maggio (may) 2021
around the neighborhood
There's a new chef in the neighborhood
Meet Will Sterling, the new chef in the neighborhood and the owner of Saturday Morning Cafe: All-Day Breakfast (formerly Lew Gambino's / Ciao Bella). The cafe at 236 S. High Street in the heart of Little Italy will offer a local Chesapeake and Italian flair.

"We are so excited to be in Little Italy!" said Sterling. "We are family-friendly and believe in helping, and being a gathering location for anyone in need of a good breakfast. I've always had a passion for Italian cooking, as well as southern breakfast infusion, so when the opportunity became available after speaking with Lew Gambino's family and Ray Lewis, we decided to support Little Italy to keep that great culinary spirit flowing. It's a great fit for All-Day Breakfast."

Describe your menu?
A fun, family, fresh seafood-friendly Southern scratch breakfast menu, including homemade soups, hearty deli-style sandwiches, and fruity milkshakes.

What are your specialities?
Seafood omelettes, chicken & waffles, shrimp & grits, brioche French toast, steak & eggs, and Bella Benny’s.

What is your background?
"I am a culinary veteran with 25 years-plus cooking experience, a Baltimorean and a Chesapeake lover, a veteran from the 82nd Airborne U.S. Army (retired), and a Baltimore Culinary School graduate."
When will the cafe open?
"Our target date is mid-June. We would like to support the Baltimore Italian community with Meet & Greets, gatherings for local fundraising opportunities, doing our part to support St. Leo’s Church, and helping where we can to support the neighborhood's history and culture. Little Italy is our second breakfast location in Baltimore; the other Saturday Morning Cafe is downtown near the Inner Harbor."

What are your hours?
Open 7 days a week 8am to 3pm
MOTHER'S DAY PROCESSION IS TRADITION - Happy thoughts about returning to some of our normal activities in Little Italy, including the May 9th Mother's Day Mass, crowning of the Blessed Mother statue, and traditional street procession through the neighborhood, with St. Leo's Knights of Columbus Color Guard leading the way. "A public sign of faith is encouraging!" said Father Bernie Carman, Saint Leo's pastor. [Photo courtesy, Ray Alcaraz]
RYMKS Bar & Grille brings food inspired by the African diaspora to Little Italy, reported Baltimore Business Journal. "International soul food" is now offered at 819 E. Pratt Street in the former Velleggia's Restaurant space, which has not kept a long-term tenant since it closed; several restaurants have started and stopped quickly in that building. RYMKS' menu is inspired by the cuisine of the African diaspora, which spans communities in North and South America, as well as the Caribbean. Teaon Everage (executive chef), Derek Smith, and Trevor White opened RYMKS (pronounced remix) in March. "We're calling it international soul food because there is no definition for what soul food is," said Everage in the BBJ article.

SUMMER ITALIAN FESTIVALS NOT HAPPENING - Saint Leo's Church has reported their two summer Italian festivals are not being planned for June and August, its regular Feasts of Saints Anthony and Gabriele, neighborhood traditions since 1904 and 1927, respectively. Permits are not yet being distributed by Baltimore City, which has the greatest impact on not being able to plan the festivals. Even if permits were suddenly available, there would not be enough time to plan such large undertakings as the festivals are.

As well, the producers of the Little Italy Madonnari Arts Festival have announced they will not host a street festival this fall. “This year we anticipate a hybrid virtual/live event in September, conducted in accordance with City regulations," said founder Cyd Wolf, who along with her business partner and husband, Germano Fabiani (owners of Germano's Piattini in Little Italy), have announced the formation of the newly designated 501(c)(3) Little Italy Madonnari Arts Festival, Inc. The festival has transitioned to Jonathan G. Willen & Associates, prominent event planner, who will build on the success of the festival's last five years. Willen and the Madonnari Planning Committee will collaborate on a September 9-11, 2022 festival.

The outdoor Madonnari Arts Festival is an annual 3-day cultural event showcasing elaborate chalk paintings created by artists directly on the streets of Little Italy. For additional information contact Jonathan Willen, 202.248.7159 or

ROLL BOCCE, ROLL! Bocce leagues in Little Italy are awaiting word from the Bureau of Recreation & Parks about the availability of the bocce courts for league play. It is hopeful to begin play in June under the guidelines imposed by Rec & Parks. See you on Stiles Street!

LI LODGE CASH RAFFLE - A $5 raffle ticket covers your chances of winning (daily) during May - that's 31 chances! To purchase, email Sue Walmsley or mail a check to Sue (payable to Little Italy Lodge), 7795 Peninsula Expy, Apt. 303, Dundalk, MD 21222. The winner is determined by the evening Maryland Pick 3 number; for instance, if your raffle number is 730 and the Pick 3 is 730, then you'll win the daily prize!
Save these 2021 SUNDAYS for more Carry-out Pasta Dinners!

  • JUNE 27
  • JULY 25
  • AUGUST 29

Saint Leo's parish has hosted three carryout pasta dinners so far this year, with good results and profits. "What a wonderful showing of our parishioners, neighbors, and supporters!" said its staff who thanks everyone that purchased meals. January's dinner sold 400 dinners before closing early because of snow; 600 dinners in February; and 450 in April. BRAVO!!!
blast from the past
Submitted by Janet Pearson Seaborg

Fertitta family circa 1906: "My great-grandparents, Giuseppa and Clemente (mother and father) with children and sons-in-law. Seated l-r: Maria Fertitta Bonomo, Giuseppa Maranto Fertitta, Vincent Fertitta, Clemente Fertitta, Rosaria (Sadie) Fertitta DiPaula. Standing l-r: Sam Bonomo (son-in-law), Philip William Fertitta (my grandfather), Joseph Alfonse Fertitta, Charles DiPaula (son-in-law). Josephine and Clement were married at St. Leo’s Church May 16, 1886. My grandfather, Philip, had a very prolific fig tree when they lived on Erdman Avenue in the 1960s and '70s."
 Include caption, people ID, location, approximate year, and your name.
Photos must be Little Italy related or Italian immigrant related.
You had to be there!
Growing up in Little Italy, Baltimore
by Ray Alcaraz
Marion "Mugs" Mugavero, the son of Italian immigrants, was a longtime
neighborhood business owner who grew up in Little Italy. For decades,
he operated Mugavero's Confectionery (or Fawn Confectionery or Mugs'
Corner) at Fawn and Exeter Streets in Little Italy.
You had to be there

The answer:
There was no place like it in the world!

The question:
What was it like growing up in Little Italy?

Those in my age group and older who grew up in “The Neighborhood” will probably give the same answer if asked that question. I know, I know - you feel the same about the neighborhood where you were raised. Fair enough. But really, there was no place like Little Italy!

So, the next question could be, “Why was there no place like it in the world?” And the answer probably would be, “You had to be there!”

For those of us who grew up in Little Italy at a certain time, it is quite difficult to put into words. Trust me, I’ve tried often, as I am now. Yet in every instance, I give up. You had to be there! Most of the matriarchs and patriarchs and “characters” are gone now. Little Italy is gentrified, but still maintains its Italian roots, mostly through Saint Leo’s Church which is most often identified as “the heart of Little Italy.” The Italian festivals and spaghetti dinners are sponsored by, and benefit, St. Leo’s. And yes, there are still the Italian restaurants, but less than half of the restaurants that existed even 20 years ago. There are even non-Italian restaurants.

Growing up in Little Italy, we had butcher shops, bakeries, hairdressers, barbers, luncheonettes, a pharmacy, corner stores, restaurants, bars, tailors, schools, a church, auto repair garage, and “arabbers” who came through the neighborhood with a horse-drawn wagon or a station wagon, selling anything from fruits and vegetables to toys and clothes, depending on the season or what they could acquire. And yes, those businesses were plural! Think about it. We had everything we needed in a nine-square block neighborhood. It wasn’t until college that I learned this wasn’t the norm.

There are many books that have been published about ethnic neighborhoods, particularly those in the U.S. northeast and mid-Atlantic. Some of historic nature and others taking a more sociological approach; discussing things like traditions, food, religion, etc. Little Italy has had two books of note written about it: The Neighborhood (1974) by Gilbert Sandler, and in 2015, Baltimore’s Little Italy, Heritage and History of the Neighborhood by Suzanna Rosa Molino. Neither author was born and raised in Little Italy.

How do you explain how the street corners in Little Italy had "requirements?" You had to meet those requirements to hang on a particular corner - or earn your way. How do you explain bookmakers and numbers runners? What can be said about living in a multi-generational house or a tenement? Or having an “aunt” on every block? How about the looks you get when you explain how you shoveled horse manure (after the arabbers passed) into buckets so your grandfather could use it to fertilize his fig trees and grapevine?

Can you imagine a group of sixth-grade boys being confined to one classroom all week by the nuns until someone admitted who threw the chalk? And how the nuns gave up because no one would “rat out” anyone else? Would it be easy to explain how Little Italy was considered the safest place in Baltimore during the 1968 riots … even when surrounded by what appeared to be a war zone on two sides and water on the other two? How about the generations of teens who considered a lunch counter owner their mentor, who also happened to “make book?"

How many today will move to a new home … but only up the street or around the corner? Would any kid today know how to gather at a black-top playground at six o'clock on a summer night and choose teams and play ball until after dark … without adult supervision? Or how to open a sewer hole and climb down to retrieve the only ball you had, to continue play (it was a foul ball hit onto the street). I guarantee no kid would be able to identify, or could play, “buck-buck” or the brutal “hide-the-belt.”

In which neighborhood would you find a retired middle weight boxer nicknamed “Killer” supplying bags and gloves at his own expense and teaching kids the art of boxing in the school playground? No consent forms. No fee. Just a real-life boxer showing kids how to throw a punch. And by the way, if there were issues, sometimes you just settled them with a fight, gloves or not. You shook hands afterward with no lawsuits or parents intervening.

Is it possible to write about understanding various Italian dialects being voiced in broken English? Or explain spending hours simply hanging on a street corner?

I give up! I can see why I always have difficulty writing about why there was no place like it. You had to be there! Little Italy, Baltimore.

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"I'm looking forward to getting the books. I recently found one of Tony DeSales' drawings that he gave to my father, had it matted and framed. I enjoy seeing it, rather than having it stuck in a box. Thanks for all your good work for the Italian-American community. Mille grazie."
~ Jean Dell'Uomo Kelley
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