By Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Last year, restaurants on the east side of the Inner Harbor lost business during the Grand Prix, but owners are hoping this year will be different. Lots of events are planned in Little Italy.

As Ron Matz reports, they’re rolling out the red carpet for race fans, drivers and customers.

The Grand Prix of Baltimore is getting a warm welcome in Little Italy.

Team Pelfrey will come out to Germano’s Trattoria on Friday night. The drivers say they are happy to be back in Baltimore.

“I really enjoy it here. I’ve been saying to my friends [that] I really like the East Coast and the atmosphere here. It feels like home,” said driver Petri Suvanto, who is from Finland and a member of Team Pelfry.

“I really liked this race last year. It was the first year and they did a great job,” said driver Gustavo Menezes, member of Team Pelfry. “There were a few flaws that the city has fixed for this year.  So we’re really excited to be back this year.”

“When we asked them to do this event here they jumped at the opportunity,” said owner Cyd Wolf. “They’re going to bring their hero cards and sign autographs and talk to the kids.”

Fifteen restaurants in Little Italy will take part in a lively celebration to kick off this year’s Grand Prix.

“Little Italy is open for business. It’s a straight shot down the expressway.  You come straight down President Street.  We have valet parking.  It’s fun to walk around and mingle,” said Wolf.

“On Saturday, there’s going to be Italian music playing. There’s going to be a mandolin player who’s going to stroll. We’ll have drivers in and out taking pictures and signing autographs,” said Lisa Morekas, manager at Sabatino’s Italian Restaurant.

Sabatino’s will feature food and drink specials, as well as outdoor seating. The other participating restaurants will also serve customers outdoors.

“I’m really excited.  I love the town of Baltimore.  The people here are great.  Being the second year that we’ve raced here, I think it’s going to have a lot more fans as well. It should be a really fun weekend,” said Zach Veach, driver for Andretti Auto Sports.

Even though restaurant owners are looking forward to business from out-of-towners, Wolf made it clear the event is all about local residents.

“It’s so much more important that Baltimoreans get involved. It’s the Baltimore Grand Prix,” said Wolf. “This race puts Baltimore on the map.  It’s very exciting.  It’s a world-class event.  It’s a big deal for Baltimore to have the Grand Prix here.”

“The neighborhood truly came together.  All the restaurant owners have been working for many months to come up with ideas.  We have a lot of events planned this weekend,” said Morekas.

In addition to all the Grand Prix related activities, Friday night also marks the last night of the Little Italy Film Festival.


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