As a lifelong lover of sandwiches, after moving to Baltimore 17 years ago, I made it my mission to find a good one. Wandering around Fells Point one day, I fell hard for
Bonaparte Breads with its leather brass-tack chairs and lovely loaves stuffed with ham and Brie that seemed straight from the Seine. I know I’m not alone when I say that most of us can live by bread alone.
So when Bonaparte steamed its last latte in early 2015, it left a void in a city that’s rife with restaurants but has a shortage of European-style cafes. Then along came Pitango Bakery & Café. Open in the Bonaparte space since last summer, this Italian cafe, a sister spot to Pitango Gelato, fills that niche beautifully with its chic vibe and paragon of Italian sandwich excellence.
Choose from a roster of Italian cold cuts and toppings to construct your sandwich. Breads include a flavorful focaccia and baguettes that form the perfect marriage of crust and crumb. (Their version is sturdier than Bonaparte’s, and even more delicious.) For leaf-lovers, the DIY salad ($10) features a checklist of toppings such as shishito peppers and grapefruit sections.
The highlights of the menu are the signature sandwiches scrawled on a brown paper reel that scrolls from the ceiling and changes seasonally. My favorites, both baguette-based, include a vegetarian version ($8.50) carpeted with roasted eggplant (clearly pre-salted to remove all traces of bitterness), red peppers, fresh basil, and aged provolone.
The Rustica ($10) features an ensemble cast of aged Parma prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula, and sun-dried tomatoes. And the baguette has all the hallmarks of a great loaf—crunchy on the outside and uneven holes on the inside, which are a testament to a proper fermentation process.
With the exception of a new lighting plan, yellow walls, and colorful patio seating, the space feels the same as its predecessor, though service has changed for the better. At Bonaparte, food was always slow to arrive (I blamed myself for over-ordering), but not here thanks to efficient counter service and an amiable staff. No matter what, save room for the just-baked pastries and rich cups of Vigilante coffee. (Follow Pitango on Instagram for a free coffee concoction of your choice.) There’s no gelato here—that’s down the block at their creamery. Console yourself with a plum tart.
›› Pitango Café & Bakery 903 S. Ann St., 443-676-6447. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-7:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Sandwiches and salads: $8.50-10; pastries: $1.50-4.75.