The Italian Market and Restaurant in the Village at Waugh Chapel town center in Gambrills, Md., is a fun place to grab a slice of pizza to go or sit down to enjoy one of the day’s special sandwiches or pasta entrees.
There is no table service. You order at the front counter, then find a seat in the spacious, open dining room (seats near the indoor fountain are fun).
While waiting for your order number to be called from the kitchen, you can sip on a glass of wine or browse the market store that features more than 300 authentic Italian products, from sauces to pastas to specialty items often found only in Italy.
The menu is made up of beef, chicken, veal and seafood pasta plates, as well as pizza, stromboli, calzones and hot or cold subs.
There are five appetizers and four salads for starters.
Cozze Caprese ($7.75) is mussels in garlic, olive oil, lemon and white wine sauce. While cooking in white wine is a pretty standard preparation for mussels, this dish was anything but standard fare. The olive oil and fresh herbs really took this plate to the next level, providing a broth that was much richer and had more body than most.
If you’re in the mood for a red sauce, try the calamari fritti, squid fried to a golden brown and served with the house marinara sauce.
The house salad is lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers, onions and black olives. The real treat here is the antipasto Italiano: prosciutto, salami, provolone, capicolla, artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers over a garden salad drizzled with oil and vinegar.
If you are a lover of New York-style pizza, the thin-crusted, hand-tossed pizzas are outstanding. It comes by the pie or by the slice, making it a good choice for the light eater, or if you are into variety. There is also Sicilian pizza and white pizza available — all are equally as good.
Tuesday is pizza night from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Buy one select pizza and get one cheese pizza for $3.99.
Strombolis, calzones and hot or cold subs are also available. Strombolis and calzones have a nice balance between filling and dough and are dressed nicely with the house marinara.
There are more than three dozen pasta entrees on the menu, ranging from traditional spaghetti with meat sauce to chicken breast with peas, mushrooms and crabmeat in a white cream sauce over noodles.
Linguine posillipo ($15.95) is mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp and calamari in a marinara sauce over linguine. The marinara sauce is bright and flavorful, but not so heavy that it overpowers the seafood. Care is taken with the seafood, as the scallops are tender but not undercooked, and the calamari is not tough.
Shrimp scampi ($13.95) is a dish of six shrimps in a lemon, garlic and wine sauce over linguine and served with garlic bread. The shrimps were decent-sized, but the flavorful wine sauce was the standout here. — it was apparent with every bite. The dish was topped off with freshly chopped parsley.
Pollo Parmigiana ($11.95) is breaded chicken breast in tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella and served with spaghetti and garlic bread. The chicken breast is very tender yet crispy on the outside. It is definitely child-friendly and also has enough flavor to satisfy adults.
For the veal lover, vitello piccatta is veal medallions with capers in a lemon wine sauce served with spaghetti.
Lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, eggplant Parmigiana, ziti and ravioli are also made by hand in the kitchen.
A children’s menu (under 10 years old) offers spaghetti with meatballs, fettuccine Alfredo, ravioli and manicotti, and chicken and mozzarella sticks.
For dessert, there are 24 flavors of gelato, plus cheesecake, tiramisu, cannolis and more. One bite of the gelato is all that is needed to justify the portion sizes, which are much smaller than usual ice cream servings. Rich and intense, all the flavors come bursting through in this traditional Italian custard. The flavor spectrum ranges from chocolate, caramel and amaretto to passion fruit.
The market was out of tiramisu, so cappuccino torte and cheesecake seemed like good dessert choices. The torte had a wonderfully intense coffee flavor, accented nicely with a touch of slightly bitter dark cocoa. The cake was as light as air, a perfect partner for the airy mousse filling.
Cheesecake, on the other hand, was dense and rich. Our slice had just the slightest bit of lemon glaze, which provided a wonderful contrast to the cheesecake itself. Raspberry glaze also was available that evening.
If you are ordering appetizers or a salad to be eaten before your entree or pizza, make that known when you place your order. I did not, so when our number was called, it was our entire order instead of it being paced like in a full-service restaurant.
The market has a sister store on Defense Highway in Annapolis.
RESTAURANT: Italian Market and Restaurant, Village at Waugh Chapel, 2404 Brandermill Blvd., Gambrills, Md.; 410/721-1080; www.theitalianmarket.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
PRICES: Soups and salads, $4.50 to $9.55; appetizers, $5.25 to $8.75; sandwiches, $5.50 to $7.95; pizzas, $9.50 to $18.95; pasta entrees, $8.95 to $15.95 (specials cost more); desserts, $3 to $7.50
RESERVATIONS: Not required
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards
ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible