Grano, a petite pasta bar in Hampden, is an unlikely choice for happy hour, but it’s in my neighborhood and I am deeply lazy. Despite logistics (so tiny you can’t bring a crowd, no liquor license), it was a decent place to knock back a few glasses of wine with my friend Annie. We feasted mightly upon gossip and pasta.
There aren’t any appetizers on Grano’s menu, although there are salads. We bypassed the greenery in favor of pasta. Grano offers 10 sauces that can be paired with seven types of pasta. Annie, another recovering Catholic schoolgirl, gave up alcohol for Lent, so originally Grano was meant to be a meat- and wine-binge, but in the end I ordered a meatless vodka sauce with linguine and she got the pomodoro sauce with penne. (We chose conservatively — the more exotic sauces include a Gorgonzola Walnut and Calamari Vesuvio.) Although my noodles could have been strained better, Grano should be applauded for getting Italian Annie to say their pasta was cooked al dente.
We split a meatball the size of a newborn’s head for $1.95. For a traditional snack-y happy hour, order a few meatballs and some Calamari Vesuvio (available in an appetizer portion without pasta). No liquor license means BYOB. (BYOB — hooray!) I brought an Australian rose from the Wine Source down the Avenue. One of Grano’s few service missteps was that they don’t mention the corkage fee until you get the check. It’s $3, which is a steal compared to most restaurant wine mark-ups, but almost every other surcharge is carefully enumerated on the menu, save this one. And even if the waiter was nice enough to put the bottle in the fridge while I waited for Annie, being charged $3 to open a screw-top wine rubs me the wrong way. (Corkage fee — boooo!)
For dessert, I was delighted to find Pitango Gelato, imported directly from the store in Fell’s Point. Pitango is something I’d drive across town for, to get a cup heaped with the creamy goodness of Chocolate Noir and Bourbon Vanilla. I don’t know that I’d go out of my way for Grano, but since it’s in my ‘hood, I’d probably go back.
Grano — 1031 West 36th Street, Baltimore, Md. 21211 (no website)