SABATINO'S -BALTIMORE,MD.

This edition of Now With Tomato focuses on one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Sabatino's in Baltimore.

Our recent trip to the Charm City was allegedly for a Maryland Championship Wrestling show, but in reality was an excuse to go to Little Italy and experience Sab's one more time. In the 80's, when Baltimore was a monthly stop for the NWA, the Midnight Express and I would make a beeline from the Civic Center (now the Arena) to Sab's with our mouths watering. When we weren't staying in town overnight but flying back out on Crockett's plane, Ric Flair would have the Horsemen's limo driver bring back enough to-go food to feed the entire plane. Either way, it's too seldom these days that I get to experience Sab's, and this visit was welcome.

Sabatino's, located at 901 Fawn Street at High Street in the Little Italy district, has been a Baltimore tradition for decades, and it never changes, which is a good thing. It's located in an old house in the neighborhood which consists almost entirely of either old townhomes or Italian restaurants located in old townhomes, within walking distance of the Inner Harbor.

As a matter of fact, our server mentioned she had worked there on and off, mostly on, for over 25 years. We started off with the jewel in Sab's crown, a basket of the garlic bread. I know you may think that's any Italian restaurant's standard fare, but the garlic bread at Sabatino's is the best anywhere and unlike any I have ever tasted. I've seen 250 pound wrestlers make a meal of just this fabulous bread, dredged in not just garlic but a variety of Italian spices. The crust is crispy but the inside literally melts on your tongue, spreading the flavor of the butter, oil and spices all over your tastebuds. Not wanting to be heroes and knowing Sab's huge portions, we limited ourselves to one basket of this legendary treat.

The appetizers are all delectable, and much as I wanted to go for it, I decided to skip the Clams Casino to concentrate on dinner. Stacey had a plate of the Fried Mozzarella, which was delicious and gooey inside, crispy outside. You must beware, however, when ordering here, because the portions are immense. A side order of any of the delicious, all-made-from-scratch-on-the-premises pasta is as big as a dinner anywhere else, and the "half-orders" of all the dinners look like a dinner and a half in any chain restaurant. Our server was helpful in figuring out how to ring up what we wanted as cheaply as possible.

Despite my better judgment, I also went with a "small" salad just so I could taste their incredible homemade salad dressing, loaded with garlic and parmesan, which makes even plain old lettuce a burst of Italian goodness.

Trying for a little of everything, I got a half order of the chicken parmigiana, which was an entire breast pounded flat, breaded and fried lightly, and covered with sauce and mozzarella. It was a perfect compliment to my huge side of Spaghetti a la Gus, which is souped up with oil, garlic, peppers and spices. A side of meatballs rounded me out, and these meatballs, besides being delicious, are literally the size of baseballs. Stacey went with a side of the homemade Gnocchi, filled with soft and creamy ricotta cheese, but she couldn't even finish that because of the incredible half order of Veal a la Beppi, which was incredibly rich and melt-in-your-mouth tender.

After that, dessert was not even an option--we asked for cots to sleep it off, but that's one thing Sab's doesn't have. We also didn't even get into the seafood section of the menu, since we had plans for that later in our trip, but there's a variety of Shrimp, Lobster, Mussel and Clam dishes, as well as dynamite calamari and a Frutti di Mare served in a bowl the size of a small washtub. When you go, which you should if given half a chance, remember to get half orders and side dishes so as to be able to sample as many different things as possible. You've read what we ate, well, add a bottle of wine to that, and the tab was still just $83.00 plus tip. If you like Italian food and want to experience it done right by people with decades of experience, in a quiet and authentic setting, visit Sabatino's in Baltimore. Hundreds of hungry pro wrestlers can't be wrong.

Sabatino's
www.sabatinos.com
901 Fawn Street at High Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
410-727-9414 or 727-2667