Marta Fine Food and Spirits: Earlier this month, a new concept made its debut inside the former Salt Tavern space in Butcher’s Hill. From husband-and-wife team Matthew and Martha Oetting, Marta serves up “American cuisine with a heavy Italian accent.” Matthew, an alum of Atlas Restaurant Group’s Loch Bar and Bygone, helms the kitchen, while Martha oversees the bar program. Menu items that caught our eye? Undoubtedly the tuna tartare cannoli, made with yellowfin tuna, avocado puree, garlic chips, pistachios, and sesame seeds. Also on offer are housemade pastas like the gnocchi sardi pomodoro and entrees like diver sea scallops with artichoke hearts and frizzled capers. Reservations are now available via OpenTable.
Cafe Campli: Charm City diners can now get a taste of Italy’s Abruzzo region by way of Hamilton-Lauraville. Husband-and-wife owners Paul and Sam Mincarelli have opened Cafe Campli—named after the small hilltop town in Abruzzo—which serves up toasts, paninis, pastas, and pizza al taglio (by the cut) in an Italian cafe-inspired atmosphere.
At a soft opening last weekend and a grand opening Wednesday, the cafe’s first customers got a taste of the initial menu, which includes offerings like tonno (tuna) deviled eggs, the Abbuffata panini (stacked with hot soppressata, mortadella, arugula, provolone, garlic aioli, and stewed tomato jam) and Sunday Gravy—a rigatoni pasta dish with oxtail and sausage ragu. Patrons also favored the Mela Toast, with poached cinnamon apple slices, almond ricotta, butterscotch, and toasted almond slivers on brioche.
“The neighborhood came out,” Paul says of the response. “They were very supportive. We had folks enjoying food, enjoying our wine, talking about how they live around the corner, and how they’re excited to see us there.”
The concept was inspired by the couple’s 2019 visit to Abruzzo, where Paul’s family is originally from. “We just immediately fell in love with it,” Sam says. “The region itself is bordered by mountains on the west and the Adriatic Sea on the east, so the cuisine is varied. You get a lot of lamb, pasture-grazing animals, and then seafood, as well.”
“I want folks to embrace the Italian cafe model,” Paul adds. “It’s this neighborhood meeting point where you pop in for breakfast in the morning—breakfast is like a coffee at the bar and a croissant while you scroll through your phone—and then come back later for lunch. Maybe in the evening you come back for aperitivo. And it’s just a friendly, welcoming spot.”
As for beverages, diners can, of course, expect Italian wines, but also local bottles from The Wine Collective in Hampden, beers from Wet City in Mt. Vernon, and espresso with beans from Black Acres Roastery headquartered in Greenmount West. The coffee is available “al bar,” an Italian model that means patrons can pay slightly less to take their coffee and stand at the bar, rather than take a table. “That’s something that we’re testing out, and hoping people will really enjoy,” Sam says.
The duo previously worked white-collar gigs before transitioning into food service, getting their feet wet as managers at Allora in Mt. Vernon. As for planting roots in the Hamilton-Lauraville area, Paul says, “Everybody’s very loyal to the local businesses, and it just made a lot of sense. Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods, and this is a really large neighborhood that has a lot of homeowners. Frankly, it just needs more and more of a district built around food and wine and give folks something to be proud of.”
Hex Superette: Hex Ferments, which specializes in fermented foods and was formerly open in Belvedere Square, has unveiled a new home base, aptly named Hex Superette, in the Mid-Govans area. The concept is described as a tasting room and marketplace, offering products from local farmers and makers.
“We wanted to introduce more people to not only how delicious fermented foods can be, but to the amazing bounty that our region grows—not just in Maryland but Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, and D.C.—and even further afield,” says Hex Ferments co-owner Meaghan Carpenter. Expect goods from the likes of B-More Pasta, Liberty Delight Farms, and Keepwell Vinegar, to name a few.
“A superette, historically, isn’t a place where you go and do all your grocery shopping, but a place where you can go and get your necessities for the week, or something fun, or something maybe you wouldn’t find at a grocery store,” Carpenter adds. “Our goal is to make it a community space where people are getting introduced to new foods, and also discovering new foods and how delicious they can taste.”
Velleggia’s: Among Cross Street Market’s newest wave of tenants is this 50-seat anchor restaurant. The famous Little Italy institution, which operated from 1937 to 2008, is now being given new life inside Federal Hill’s historic public market, thanks to chef Brendon Hudson—the great-grandson of the original Velleggia’s owners who is also behind Allora in Mt. Vernon. Hudson and his team officially reopened his family’s restaurant on Nov. 11, and served a packed dining room all three nights of opening weekend.
The most popular menu item? “We do a veal saltimbocca, which is right off my grandfather’s old menu,” Hudson tells us. “That was probably the most popular item we had last weekend. You just don’t see it in a lot of restaurants nowadays, and we still follow the same recipe that he did. So for those people that did go [to the original restaurant] back in the day, it was nice for them to come back and be like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what it tasted like.’”
Another classic is the Caruso, a bucatini pasta dish made with green peppers, mushrooms, and chicken livers. Hudson says the seasonal menu lists some of the same recipes that Velleggia’s plated in the ‘70s and ‘80s, as well as new dishes and favorites from Allora. “We wanted to keep some kind of balance between it not being a complete replica, but also it feeling familiar for people,” he says.
As of publication time, Velleggia’s is BYOB, but Hudson expects to have the liquor license finalized in the next week or two. When it is, the team plans to initially serve beer and wine by the bottle before adding cocktails. For now, Velleggia’s is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday, but be on the lookout for lunch service soon. Hudson recommends making a reservation, but walk-ins are available.
11/15-11/20: Fishnet Collab with Green Street Academy
Mount Vernon Marketplace stall Fishnet is partnering with West Baltimore charter school Green Street Academy this week to serve two special dishes: a blackened tilapia avocado salad and a fish nugget platter with locally aquacultured fish from the academy—which is known for its urban agriculture and aquaculture programs, as well as its student-run farms. “It’s amazing because the students at Green Street have been literally aquaculturing fish in the basement of the school to learn about food systems,” Fishnet owner Keyia Yalcin said in an email. “They will be volunteering at the restaurant and attending a fish-filleting demonstration to understand the entire cycle of farm to table and a little bit about entrepreneurship.” Now through Nov. 20, Fishnet is donating 10 percent of the proceeds from the specials to the school’s programs.
Sagamore Spirit Launches 5-Year-Old Bottled in Bond Rye Whiskey: Just in time for the holidays, Sagamore Spirit has unveiled the 2022 iteration of its award-winning Bottled in Bond, which clinched a Double Gold award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The new release was crafted entirely at Sagamore’s waterfront distillery and aged in new American oak barrels for five years at its nearby rickhouse. Expect flavors of rye spice and toasty caramel, as well as fruit and floral notes.
“Bottled in Bond is a true testament to—and expression of—the place we call home,” said Sagamore Spirit’s co-founder and president Brian Treacy, in a press release. “This 2022 release is aged one more year than last year’s award winner, revealing even more Maryland character with more time in the barrel. It’s another big win for our entire team.”
Stop by the South Baltimore distillery to get a taste, or try to snag a bottle for yourself—a limited quantity is available in the Maryland region and other select markets across the country.
Additional reporting by Grace Hebron.