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Lunch for $10 or Less: DiPasquale's

Tuna diavolo is a tasty, filling treat

By Matthew F. Lallo, Special To The Baltimore Sun

7:50 AM EDT, April 16, 2012

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DiPasquale's may be a ways from Little Italy, but nothing says Italian quite like this no-nonsense market/restaurant near Patterson Park.

Go for lunch and head for the deli case to the right of the registers. Peruse a menu. The owner will take your order, give you a check and a number for your table. Your food will arrive soon. Go to the little table opposite the rest room for napkins and to the front of the store for drinks. Then sit and enjoy the food and the warm feel of the place. In winter, try to sit at the two-top next to the pizza oven.

The last time I had escarole and white beans like this was in Parma, Italy. And their bread has the smell, texture and taste of the best from the old world Italian bakeries.

My tuna diavolo ($6.95) had imported tonno, Itailan tuna hand-packed in pure olive oil, mixed with not-too-hot diced cherry peppers, micro greens, celery leaves and a slice of pepper cheese. It was finished with a splash of aged balsamic vinegar on a freshly baked, utterly authentic, demi loaf. A tasty treat — and, without mayo, diet-friendly and filling too.

The menu also boasts brick oven pizzas: margherita ($10.95), porchetta ($6.95), chicken/spinach cannelloni ($9.95). There's also one of the best lineups of sandwiches in the city, including a meatball sub ($6.95) that even an Italian grandmother would grudgingly admit is excellent.

My companion's Italian wedding soup ($4.95 a bowl) had tiny veal meatballs and ultra rich chicken broth with whole leaves of escarole. It came topped with freshly grated parmiggiano reggiano — the way it was intended to be made but seldom is. And, taken with a chunk of that great bread, it was a meal in itself.

Bread like this not only satisfies a hunger, it conjures a culture. Luigi and Giovanna DiPasquale, newly arrived from southern Italy, opened their small market in 1914 in a rowhouse a block north of the present Highlandtown location. In 1988, their grandchildren moved to the "new" spot and continue the tradition while exercising the stewardship of a fourth generation.

Seeing the suits, working guys, 20-somethings and ladies-who-lunch chowing down one Wednesday noon, it was obvious that DiPasquale's, with not an industrial park or office building in sight, is clearly a great lunch destination.

Come in for your week's supply of earthy focaccia, satiny prosciutto de Parma, fragrant parmigianno reggiano, prepared astas and veggies and stay for lunch.

DiPasquale's will feed you very well for under $10. But leaving without a bag full of that gorgeous bread with the crackly golden crust, jet black wrinkled Sicilian olives, long-tail artichoke hearts and silky homemade pasta is tough to do.

DiPasquale's

Where: 3700 Gough St.

Contact: 410-276-6787, dipasquales.com

Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday

Lunch entrees: $5.95-$12.95