I guess that if I actually knew about Italian food, I’d have a name for this particular kind of tomato sauce.) At some point, I marveled at how beautiful the sandwich looked, with those lovely layers of thin eggplant slices with a bit of red from the sauce. It’s served with a teeny tiny house salad.
This sandwich tastes so unfamiliar that it takes a few bites to warm up to it. What’s so very odd is that its eggplant parm but is really light, no drowning in cheese and sauce and think fried slices. In fact, I had planned to eat only half the sandwich and bring the other half home, but something about it had me slivering my pre-doggie bag half, until about two bites were left to bring home. I’m looking forward to heating this up, and having another go at it. Very interesting, indeed. And, this culinary treat came for the grand price of $7.95.
And, thanks again to kimmer1850 for the rec! Again, I hope you can join us on our Charm City chow yahoo group. And, despite never being in the mood for Italian, I will definitely be back to try out more. I have my eye on the Italian sausage sub.
Now some more details:
Although Kimmer1850 mentioned the hours in the other thread, I’ll also try to recount them here. Café Gia is open Monday through Saturday for lunch, and Thur-Sat for dinner. Saturday they are also open for breakfast.
The ‘mother’ told me to tell people that the best time to check out the place (or ‘get the full experience’ in her words, which I guess means being able to chat with the wonderful folks who work there) would be after about 1 pm during the week, with the best night for dinner definitely being Thursday.