Once inside, we were struck by how much it looks the same. Thirty years ago, the interior décor with exposed brick walls and contemporary art felt avant garde compared to other Little Italy restaurants. In 2013, the same style is now commonly echoed in renovated row houses all over Baltimore.
We browsed the regular menu, in addition to the Restaurant Week menu while we munched on a hunk of white bread, which arrived with olive oil and butter. We found lots of old favorites on the regular menu including a dozen appetizers ($6-12) and two dozen entrees ($17-29, which include a salad). The regular menu’s prices made us, and our friends JT and Jerry, especially appreciate the Restaurant Week special.
We started with a round of appetizers. Marty’s calamari fritti—lightly battered, not greasy and served with marinara sauce—was quite good. John’s sausage and peppers—slices of sausage and sautéed green pepper served with a small piece of garlic bread—made for a tasty starter. By contrast, JT was underwhelmed by his clams casino with clams so small that he had trouble identifying pieces of clam in the small hills of bread crumbs and bacon. Jerry’s arancine—fried rice balls stuffed fontina cheese and served with marinara—seemed dry and left him unenthusiastic.
The Chip’s salad (once the talk of Baltimore and a motivation for dining at Chip’s) was served as a separate course. Large bowls heaping with iceberg lettuce, raw onion and a couple of cherry tomatoes smothered in the special Chip’s house dressing (which includes lots of grated parmesan cheese, finely diced egg, and garlic) proved delicious but difficult to finish. An interesting contrast to the more current style of salads with lightly dressed darker greens and a wider array of veggies, Chip’s salad is still a great dining experience and won an easy “Thumbs Up!” from both of us.
While Marty had been eagerly anticipating the veal parmigiana, the reality was that Chip’s take on this classic wasn’t as outstanding as he recalled and not as good as he’s had elsewhere in the past year. John’s first impression of his seafood ravioli was that he had been accidentally served a large plate of creamy orange sauce! But buried in sauce, the ravioli and their seafood filling proved satisfying and tasty (though a tad too salty). Jerry judged his lasagna overall as tasty, but he wasn’t a fan of the unusually thick pasta. JT’s said the sauce on his chicken marsala had an unexpectedly sweet undercurrent that detracted from the tasty chicken. For dessert, our Restaurant Week special included a mini cannoli and plain cheesecake; we enjoyed both.
How does Chiapperelli’s in 2013 compare with our past recollections? With the restaurant only half filled, inexplicably mixed service detracted from meal. We had to share one copy of the Restaurant Week menu when the server never brought us extra copies we requested, our food didn’t arrive hot, and the wine that we ordered only showed up when the entrées were almost finished even after twice reminding the server. While the salad remains a special experience, the rest of our meal didn’t seem as “Thumbs Up!” worthy as we remembered compared to our experience just three years ago. All of these reservations combined with driving through congested narrow Little Italy streets and paying $10 for valet parking when we couldn’t find on-street parking, suggested an answer to why we’ve only eaten here twice in the past 20 years.
237 S. High St
Full Bar • Open Tues-Sun 11:30am-9pm • $10 valet parking