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All-you-can-sweet

Make room for Vaccaro's Monday night dessert bonanza.

By Matt Ackerman

Special to SunSpot

February 7, 2000

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Contrary to what you might think, or expect, the Monday night all-you-can-eat special at Vaccaro's does not amount to a run on the bank. Perhaps when you hear "Vaccaro's" and "all-you-can-eat" in the same sentence, a picture of hundreds of froth-mouthed, sugar-starved Baltimoreans enters your mind. Perhaps you also conjure up an image of a gleaming, sparkling, endless dessert bar filled with nothing but sweet creations by Little Italy's unquestioned masters. Well, that's what I imagined.

First, let's get a few things straight. The $11 per person special runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday nights and includes coffee and dessert, which gives you the virtual run of the menu, with the exception of any alcohol-enhanced drinks. It is not a buffet -- all items are ordered individually and brought to your table -- and the masses ... well ... the masses are somewhere else on Monday nights.

Holy cannoli! Vaccaro's all-you-can-eat night is for those craving a massive sugar fix. (Photo by Emily Deutschman, Special to SunSpot)

I have to admit I was a tad disappointed when the mania I had envisioned failed to materialize. Parking was easy and the cafe´ was about half-full when I walked in. Besides myself, there was a lively group of about eight people in the dining (desserting?) area. It was, after all, only another Monday night in Little Italy, and if Sabatino's isn't dragging them in, I guess Vaccaro's isn't, either.

Monday nights bring more business to Vaccaro's than other weeknights, but doesn't match the traffic on a typical Friday or Saturday, and most of the people do not come to stuff their faces. During the 30 minutes I was there, it appeared that the carryout counter saw more business than the eat-in section. About 10 all-you-can-eaters is typical, and few come with the intent of leaving with loosened belts. Longtime waitress Christina Szarek couldn't remember any patrons more vociferous than a group of eight who had not eaten for a day in anticipation. She did, however, recall one fellow who managed to put down two Colosseos (inch-thick Belgian waffles covered in six scoops of ice cream, wet nuts and fruit) in one sitting. She figures most people who order the special manage to eat about $20 worth of food, but a crazed dessert fanatic is rare.

I had every intention of stuffing my face and started by asking Szarek to bring me what she considered to be the best coffee and dessert the cafe´ offered. My resolve didn't falter when my order of mochaccino arrived, though it did come in a bowl-sized mug and was topped by a massive heap of the best darn whipped cream I have ever tasted. However, my will started to break down when Szarek brought me a pound cake special, which contained two pieces of cake and a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream, dripping with syrupy strawberries and covered in the delightful whipped cream. I could not help but think she was trying to fill me up. A glance around the dining room assured me that most other entrees were equally large, but still ...

I was less than a third of the way through the cake (do I even need to mention that it was delicious?) when I realized another bite would prevent me from even sampling anything else. I admit to a weak showing, but I had eaten dinner. I asked for an order of apple strudel Napoleon, upon which I was informed that I was "really supposed to eat half of what I had ordered" before ordering anything else. I gamely gobbled a few more bites, which I suppose was sufficient because the strudel arrived. It, too, was excellent, and very large. I managed to take a sizeable chunk out of it, but that was about it. I felt bad leaving it there on the table, but I was unable to stuff myself any further. Next time I'll skip dinner.