It’s no mystery that Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods — and the families that make up those neighborhoods are the threads that keeps the community together. Today we’re headed to Little Italy to meet Gia and her family. Gia’s family memebers are first generation immigrants who left Sicily in 1953 and settled in Charm City’s Little Italy.  They are one of the few families that have four generations living in the iconic Baltimore neighborhood. Gia and her family take great pride in their restaurant Cafe Gia, which serves authentic Sicilian food.  One of Cafe Gia’s signature landmarks is the painted mural on the exterior of her restaurant by local artist Yuri Victorov, who has also done work in her home.

We caught up with Gia, her husband Gianfranco and their adorable kids Luca and Giada to learn more about living in Litttle Italy — and to find out who makes their amazing marinara. {Turns out Luca is a champion stirrer!}

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What was Little Italy like when you were growing up?
Little Italy has changed drastically since I was child. When I was growing up, the neighborhood (as we refer to it) was comprised of mainly immigrant elders who moved here in their younger years. My mom came when she was 6. Many of my neighbors and friends were first or second generation. We were raised in a culturally enriched community very deeply connected to our heritage and roots. In today’s Little Italy you’ll find a lot of young middle class families who want to offer their children the spirit of city living in a safe, close knit community.

What local activities do you enjoy with your family
We live so close to other urban, family oriented neighborhoods that we find ourselves regularly strolling to Fells Point or Federal Hill. While I try to spend as much time out and about with the kids, the living room is our most comfortable and utilized space. It’s an open, airy, newly rehabbed building. The exposed brick on the working fireplace is the epitome of an historic Charm City row house.

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Are there special traditions that your family have carried on?
Every year we attend and participate in the long running St. Anthony’s and St. Gabriel’s festivals held in June and August respectively. The festivals offer the best calzones and fried dough anyone could fantasize about. Bocce tournaments, live music, procession through the streets after mass, reminiscing with old friends and making new ones- that’s what defines these two classic events!

Could you talk a little about your restaurant and what made you decide to open it?
Being Italian and raised in an Italian neighborhood, the aroma of garlic and marinara sauce on an early Sunday morning was normal to us. My mother and grandmother Rosa cooked homey, hearty, peasant Southern Italian food every day, but Sunday dinners were the best! When my mom and I decided to buy the Greasy Spoon coffee shop on the corner of our neighborhood we knew we had our work cut out for us, but we were up to the challenge. We envisioned an ever changing-ever evolving neighborhood gem, and that’s what we’re creating. The best compliment to date was the review in the Baltimore Sun that asserts ‘Cafe Gia is utterly casual, yet sophisticated’. We strive to appeal to families, business people and tourists alike in a warm, comfortable, casual setting with authentic, delicious, approachable cuisine.

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