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Coffee, Tea, Dessert?

These days, it seems like a coffee shop exists on every corner, and each tries to distinguish itself from the others. Some roast their own beans; some create concoctions of coffee that become their staple. And then there’s good ‘ol Starbucks—the land with its own language.

But not long ago, coffee shops were hard to find in Baltimore. In fact, they were practically nonexistent. In 1992, Donna Crivello and Alan Hirsch created what became Baltimore’s first homegrown coffee shop–Donna’s.Vacarro's

“When I first opened,” Crivello said, “a lot of people had never even had a cappuccino.”

Yet the history of coffee in Baltimore goes further back in time. In 1956, Giacchino “Jimmy” Vacarro opened a tiny bakery in Little Italy he called Vacarro’s. There he served Italian sweets and fresh coffee to local residents.

Peatticoat TeaRoom's entranceHis son, Dominico (friends call him “Nick”), took over the business in 1980. Nick worked closely with general manager Alfredo Rotunno, and they began talking about ways to expand the business.

“We wanted to do this with a little more European feel,” Rotunno said. Six years later, Nick Vacarro moved his bakery across the street to its current location, which features two dining rooms complete with table service. As Rotunno puts it, “This is basically a restaurant of just desserts.”Thir-tea-first Street Café and Tea Room

But coffee and dessert is not the only tradition creeping into Baltimore culture. More recently, tea has found a place in at least two shops downtown. Waverly’s Thir-tea-first Street Café and Tea Room boasts authentic décor, homemade goodies and the highest quality teas from around the globe. And the Petticoat TeaRoom in Fells Point will surprise you with its dainty presentation of sugar and spice and everything nice.

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