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Aldo's Ristorante Italiano, Little Italy


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Has anyone ever been to Aldo's in Baltimore's Little Italy? My sister has (predictably) picked a fancy pants Italian spot for a celebratory dinner, and I suspect the menu online is a bit out of date. Reports from the field would be appreciated.

(this place has DC prices... which kind of scares me)

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(from the website)
Welcome to a Rarefied Dining Experience
Welcome to a Revival of Traditional Hospitality
Welcome to Aldo's
Maryland's Premier Restaurant for Discriminating Connoisseurs
Who Are Drawn by The Allure of Superb Cuisine and The Gracious Style and Warm Hospitality of the World-Renowned Restaurants of Italy

 
Sounds impressive...

Didn't Joe H write the same thing about Maestro a while back?

tongue.gif (just kidding here)

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I have not been there and at times it is good to remind myself that I have not been to EVERY restaurant in Baltimore. My Magic 8-Ball is telling me that you will find the food to be acceptable but not in the least inspiring and at that price point, it should be. Inflated prices and overblown décor are the dynamic duo that have kept me away. I'd much rather spend my $$$$ at Charleston. But, do report back.

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Over the years I've been to most of the restaurants in Little Italy but I not been to Aldo's. However, using Zagat (don't laugh) as a reference point gives Bocaccio 27 points for food and notes a relative cost of $51. Aldo's has the city's second highest Italian food rating at 26 and the same cost. For comparison, Amicci's, a personal favorite for value (no ambience, not a celebratory type of place) is listed at 22 points and $24 and Chiaparelli's has 19 points.

Having said all this I thought Bocaccio to be sadly overpriced with prices approaching higher end D. C. Italian. It was not as good as Obelisk, Tosca or a number of others. I would have compared it to Bonaroti in Vienna but noted it was about 25% more expensive. Charleston is a far superior restaurant-I wouldn't even mention it in the same sentence. I believe Charleston to be one of America's best restaurants. Using my Bocaccio (and other) experiences as a guide I would suggest Charleston or elsewhere if you are going to Baltimore. If D. C. is a possibility I believe both Tosca and Obelisk to be far superior.

Once upon a time, in the '60's and '70's Baltimore had far superior Italian restaurants (mostly Southern) than D. C. did. Over the years Washington has caught up and leaped far ahead. And I have not even mentioned Laboratorio or Maestro.

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Over the years I've been to most of the restaurants in Little Italy but I not been to Aldo's. However, using Zagat (don't laugh) as a reference point gives Bocaccio 27 points for food and notes a relative cost of $51. Aldo's has the city's second highest Italian food rating at 26 and the same cost. For comparison, Amicci's, a personal favorite for value (no ambience, not a celebratory type of place) is listed at 22 points and $24 and Chiaparelli's has 19 points.

Having said all this I thought Bocaccio to be sadly overpriced with prices approaching higher end D. C. Italian. It was not as good as Obelisk, Tosca or a number of others. I would have compared it to Bonaroti in Vienna but noted it was about 25% more expensive. Charleston is a far superior restaurant-I wouldn't even mention it in the same sentence. I believe Charleston to be one of America's best restaurants. Using my Bocaccio (and other) experiences as a guide I would suggest Charleston or elsewhere if you are going to Baltimore. If D. C. is a possibility I believe both Tosca and Obelisk to be far superior.

Once upon a time, in the '60's and '70's Baltimore had far superior Italian restaurants (mostly Southern) than D. C. did. Over the years Washington has caught up and leaped far ahead. And I have not even mentioned Laboratorio or Maestro.

 
[As a general note - and a guide for future postings - this posting could have been (and should have been) one sentence in length, simply quoting the Zagat's rating for Aldo's vis-a-vis Bocaccio. Nothing else written here has anything to do with Aldo's - certainly, using the extrapolation of the Aldo's-score to spiral off on a Bocaccio's tangent is meaningless in a discussion of Aldo's. Cheers, Rocks.]

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Thanks to all for input. I'm not expecting to be blown away, but I'm the family foodie and she's not, and we're celebrating for her (oh and I ain't paying). I will report back on Aldo's; since I'm dining with diminished expectations, it could be a good time.

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since I'm dining with diminished expectations, it could be a good time.

 
I've been there two times in the last three years for expense account dinners. (Theirs, not mine.) It is a very pretty space, with mature service. Since food was, unfortunately, not the focus of these meals, I only recall it as competent. No surprises, either good or bad. So, if you go expecting a high-end Baltimore Little Italy meal, in very pleasant surroundings, you will not be disappointed.

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I assume that when Crackers said "mature" service, he meant service oriented towards geriatrics that take a little over a full lunar cycle to chew their meat.

What a night. What a waste of my dad's $270.

We walked into Aldo's and viewed a space that was similar to the pictures on the webpage, in the way a rectangle is similar to a square. Yeah, it's kinda like that -- but not exactly. Darker, more claustrophobic, lit like a seventies rumpus room. But no matter. If I judged restaurants by lighting and decor I would never go to Sodere.

We were seated quickly and handed wine menus to look over. And then we sat. And sat. And sat. While waiting, I decided to evaluate the by the bottle options on the wine menu for overall quality. I think the following string sums it up well and shall not add anything to it:

"Ruffino Chianti, $55"

After about, I dunno, the full duration of Bolero, a sanctimonious prick of a waiter came over to ask our choice in water (Loch Raven Reservoir's finest). He then disappeared into whatever hole he was born out of for the next ten minutes, returning with our water, asking for our wine selections, and disappearing again. This pattern repeated itself throughout the evening, though I noticed the two moderately attractive blond women (who were also clearly enjoying a romantic evening together) received about 1000% better service from the same waiter. My personal highlight of the evening service wise was when dude tried to pronounce "pappardelle" like he was Pope John XXIII and failed utterly. Oh, and when he literally sprinted back to our table to settle the check.

Food. Okay. As noted earlier, my folks and my sister are closer to the food as fuel camp. But at around $27 an entree (in Baltimore) I wanted this food to be good. And it wasn't. The antipasto plate I had really had no balance. Flavorless mozzarella was the worst offender, and the parmesan crisp was nothing to write home about -- almost gummy. I enjoyed the rectangular solids of asiago cheese, especially the last time I had them from Safeway. And I was tempted to ask for a hard roll and some lettuce to dress my "Prosciutto" and soppresata. Word from the rest of the family was that the asparagus soup was quite good. My question: asparagus soup in August, and at $11 a bowl? EFF YOU.

Entrees. Well, apparently the lobster bolognese my sister had was good enough that she cleaned her plate (she's 4'11" and a wisp of a thing). Dad's got restrictions so couldn't eat much of his plate, though the lamb chops appeared perfectly cooked. The bass special my mom had was tasty, as well it should have been at $35. My entree, amish chicken breast ironed paper thin, grilled, and covered in salt, was just that. Oh wait, I completely forgot the restaurant's description. Not that it matters. It was served with a side of "Peruvian Potato Salad" which was purple and white taters, boiled, chilled, and then soaked in vinegar. Does that sound tasty? Well then you eat it because I'm not. Also on the side were some roasted veggies which, with salt, were okay. I mean, I think so; there was no salt shaker on the table. And none offered (attractive couple at the table near us got a couple turns of pepper offered to them on their entrees; we were not so fortunate).

As detailed in another thread, I got a grappa to finish. Because, parents be damned, I wanted to be drunk. But after seeing the price tag on the mediocre grappa upsold to me I sobered up completely (am drinking now at childhood home to compensate). Dad waited 8 minutes (I watched the clock) for a refill on his coffee. Bill was as if the four of us had eaten three courses at Palena each and shared a bottle of decent wine between the three legal ones. Unfortunately, it was roughly the quality of the Olive Garden.

Remember that big, tough guy in high school who was built like he'd be the world's greatest quarterback -- but when he trieD out for the team, he sucked to high heaven and didn't even make it? That's this restaurant. It looks pretty(ish). It acts pretty (or do I mean pretentious?) But you're better off getting some cheap Italian elsewhere in Little Italy, with chianti in a straw wrapped bottle. It will be a hell of a lot healthier for both your soul and your wallet.

Phew.

How was your night?

Edited by Kanishka
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Wow. Your meal may have sucked, Kanishka, but I enjoyed your description of it. I've been there (clueless non-foodie friend chose it for a celebration) and would concur with your review. Bad, bad food and bad service at DC prices. The website definitely oversells it:

Welcome to Aldo's
Maryland's Premier Restaurant for Discriminating Connoisseurs
Who Are Drawn by The Allure of Superb Cuisine and The Gracious Style and Warm Hospitality of the World-Renowned Restaurants of Italy

 
Uh huh. dry.gif

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Welcome to Aldo's

Maryland's Premier Restaurant for Discriminating Connoisseurs

Who Are Drawn by The Allure of Superb Cuisine and The Gracious Style and Warm Hospitality of the World-Renowned Restaurants of Italy

I copied that from the website and posted it up top as a subtle word of warning.

I'm always leery of restaurants that so obviously are overselling themselves. The really good places know they're good and don't need to beat you over the head with it.

Or in this case it sounds like they've spent too much time reading their own website and ahve actually convicned themselves.

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well, hon, baltimore is different world, isn't it? but when it comes to restaurant prices, it is often in the same neighborhood as dc.

Too true. Unfortunately we weren't being asked for alternatives, otherwise we could have steered the family to nearby Charleston instead. It is hard to describe Baltimore's Little Italy. It seems to have evolved into a fustier, more ostentatious and pricier version of the red sauce, checked tablecloth restaurants of yore; Baltimore's Little Italy is still well-loved by the locals for special occasions, and the visiting celebs. BTW, I had careful, correct service at Aldos, so either things have gone far downhill, or they have an uneven waitstaff.

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well, hon, baltimore is different world, isn't it? but when it comes to restaurant prices, it is often in the same neighborhood as dc.

It is, and there are many things it does better than DC. I am commenting more on the inflated nature of DC prices.

There are much better Italian places in Little Italy.

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I honestly don't know of anyone in Baltimore who is truly interested in food who eats in Little Italy. (Not including a little Indian place, India Rasoi, that some people like but I still haven't tried.) I literally cannot recall the last time I ate in a restaurant there and I see no reason to change that anytime soon. We consider it--drum roll please--a tourist trap. I usually catch one or two of the films they show over the summer, which is a lovely thing, but that's about it. On those evenings my meals consists of gelato from Cafe Roma. It isn't bad.

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Have you been to Trattoria Alberto in the shopping center in Glen Burnie? I have not but I have the impression that it is similar to the restaurants mentioned above.

Also, although I haven't been for about two years I really liked the Black Olive.

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Having gone to Aldo's last night for the first time I find this thread really disappointing.  Aldo's is old school Italian with not a single person in the dining room who was under 40.  Yet service was from career professionals who are knowledgeable and considerate and clearly love sharing where they have decided they can best represent their craft.

I met a long time friend at BWI and I picked this over Charleston and Ouzo Bay and am convinced I made the right decision.  In his mid '50's he grew up with The Hill in St. Louis which along with Boston's North End, Providence's Federal Hill and South Philly are the only other surviving Italian "villages" left in larger American cities. Baltimroe's Little Italy is very alive and well with great character and Aldo's is the benchmark for all of it=actually, I think the benchmark for all of the various Italian areas in different cities.  Aldo himself, who was once a cabinet maker and wood carver, made most of the cabinetry in the charming, romantic rooms.  He was also the chef at the old Russo's which took Maria's 300 place at 300 Albemarkle, once considered Baltimore's best Italian in Little Italy's heydey.  (Where a sign announced that Marias was "where Al Capone dined in the '20's when he visited Baltimore.")

Aldo's is still Baltimore's best Italian.  But this is not a restaurant for 20 and 30 year olds.  It is for an older crowd.  The local analogy would be Vienna's Cafe Renaissance except Aldo's is much, much better oozing far more character. Several of the dishes (properly made and delicious wild mushroom risotto with carneroli) and head on branzino with rosemary and garlic, fileted at the table, were as good as could be.  Wonderful "old school" dishes.

Aldo's also treats every single customer special:  everyone is important to them.  They make their own lemoncello which they happily share at the end of dinner.

I loved Aldo's.  If you are over 40, whether for business or for an anniversary or birthday this is THE place in Baltimore to go.

The thought also occurs to me that a whole generation has no idea of what "old school Italian" really means. It's not Roberto nor Fabio-but it is a different time and place and when done well like this, an absolute pleasure to revisit.

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