Baltimore is not a terribly big city, and I've lived either on it's outskirts or actually in the city for most of my life. Granted, we didn't come into Baltimore a lot when I was a kid, save for the occasional Little Italy visit, because my parents are from Annapolis and the DC suburbs, so we spent more time heading south than north. But still, I'm always surprised when I learn about an old Baltimore institution that I've just never heard of.
Especially when it's practically in my backyard.
That's what happened this weekend. On Friday, Alicia and Mike and Brad and Eileen were positively raving about the meatball subs at Mastellone's, a deli in Parkville that's not too far from the Maryland School for the Blind, where Alicia and Eileen work. Alicia had made meatball subs using the Mastellone's sauce, but she couldn't stop talking about the shop's meatballs. Everyone made us promise that we'd try the subs for ourselves soon.
Sunday morning, the extra hour of sleep motivated me to actually go out to pick up lunch. I drove over to Parkville, getting lost only once (which is ridiculous anyway - Mastellone's is about 12 minutes from my house, if that) and I headed into the store.
I'm a little intimidated, sometimes, visiting places like Mastellone's for the first time. It's been in the area forever and it definitely has the feel of a neighborhood institution. It's fairly small, with a decent (at quick glance) selection of wine in front and the rest of the walls lined with wire shelves packed with jars and boxes and various Italian ingredients.
The left side of the store is given over to a deli case stuffed full of gorgeous meats and cheeses and olives and sausages. The shop was moderately crowded - there were about 4 other customers (in that space, that feels moderately crowded) - and everybody seemed like a regular.
That's where I get nervous. Who do I talk to? How do I order? Is there some sort of protocol that I should follow? Am I going to be the "South to drop off, moron!" of the store? So I hung back for a second, and a nice lady behind the counter asked what she could get me. I ordered the subs and felt a lot more comfortable.
The subs took about 15 minutes to prepare, so I got a chance to look around while I waited. There's definitely a neighborhood feel to the store - the people in line were regulars and joked with the staff behind the counter. Everybody was friendly and seemed happy to see each other. That extended to me, which was nice.
And then we got the subs. Before going home, I made a stop at Ceriello for London broil, potatoes and green beans for dinner (hence the "trendy" nature of the post - two in 30 minutes feels like a trend to me). It has the same wire shelves as Mastellones, and a pretty similar olive spread, but the similarities seem to end there. Where Mastellones has a sort of blue collar, exciting find neighborhood feel, Ceriello is on the fancy side (and the more expensive side). It's more of a butcher than a deli, too.
Anyway, both are great, if very different.
So, then, the subs. They're monstrous, especially for $6.95. Half of a huge loaf of Italian bread, hollowed out and filled with soft, flavorful homemade meatballs, tomato sauce and (if you'd like) cheese (we picked mozzarella). Cooper managed to eat a whole sub, but I still have half of one left in the fridge - I probably could've been satisfied with a quarter.
Mike, Alicia, Brad and Eileen didn't let me down - it was really just as good as they'd said.
And in the spirit of Italy, later this week I'm going to make my first trip to Pastore's, where Cooper had a nice sandwich earlier this week.
Then, I'm going to take a week off of eating, as we are going to the Bahamas soon, and I'll be in a bathing suit...