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After 100 years in Highlandtown, DiPasquale’s Italian Market plans ‘bittersweet’ move to Brewers Hill

Joe DiPasquale, owner of DiPasquale's Italian Marketplace in Highlandtown.
Joe DiPasquale, owner of DiPasquale's Italian Marketplace in Highlandtown. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun)

After more than 100 years in Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood, the family-owned DiPasquale’s Italian Market is planning to move to nearby Brewers Hill in January.

“We’ve sort of outgrown the infrastructure here,” Joe DiPasquale said of the company’s location on Gough Street. “The building wasn’t really set up for the food business. We made do.”

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The news was first reported by The Baltimore Business Journal.

According to The Baltimore Sun archives, the current building started out as the site of a construction firm — which, around 1920, employed a young Al Capone as bookkeeper.

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After the market departs, the family will continue to use it to for shipping and receiving as well as for baking.

The new space at 3700 Toone St. will offer more parking and better plumbing and electrical features to handle the shop’s business, says DiPasquale. The storefront was previously occupied by Ceriello Fine Foods, a New York-based Italian chain. At least 60 seats indoor will be complemented by an undetermined amount of outdoor seating.

Still, DiPasquale said, leaving Highlandtown, a neighborhood where he was born and raised, is “a little bittersweet. We like it here.” Many families in the area have been shopping there for generations. “They’re upset, they’re sad. [Some customers] felt like one of the reasons they moved here was we were here.”

The shop owner said he plans to offer shuttle service and delivery for Highlandtown customers. He does not intend to raise prices at the new place.

The business has been a stalwart for Italian deli fans, and a reminder of the marketplaces that once populated much of downtown Baltimore.

In 2007, Guy Fieri featured it on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Two years later, its crab cakes made it to Maryland Public Television’s “Eatin Crabcakes: The Best I Ever Had.”

A second store, in Harborview, opened in 2017. The company also owns Mastellone’s, on Harford Road.

While the recent coronavirus crisis has hurt many food service businesses, DiPasquale said his family business has fared just fine. An increase in carryout and market orders has compensated for the loss of catering revenue, which usually makes up 30% of its income. Many customers have made special trips to Highlandtown to pick up orders, wanting to ensure their favorite spot stays afloat.

“Our food travels well,” DiPasquale said. “It’s fun food.”

The Gough Street building was not DiPasquale’s first location in Baltimore: It started one block away.

DiPasquale’s grandfather, Luigi DiPasquale, opened the Italian grocery in 1914 on Claremont Street in a then-German neighborhood. The move to its current building in 1988 was also controversial among change-averse customers, who’d grown accustomed to the ambience of the first location. “People were thrown off by it,” DiPasquale said.

It may take time for the new location to acquire all the smells and sounds of the Gough Street building, but “we get it back eventually.”

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