Stephen Travels

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La Scala Ristorante, Baltimore, Maryland

La Scala Ristorante (Baltimore, Maryland)

Lovely lanterns illuminated the brick-front two-story restaurant, with Italian and American flags waving from the second level under the building’s dormer windows. Patrons at the outdoor seating on the second-story balcony were enjoying themselves, and the couple who had just exited seemed dreamily satisfied, so I climbed the stairs to the entry porch, supported by three mini brick arches, and entered the crowded restaurant.

Paintings, posters, and photographs of all things Italian hung on the exposed-brick and stucco walls. Customers enjoying cocktails and a vast variety of wines huddled around the bar, and a passionate game of bocce on Baltimore’s only indoor bocce ball court was unfolding on the lower level.

Opened in 1995 by a Sicilian native who opted not to join his father’s successful construction company, La Scala grounded its philosophy on his mission to provide great traditional, home-style cooking with quality ingredients and personal attention. More than 20 years later, that doctrine still applies.

Fork and KnifeTry This: Complimentary string beans and potatoes will be brought to your table, and your glass of wine imported from Tuscany, Piedmont, Veneto, or a few other regions of Italy will be carefully decanted by a member of the well-oiled staff as you scan the menu. I started with the wonderful grilled polenta with cognac, pancetta, and a porcini mushroom sauce. There’s a long list of pasta and risotto dishes to tempt you for an entrée, but I chose the saltimbocca alla Romana—tender veal sautéed with mozzarella, prosciutto, fresh sage, and a cognac sauce, served with a side of penne in a fine marinara sauce and dusted with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. A crepe stuffed with strawberries and Nutella, topped with banana whipped cream and Grand Marnier, will end your meal in a perfectly sweet way.