The Southeast Baltimore Pizza Crawl

| April 8, 2013 | 4 Comments

Pizza may be one of the oldest foods around but it’s officially “the new tapas” right now as food trends go.  Many restaurants are reinventing this classic Italian dish while some are keeping grandma’s recipe alive. I even went to Chicago recently and people were trying to tell me about all of these new thin crust pizza places in the the Windy City… but when I’m in Chicago, I’m eating deep dish!

Southeast Baltimore is home to some places that have been doing pizza right for many years, as well as some newcomers that are making waves in the Baltimore pizza scene.  There is a lot of great pizza in Baltimore right now including many in SoBo, but we knew Southeast would be the perfect place to get in a lot of great slices in a short amount of time.

Our goal was to go from Canton to Little Italy sampling as many good slices of pizza as possible, but unfortunately we barely made it out of Canton as our stomachs were filled after five stops.  Here are our recommendations for anyone looking to plan a pizza crawl for themselves:

-4-6 people is the perfect group size so that everyone gets a sample of a small pie.  Less than four would keep the crawl short and more than six could have you waiting all night for a table or spot at the bar.

-Avoid craft beer as it will fill your stomach (unless you are our resident beer blogger, Scott.)

-Come hungry and take recommendations from servers and bartenders on their favorite pies!

Let’s get started!

Our group of four decided to start in Canton/Highlandtown, but before we begin I must honor a couple favorites that we decided to leave out because they were a bit too far east:  Pasta Mista and Fillipo’s. As a Towson graduate, Pasta Mista is near the top of my rankings and now that they have a spot in Brewers Hill, it’s always a great place for a slice, and Fillipo’s in Highlandtown always makes a great pizza.  So don’t be afraid to include those if you try this yourself.

Matthew’s Pizza, Highlandtown, 3131 Eastern Avenue 

What better way to start off the pizza crawl than with a pie at Matthew’s Pizza, a Baltimore institution that has a list of awards almost as long as this article.  Matthews’s deep dish is deceivingly filling and the amount of people coming and going while you are there shows you just how popular this place is for generations of Baltimoreans.

We got the large mozzarella pie with meatball. It was delicious, fresh and definitely lived up to the Matthew’s reputation. Cant wait to go back – and eat more than just one slice!

They also have great house salads with an amazing dressing that easily feed a table.

Giovanni’s Tutti Gusti, Canton, 3100 Fait Avenue

We took the crawl a few blocks south and hit Tutti Gusti. This is the type of order-at-the counter Italian place that every place neighborhood needs – pizza by the slice, calzones and Italian favorites. I walked by their wine rack and they had many bottles of wine for just $13 and the most expensive one was less than $20… how many places can you find a deal like that in Baltimore to go with a great meal?

We ordered two slices from their display: a slice of sausage and pepperoni and a slice of the buffalo chicken.  They came out quick, tasted great and were very inexpensive when accompanied with a beer (total was $8 and some change for one slice and two domestic cans.)  Thin crust with great sauce and toppings!

Verde, Canton, 641 South Montford Avenue

As we were leaving Tutti Gusti, the person who took our picture (we had to document each stop in our adventure!) before entering Tutti Gusti recommended we add Bartenders to our list in addition to Johnny Rad’s, which we already had planned.  We decided we’d get in a nice walk and hit Johnny Rad’s and then Bartenders, but we passed Verde on the way and I quickly remembered I had heard good things about this place and that they had done a terrific renovation.

As someone who is a regular at Second Chance when renovating my home or building furniture, I was immediately drawn to the interior of Verde. The tables were made of reclaimed wood, the rafters were exposed, there was fine trim work, subway tiles and concrete counters in the bathrooms. Very well done!

We sat at the bar and asked the bartender what he recommended, which became a theme from this point on. One of his recommendations was the Prosciutto Di Parma because it featured their homemade fresh mozzarella.

Verde serves Neapolitan-style pizza, which features a soft and thin pizza with a fluffy crust.  The sauce and toppings were great and the pizza melted in your mouth.

Three for three so far… another success on the crawl!

Johnny Rad’s, Canton/Upper Fells Point, 2108 Eastern Avenue

Crawling back up to Eastern Ave. we made our way to Johnny Rad’s. I had heard Johnny Rad’s was a cool place, but this place really blew me away in many aspects.  As someone who grew up around the Baltimore skateboarding scene, I was admiring the decor of skateboards, skateboard wheels as door handles and a 720 arcade game.  It also had $.50 games of ski ball in the back room which are always a hit. One thing I noticed at several of our stops was the amount of young families we saw in the restaurants and walking around – a great sign of the times for Southeast Baltimore!

On to the pizza, which is also Neapolitan-style.  Our bartender was very nice and explained to us the skateboarding background of the bar. We asked for a pizza recommendation in which he gave several, but he said if he was getting just one he would get the Pepe (tomato sauce, pepperoni, chopped basil, fresh mozzarella and ground pepper) and add fresh arugula, onion and mushrooms and hit it with fresh lemon and olive oil.  Whoa, this was really really good!

We skipped the mushrooms because of a couple non-mushroom fans, but the arugula and onion were so soft and tasted like they were straight off the farm as did the cheese. The pepperoni accompanied with fresh pepper also blended together terrifically. We were all talking about this slice well after we finished as it was so delicious! We will definitely be back to Johnny Rad’s soon.

Bartenders, Canton, 2218 Boston Street

I’ve often heard that bars have a tough time on Boston Street, but clearly Bartenders had not received that message.  It was about 830 pm on this Saturday and  it was packed.  How could it not be? They had $1 Natty Boh’s and $3 nachos during all Orioles games.  The crowd was a mix of ages and everyone seemed to be eating pizza.  We were here on a recommendation from the guy we met entering Tutti Gusti. I had also heard once before how good their pizza is… they were right!

We asked our bartender for a recommendation and without hesitation he said The Spence which was housemaid sauce, roasted red peppers, andouille sausage, onions, cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella finished with fresh basil.  He hit it on the head!  The pizza had a medium thickness, but had a really filling crust and a good amount of cheese.

It was another great slice of pizza as all of the ingredients were tasty and fresh. Unfortunately our stomachs were about ready to tap out, but we did stay for another $1 Natty Boh and left with a To-Go box.

Our pizza crawl had reached its end we were a perfect five for five with great slices of pizza.  We did make one last stop at Wharf Rat, which sums up the “Charm City” aspect of Baltimore in about 3,000 square feet, but were too full to go for their pizza.

Part Two?

Making our way into Fells Point, Harbor East or Little Italy may of been a tall task, but they could certainly be on the agenda for a second act.  I’ve never had a bad slice of pizza in Fells Point with many great pizzas by the slice highlighted by Graffiiti Pizza and BOP.  Chazz and Bagby are very popular places in Harbor East and Isabella’s is a favorite in Little Italy.

So that was the Southeast Baltimore Pizza crawl. Let us know what we missed and if you decide to take a similar journey yourselves!




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About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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