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A Slice of History

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Grotto founder Dominick Pulieri  is proud of his popular and successful restaurant chain. Photograph by Jared CastaldiEven as it turns 50, Grotto Pizza is shining stronger than it ever has. The little shop in Rehoboth Beach grew to become synonymous with pizza in the First State, and it continues to be the most recognizable and best-selling chain of pizzerias in Delaware.

“That’s our lifeblood,” says Dominick Pulieri, who opened the first Grotto in Rehoboth in 1960 with his brother-in-law Joe Paglianite and sister Mary Jean. “We sell a lot of pizza.”

Grotto’s unique pies, with their swirled blend of Wisconsin cheeses and California sauces, have impacted plenty of Delawareans. “The culture of the company has always been about the people,” Pulieri says—like the generations of kids who’ve paid their way through college by making or serving Grotto pies, the $24,000 the company donated to Haitian earthquake relief efforts, even the first Grotto Pizza built inside the gates at Dover Air Force Base. And still Grotto continues to grow and expand. (Look for Grotto in Milford and the Grotto panini soon.)

Fifty years in the restaurant business is an impressive milestone, no matter how you slice it. “It’s hard for me to connect with how long 50 years really is,” Pulieri says. “Fifty years of success and growth—that and a great team of supporters. And for that I do feel proud.” —Matt Amis

Page 2: Turning 21 | Chelsea Tavern trades on its prestigious address–and does it well.

 

Chelsea’s salt and pepper grilled shrimp is served on romaine lettuce with bacon confit, boiled egg, tomato and Parmesan dressing. Photograph by Carolyn DauphinTurning 21

Chelsea Tavern trades on its prestigious address—and does it well.

Chelsea Tavern carries 21 beers on tap, and 21 by the bottle. There are 21 wines by the glass, too, plus 21 bottles of vino to round out the wine list, and a special reserve collection of—you guessed it—another 21 select bottles. This ain’t blackjack. It’s a tribute to address, one that carries a little bit of weight in downtown Wilmington: 821 N. Market St.

The new tavern—a joint venture of restaurateurs Joe Van Horn and Scott Morrison with chef Sean McNeice—took over the spot once occupied by Restaurant 821. It also sits across from The Grand and smack dab in the middle of a downtown renewal effort. No pressure, guys.

“Being in Wilmington as long as I have, I had my doubts with the stigma that’s attached to that location,” says Van Horn, whose previous posts include CW Harborside, Shaggy’s on Main and the Columbus Inn. “But if it’s good enough, they’ll come. If the service is good and the food is decent, they’ll come.”

So far, they have. Customers turned out in healthy numbers for the opening, drawn perhaps by the upscale vibe. That feel (think Gramercy Tavern in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood), plus McNeice’s farm-to-table, cooked-from-scratch food, earned Chelsea positive early returns.

Early signatures include goat cheese and caramelized onion wood-fired pizza with homemade dough, pierogies and duck confit. Products are sourced locally when possible. Goat cheese comes from Amazing Acres Farms in Lancaster, cured meats from Maiale Salumeria right in town. Chelsea’s craft beer list includes Twin Lakes and Chimay as well as two exclusive brews: Chelsea Lager, produced by Victory, and Chelsea Brown Ale, made by Dogfish Head.

The bottom line for Chelsea (821 N. Market St., Wilmington, 482-3333)? “We want to be accessible,” Van Horn says. “We want the guy playing golf next to the plumber next to the guy in a suit and tie, having a steak, burger, beer, wine, whatever. No pretension.” —Matt Amis
 

Page 3: Catch you on the Flipside | Underground gourmets may have the best restaurant going. Do you know the password?

 

Catch You on the Flipside

Underground gourmets may have the best restaurant going. Do you know the password?

Inside a darkened, nondescript art gallery near Wilmington’s Cool Spring neighborhood, a small faction met in secret. Candlelight washed each intimate table, illuminating each place-setting and revealing an intriguing calling card.

This was Flipside, the city’s newest, and hippest, underground restaurant.

Operating in a shroud of semi-secrecy by a crew of local restaurant pros, Flipside is a foodie’s forbidden pleasure.

Each month, the crew hosts a multi-course gourmet dinner at a different location. The cuisine is exquisitely prepared and progressive-leaning. Think tea-infused lamb loin over parsnip purée, and sweet potato gaufrette with caviar crème fraiche. At $45 to $65 per diner, Flipside isn’t about turning a profit. It’s about showing off some chops.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says one Flipside founder, Megan Flachier. “I used to organize art gallery exhibits, and this is like an exhibit for our cooking and hospitality.”

For its June event, Flipside will team with Blackbird Heritage Farm in Townsend to present a colossal, organic farm-to-table extravaganza.

Head to flipsideunderground.com to find out how to reserve a spot.

Just remember: Shhhhh.—Matt Amis 

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