Tag Archives: bakery

Appreciating Argentinian Cuisine in Rockville

We’ve got a lot of great Mexican and Salvadoran restaurants in DC, but not nearly as many South American hotspots.  Before you go pointing me to Fogo de Chao, let me specify—I mean non-chain, family-owned, feel-like-you’re-actually-in-Buenos-Aires type places.  (And I will say we are home to some great Peruvian restaurants).

El Patio

Nevertheless, I was excited to discover El Patio, a great Argentinian restaurant, café, and small market in Rockville.  Unassumingly located in a strip mall, El Patio serves up a wide variety of the country’s finest foods, like traditional barbeque (parrillada), carne salteada, and milanesas (friend or breaded meats).  The café in the back is the perfect place to snack on empandas, Spanish tortillas, and other baked goods.  And don’t forget a glass of malbec!


El Patio also hosts a small market featuring foods and wines from Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay. Looking for yerba mate, alfajores, or chimcurri sauce?  This is your spot.  You can even buy a guampa and bombilla for drinking the mate (the gourd and straw, for those not in the know).


One of the best things about visiting El Patio is observing and interacting with its local South American crowd.  On the Sunday afternoon when I visited, my group was one of the very few speaking English rather than Spanish.  This is what I like so much about Rockville, Centreville, Annandale, and other suburbs teeming with ethnic restaurants:  not only is the food great, but because they are located in cultural neighborhood centers, you really do feel like you’ve taken a step into a different city, even if just for a short time.


To visit:  5240 Randolph Rd Rockville Maryland, Loehmanns Plaza Shopping Center‎, (301) 231-9225.  M-Th 9am-9pm, F-Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 9am-8pm.  About a mile walk from the White Flint metro stop on the red line.

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The Kielbasa Factory Offers a Taste of Polonia

While Washington, DC doesn’t rank high on the list of cities with a strong Polish immigrant population and influence (à la Cleveland or Pittsburgh), we are nevertheless fortunate enough to be home to a deli and grocery dedicated completely to the culinary whims of the area’s thousands of Poles and Eastern Europeans.

Nestled on the top floor of a strip mall in Rockville, the Kielbasa Factory is small yet offers a comprehensive selection of grocery items and ingredients, frozen and prepared foods (most made in New York, though some in-house), and deli meats and cheeses.  This family-owned store has only been open since late 2007, is the only Polish deli in the area, and as far as I can tell one of only two places in DC and its surroundings where you can get Polish food (the other being the restaurant Domku in Petworth).

Of course, the main attraction to the Kielbasa Factory is the kielbasa, and the store features many different varieties of these sausages.  Jars of pickles, preserved fish, and canned fruits and vegetables line the walls, along with Polish coffees, candies, wine, and other products that I’m sure must be a delight to find around here.

I took home with me a package of potato and cabbage pierogis, fresh sauerkraut, a couple of Żywiec beers, and Polish chocolate, and cooked up an excellent and hearty meal (though wish I had a “babcia” to make the real deal for me!)

I was disappointed that all of the Polish baked goods had sold out by the time I was there on a Sunday afternoon.  Apparently paczki (filled donuts) and other homemade pastries are delivered on Fridays from New York City, and are usually sold out by the end of the weekend.  So, my advice:  go early on Saturday morning if you’re looking for baked sweet treats!  (Meanwhile, watch this great clip about the paczki-making process and how a local Polish bakery in Detroit has become a staple in the community).

Also interesting about the Kielbasa Factory is that it has a shipping and parcel service to make sending packages to Poland and other Eastern European countries easier.  In addition, there are a number of Polish newspapers and magazines for sale.  It’s clear that the Kielbasa Factory is not just a place to get good food, but is an important part of Rockville and DC’s Polish community.

To get there:  1073 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland.  240-453-9090.  Hours:  Monday-Thursday 11am – 7pm, Friday 11am – 8pm, Saturday 10am – 6pm, and Sunday 11:30am – 3:30pm.  About 1.5 miles walking from the Rockville Metro station.  A handful of buses run up and down Rockville Pike to both Rockville and White Flint Metro stops.

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Your Very Own Italian Excursion in DC

Italian day!

“Be Italian, be Italian, live today as if it may become your last…”

These lyrics from the musical “Nine” played on repeat in my head all throughout last weekend, as we spent the day exploring the remnants of DC’s Italian immigrant population.  For little more than a $1.45 Metro or bus fare, you too can seek out two very Italian outposts in Northeast DC, near Gallaudet University, and emerge from the experience with more olive oil, fettuccine, and vino than you know what to do with!

First on the list:  Catania, a Sicilian bakery founded in 1932 by the Caruso family.  Located at 1404 N. Capitol Street NE and currently under the slick operation of a family friend, Catania is only open to the public on Saturday mornings, from 6am until the bread runs out.  Amazingly, the late Mr. Caruso purchased the building in 1932 for little more than $8,000, as his son, now in his late 80s, relayed to me in great detail.

Unfortunately, young adults as we are, we arrived at noon, too late for any of the loaves or rolls that Catania is famous for; rather, we were able to nosh on biscotti, cannoli, and banana nut muffins.  They were incredible!  The cannoli were  rich but not sacchrine sweet, the biscotti were flavored with deep almond and did not get too soggy when paired with morning coffee, and the muffins were flavorful and more than substantial.  It was clear from an initial visit that Catania has many baked secrets to offer….

Holy cannoli!

Speaking of which, according to dcfoodies.com, if you’ve eaten at an Italian restaurant in DC, you’ve likely indulged in the fluffy delights of Catania.  As the author writes, “If you’ve ever eaten a sandwich from A. Litteri or Mangialardo & Sons on Capitol Hill, or if you’ve tried the biscotti at one of several Italian restaurants throughout the city, then you’ve had Catania.”

Catania is a must-see for DC residents, especially because we were told that the lease will not likely be renewed when the family friend who currently runs the shop retires.

Next, just a short jaunt down the road, located in the sprawling Union Market that abuts Gallaudet at approximately 5th and Florida NE, we visited the unmatched A. Litteri’s Inc Italian deli and supermarket .

Opened in 1926 , Litteri’s is a magnificent one-stop-shop for anything your Italian family could ever hope for.  Hundreds of different kinds of olive oils, balsamic vinegars, fresh and dried pastas, wines, polentas, and sauces litter the shelves in an orderly and methodical fashion.

Rows and rows of olives

Another incredible component of Litteri’s, as well as many of the other ethnic wholesalers in Union Market, is the vast array and large quantities of spices sold at dirt cheap prices.  As these shops generally function as wholesale stops for DC restaurants, it makes sense that one would be able to find 16 ounce jars of spices, but what a good find!  Knowing that these accoutrements are here, I will never again shy away from the liberal use of oregano, garlic salt, or dried parsley in my amateur cooking!

So spicy!

I do not have an ounce of Italian blood in me, but this little shop, with deli sandwiches to go and all the fixins’ of a great Italian meal made me realize how few ethnic markets remain in DC today.  Both Sarah and I hope to devote future posts to ferreting out these vestiges of a time gone by.

And of course, a trip like this lends itself to some kind of Sunday night dinner!  I hope to piece together the works for gnocchi with porcini and red wine sauce, courtesy of the Joy of Cooking sometime this week.  And of course, the gnocchi were fashioned by none other than the pasta masters at A. Litteri’s!

Take a look at our shopping cart, just minutes before we checked out:

Checking out

Both Catania and Litteri’s are worth you spending half a day perusing here soon.  If you live on the 90s bus line, you are the most accessible, though the shops can be easily walked to from the New York Avenue Metro stop on the Red Line.

Buon appetito, as they say!

To visit:

Catania Bakery, 1404 N. Capitol St. NE, 202-332-5135.  Call ahead to ensure baked goods.

A. Litteri’s, 517 Morse St. NE, 202-544-0183.

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