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Little Donna’s Serves Polish and Yugoslavian Traditions with Intimate Hospitality

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Little Donna’s offers the comfort of a neighborhood joint for foodies with high expectations. It is also a restaurant steeped in history and family tradition. Located at the former site of Henniger’s Tavern in Upper Fells, Chef Robbie Tutlewski christened it “Little Donna’s” after his Yugoslavian grandmother, who was reportedly short in stature but looms large in culinary influence.

The menu features items inspired by family recipes and includes bar snacks and small plates, tavern pies, dips, entrees, desserts, and after-dinner drinks. However, it also offers the chef’s twist on home-cooked meals informed by his Polish background, education at Le Cordon Blu in Chicago, and a vast professional experience, including the popular Tail Up Goat in Washington DC, as well as stints at high-profile Arizona eateries such as Native American restaurant Kai , the Andalusian-inspired Prado, and Pizzeria Bianco—the latter under the tutelage of celebrated chef-cum-restauranteur Chris Bianco.

When the chef speaks about items on the menu they are named for a specific person, story, or family recipe. He started making perogies with his grandmother when he was young, so those are named after her, and are garnished with red chili garlic oil, sour cream, sesame, and lemon.

Other highlights on the menu are the pizzas. The Tavern Pie a piquant favorite with crushed tomato sauce, a special cheese blend, crumbled sausage, and banana peppers.

Other savory dishes range from kielbasa-stuffed pork schnitzel with pickled celery and fennel to pan-fried fish such as skate and flounder accompanied by a dandelion green salsa. The variety of bar snacks and small plates include crispy cabbage pancakes, a homemade pickle plate, and MD Crab Palacinke—a Serbian-style pancake with “warm farmers cheese filling.”

Little Donna's
Little Donna's
Little Donna's
Little Donna's

Little Donna’s also features homemade pies and desserts, with a warm apple crostada and a flourless brownie parfait, composed of beaten cream, peanuts, and dulce de leche (check our photos… you will want to eat this). At the bar, they offer a curated selection of Amaros and specialty cocktails, with an emphasis on quality ingredients and fusions (Earl Gray Tea, horchata, house rhubarb syrup) to traditional favorites like a dirty martini or margarita.

Little Donna’s harkens back to Baltimore’s earlier days when German, Eastern European, and Polish cuisine dominated the culinary landscape, and in many ways, this menu chronicles the history of these communities in Baltimore—especially Fells Point, although now there are very few restaurants offering Polish, Yugoslavian, or German food.

In the familiar site, beloved to many as Henninger’s, Tutlewski retained the charm and hospitality of the space, keeping a warmth and intimacy at the forefront along with service that is both friendly and local. According to Chef Tutlewski, the camaraderie among his staff as a community of workers is essential, and every meal is a team effort.

Little Donna’s is low key, but highbrow at the same time, highlighting ingenuity in the kitchen and bar, but focusing on hearty and unassuming dishes informed by a long culinary tradition. The price point is reasonable, the vibe is decidedly unstuffy, but the adherence to quality food and preparation is paramount. The space is cozy and informal, placing a reverence for family history and tradition at the center of its mission.

Little Donna's
Little Donna's
Little Donna's
Little Donna's
Little Donna's
Little Donna's
Little Donna's
Little Donna's
Little Donna's
Little Donna's
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