If you’re in Little Italy hankering for a plate of pasta heaped with red sauce, there are a number of options. If you’re in Havre de Grace, the choice of where to dine is what you might call a no-brainer. Chiapparelli’s, a downtown Baltimore stalwart since the 1940s, opened a branch in this picturesque waterfront town a few years ago, sending one of its trained cooks to helm the kitchen. It’s a reliable spot to satisfy all cravings Italian, be they for noodles slithering about in a chunky fresh sauce, veal pounded to cut-with-a-fork tenderness in aromatic Marsala sauce, or cool tiramisu with all the right textures. The outpost is bright and cheerful, with trompe l’oeil stone-and-stucco walls and faux frescoes, blond wood accents, and industrial carpeting. Service is informal, and the wine list affordable. Most of the classics are represented here, with nothing—not even veal dishes or pasta piled with shellfish—priced over $19. But even as the menu offers the greatest hits of Italian-American cuisine, it’s best to keep expectations as moderate as the prices—which are dramatically lower than the mothership’s.
Even so, there are plenty of points of accord. One is the famed Chiapparelli’s salad. The popularity of this chopped-iceberg-and-Parmesan-dusted phenomenon may be hard to comprehend by more worldly diners, but devotees will be happy to know that the Havre de Grace iteration is identical to the Baltimore original.
And there’s the tomato sauce. If the eponymous—and ubiquitous—ingredient of a “red-sauce Italian” restaurant works, as it does here, everything else naturally falls into place. Most non-pasta entrees come with a side of spaghetti tossed in bright marinara that leans more toward sweet than tangy.
There are a few disappointments: eggplant within the crisp parmigiana breading was fibrous and tough. And the ravioli that encased an otherwise sublime medley of crab, shrimp, and scallops were thick and doughy. But that didn’t keep us from using the pasta to chase down every last drop of the dish’s creamy pink sauce.
Dessert was a perfect finale to a meal of classics. Chiapparelli’s tiramisu is topped with mascarpone custard that isn’t overly sweet, working nicely with the coffee-and-Kahlúa-drenched ladyfingers layered beneath—like the salad, a chip off the old Little Italy block.
Chiapparelli’s, 400 N. Union Ave., Havre de Grace, 410-939-5440. Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. daily; dinner, 3:30-9 p.m. daily. Appetizers: lunch, $5-10, dinner, $5-11; entrees: lunch, $7-14, dinner, $11-19; desserts: $5.