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Restaurants on the move: Papi Cuisine and DiPasquale’s head to South Baltimore, Brewers Hill

Joe DiPasquale, owner of DiPasquale's Italian Marketplace, which is celebrating 100 years in Highlandtown.
Joe DiPasquale, owner of DiPasquale's Italian Marketplace, which is celebrating 100 years in Highlandtown. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun)

The pandemic may have led to some restaurants shutting down, but two beloved Baltimore dining destinations — one new, one more than 100 years old — are making moves to newer, larger locations that will help them accommodate guests.

“We we were really busting at the seams,” said Alex Perez, owner of Papi Cuisine, the Afro-Latin fusion restaurant. Guests traveled far and wide to eat try the crab cake egg rolls at the restaurant’s Fells Point location, which opened last year. Demand became so intense that Perez began leasing an additional Eastern Ave. restaurant nearby just for food prep.

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While Papi Cuisine is sometimes credited as the “originator” of the crab cake egg roll, which went viral last year, Perez says that title really belongs to AJ’s on Hanover. “We just took the torch and kept running with it.”

Perez said he began exploring a new location on Wells Street last year. The move became more urgent when the Fells Point space had to shut down because of problems with the older building, which sprang leaks when it rained. Perez says she is continuing to lease both the Fells Point restaurants and is exploring what to do next — after some much-needed renovations.

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The new address, 2 E Wells Street in South Baltimore, was previously occupied by the Hot Dry, an Asian fusion restaurant that shut down in 2019. Prior to that, it was home to seafood restaurant Minnow.

Right now, the Papi Cuisine in South Baltimore is carryout-only, but Perez says he hopes to accommodate dine-in guests by Mother’s Day weekend. The restaurant can seat 140 guests at full capacity, or 70 people under the city’s current restrictions.

Perez’ plans for Papi Cuisine don’t end in South Baltimore: he’s looking to eventually open restaurants in Philadelphia, Washington and Atlanta.

Meanwhile, DiPasquale’s Italian Market, known for its sandwiches and other Italian specialties, is closing up the Highlandtown location it’s called home since 1988. DiPasquale’s grandfather, Luigi DiPasquale, originally opened the Italian grocery in 1914 on Claremont Street in a then-German neighborhood. Owner Joe DiPasquale said he is “90% sure” that Saturday will be the last day the cafe and shop at 3700 Gough Street are open to the public.

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The restaurant will reopen in Brewers Hill on May 6, according to its Facebook page, at a new address: 3700 Toone Street. DiPasquale’s also has another location off Key Highway. The company also owns Mastellone’s, on Harford Road.

“We’ve sort of outgrown the infrastructure here,” Joe DiPasquale told The Sun last year, referring to the company’s location on Gough Street. The building, previously a hardware store, “wasn’t really set up for the food business. We made do.”

While business slowed down a bit during the pandemic because of a drop in catering orders, DiPasquale said individual customers kept them busy. Catering orders are “definitely starting to pick up now,” he said Tuesday. “We’re feeling the surge.”

The Highlandtown spot won’t go vacant. DiPasquale said his family will continue to use it for administrative work and food prep, and possibly a small specialty shop in the future. “I’m going to come back, I think,” DiPasquale said.

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