Bruschetta -- pronounced BrusKETta, all you non-Italian waiters who have corrected me over the years -- has most of the ingredients for success. It's Canton's new wine bar and deli, owned in part by Gino Troia of Towson's Cafe Troia (which provides many of the Italian delicacies). The food is authentic at a time when Baltimoreans are appreciative of authentic ethnic foods. The place is very casual, the wine flows, and the dishes come as small plates for noshing.
So what's not to like? Walk in the small storefront that was formerly Pascale's Italian Deli & Pork Store, and you'll find the shelves of Italian groceries and the deli case filled with good things are decor enough. But the tiny wine bar and dining room upstairs need serious work. I like the exposed brick, the dark green walls, the flat screen TV playing classic Italian movies. But what's with the door and the window that open into the decidedly unscenic kitchen area, letting harsh fluorescent light spill into the room? Screening off this end of the room, getting better-looking tables and chairs, and improving on the hand-lettered list of wines would help a lot.
You can get wines by the glass, or buy a bottle downstairs and drink it upstairs for a $5 corkage fee. You can order your food from the deli counter downstairs and bring it upstairs, or order from the menu of sandwiches, salads, antipasti and Things the Kitchen Feels Like Making.
The night we were there, the kitchen made arancine, tennis-ball-sized Sicilian rice croquettes with peas and Parmigiano, soft and hot and slightly gooey inside, crisply golden on the outside. There was also a fine meat lasagna (with, unfortunately, a tomato sauce so garlicky it was slightly bitter).
What you order with your wine might be something as simple as an olive-oil sampler (at $12, they must be very fine olive oils) with assorted breads. It could be a platter of assorted bruschette, those crisp little Italian toasts that the place is named for, topped with everything from tapenade to garlic cloves to my favorite, chopped cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.
We also shared a piatto misto, a platter of salad greens, artichoke hearts and grilled red peppers, eggplant and mushrooms, with creamy fresh mozzarella made that day on the premises. We supplemented it with a "salad" of carrots, lightly cooked and dressed with vinaigrette. There is usually a soup of the day, minestrone this night -- except that the lunch crowd had eaten it all.
A large part of Bruschetta's business is sandwiches, particularly at lunch. There are classics like meatball, eggplant parmigiana and sausage and pepper on Italian bread or sub rolls. Then there are grilled concoctions, such as the "Scooch," with two kinds of excellent salami, cheese, roasted red peppers and field greens dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The cold sandwiches are made up of artful combinations like Parma ham with Bruschetta's fresh mozzarella, and many include ingredients like fresh basil, artichoke hearts and field greens. They are subs with pedigree.
The pleasant young staff at Bruschetta will make you a cappuccino (in a glass) to have with Italian cookies or one of the deli's cannoli. And I would go back in a heartbeat for the featherweight tiramisu.
If Canton seems like a long way for a sandwich, even a very good Italian panino, you may have a Bruschetta closer by. Two siblings have opened since this Bruschetta did last October. One is Bruschetta at John Brown's in Cockeysville, and the other is Bruschetta on the Avenue in White Marsh.
FOOD *** (3 STARS)
SERVICE *** (3 STARS)
ATMOSPHERE ** (2 STARS)
Address: 2304 Boston St., Canton
Hours: Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and supper