For over 60 years, Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood has been the home for the Italian community.
The restaurants residing in Little Italy – all mostly family-owned and delicious – take up space in just a few blocks' radius in Baltimore City. None, however, are so sweet as Vaccaro’s – Little Italy’s only bakery.
Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop was opened by Gioacchino Vaccaro in 1956 as a way to share the recipes he had brought with him from Palermo, Italy. Today, Nick Vaccaro continues his family’s tradition. The bakery has lived in the space on Albemarle Street for decades, and over the years, a few additional sites have opened throughout the greater Baltimore area.
A few years ago, the flagship location went through a makeover, opening up the space quite a bit and lightening it up thanks to a few nifty light features. The small bakery houses only 10-12 tables, and those, as well as the outside tables, are ordinarily full on warm summer evenings (and cold winter evenings – and all the evenings in between) with hungry Baltimoreans who can’t resist the sweet treats Vaccaro’s has to offer. There is an additional upstairs dining room, but it’s rarely open for guests, unless, of course, the restaurant is very, very full – confirming that if you really want a delicious treat, you’re going to need to wait for it. After all, the best food is worth waiting for.
Vaccaro’s also offers most of their delectable Italian specialties at the carryout counter as well. These items include gelato, Italian wedding cookies, sfogliatelle (a flaky pastry, shaped like a seashell and filled with an orange-scented cream), pasticiotti (a small pie full of even more orange-scented cream), and napoleons, which are sweet Italian “lasagna” made with pastry and cream.
Another favorite of mine and a specialty of the house – perfect for eating in and carry-out – is the éclair. They are as big as your head, topped with a thick coating of chocolate and full of pastry cream. The cream puffs follow the same recipe but are slightly smaller and can be purchased without chocolate on top (though I’m not sure why anyone would do that …). These counter items are perfectly sized for snacking on while you wander around the neighborhood and the Inner Harbor, just a few blocks away.
The items sold for table service are also delicious and slightly larger-portioned – in other words, enormous! There are sundaes that include pastries like the napoleon, covered in multiple scoops of homemade gelato. There are also Columbus-inspired treats – the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria – made with a homemade waffle, gelato, and some sort of ooey-gooey topping. These particular sundaes can be ordered in quarter, half, and whole portions. The quarter portion (which is what I usually order) is perfectly sized. The whole portion is a monster – but oh so worth the calories! Each is more appetizing than the last!
The main draw of Vaccaro’s is most definitely the tasty desserts the bakery turns out each and every day. However, the chance to visit a small family-owned business started decades ago by a very talented baker is fantastic as well. In the days of big business and factory-made treats, it’s wonderful to see a business built over the years through hard work and word-of-mouth flourish. It’s the quintessential American success story, and we’re oh so lucky to have the Vaccaro family here in our city!
Vaccaro’s is located at 222 Albemarle Street, Baltimore, Maryland, 21202.
HOURS: Sunday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. | Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-12 a.m. (Be aware: there will be lines, but the food is totally worth the wait!)