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South Baltimore’s Limoncello looks modern and inviting, but some dishes left us with questions

There’s no shortage of classic Italian-American cuisine in Baltimore. I’m thinking of Italian subs from DiPasquale’s, pasta from La Tavola and La Scala, or cannoli from Vaccaro’s in Little Italy, the latter which feels straight out of the ’50s in the most wonderful possible way.

Limoncello, which arrived to Locust Point this fall, promised something a little different from the old workhorses. The first Baltimore outpost for the company, which opened in St. Michaels in 2016, touted fresh cuisine inspired by the Amalfi coast in a slightly more upscale atmosphere.

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Does reality live up to the postcard?

First impressions: With its high ceilings, plush bar stools and polished white bar, the restaurant on the first floor of the Anthem House apartment complex looks modern and inviting, if a bit cookie-cutter. A yellow light-up sign spells “Ciao” on the ceiling. We were seated in a booth by the kitchen; bevies of attractive diners sipped wine and ate apps around us.

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(A word about the parking lot: 90 minutes are free in the Anthem House lot, but you have to send a text message to the number on the sign. It’s confusing. Or maybe I’m just easily fuddled.)

Must-tries: The torta di melenzane, a melt-in-your-mouth eggplant appetizer, was declared by my Sicilian dining companion to be an exact replica of a wonderful dish cooked up by his own father. Eggplant makes another appearance in a lunch-only panini that I devoured during a follow-up visit (at $11, it’s a steal).

Desserts, too, were crowd-pleasers: Marsala egg custard was fluffy and light ($10). Tiramisu and chocolate souffle (both $10) were tasty and ready for their Instagram closeups. My dining companions loved the $16 limoncello flight, an assortment of three versions of the lemon liqueur served in ceramic shot glasses.

But some dishes left us asking questions: What was the deal with the watery buffalo mozzarella? Why did our server recommend the chicken ($22), and why was the dish so salty? And was it supposed to be topped with burnt rosemary, which shattered in our teeth? Why did the $34 branzino taste so bland?

Pro-tip: Service was friendly and accommodating, with some fumbles. Our second and third courses arrived all at the same time; when we finished, a server stacked the dirty plates on our table, one on top of another. During one visit, we didn’t learn until we tried to pay with plastic that the restaurant’s credit card machine was down. We trudged around the corner to Royal Farms in the rain to get cash.

Bottom line: From the elegant decor and elevated prices, Limoncello looks like a winner. But the inconsistency from dish to dish makes it hard to recommend this restaurant for something more than dessert or a quick bite.

900 E. Fort Ave., Locust Point. 443-708-1540. limoncellobaltimore.com. Serves lunch and dinner daily, brunch on weekends. Accepts reservations.

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