Ciao, Napoli

Twenty years ago, your Insider discovered the best pizza around at Café Napoli on Kirkwood Highway in Wilmington. Then we watched it blossom into a full-service place that served delicious Italian entrees. Before we knew it, it became so popular, waiting lines were not uncommon. Hence the birth of Trattoria di Napoli in Bear and, now, Cantina di Napoli in Wilmington’s Trolley Square. We’re thrilled. Right next to Walgreen’s—and, ironically, a few doors down from the very fine Café Verdi, Cantina di Napoli offers many of the same pasta and meat entrees that made the original such a success. Find it at 7A Delaware Ave. in Wilmington.

Catch the Vibe

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Here’s a very welcome addition to North Wilmington: Da Vibe Cafe, an organic cafe and coffeehouse in the Independence Mall shopping center on Concord Pike. Da Vibe bills its food as “organic, natural, local, yummy fast slow food.” That means you’ll find ingredients from local farms and artisans, such as free-range chicken and eggs, combined in interesting and delicious ways. You’ll also find locally roasted coffee, cheeses and breads. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, this is your place. Visit for breakfast, lunch or coffee. And visit soon. Weekdays through the end of the month, you’ll get a free regular coffee if you buy a free-range egg sandwich, on locally made organic bread. Da Vibe opens at 7 a.m. Check it out on Facebook. 622-8423

Happy, Happy News

Earlier in the month, we received devastating news: Fresh Thymes Café in Wilmington, a truly great natural-organic-local restaurant, was going to have to close. The mother-daughter team of Jane and Jenn Adams had to call it quits for personal reasons. Then this, straight from Jenn to her fans:

“Hello everyone! Mom is on her way back to Illinois. Looking forward to a great week with lots of awesome people volunteering. A lot has been happening over the past week. I seem to be creating a nice team of people guiding me through this transition. I am terrified and sad, because it will seem weird not working with my mom. My team of people, as well as all of you, have encouraged me not to give up so quickly on Fresh Thymes. We are brainstorming and finding creative ways to keep Fresh Thymes going. Mom and I worked really hard to make all this happen. I keep saying this is that part of owning your own business where you wish you had a boss. Well, I am going to set my fear and sadness to the wayside and view this as a new beginning. I plan on moving forward with Fresh Thymes in the New Year. I think my resolution will be to let go of fear and trust. I have to give it a shot. Maybe it won’t go as I planned or maybe it is just the beginning of even more goodness. This has been a crazy, awesome journey so far. Thank you for your continued support and listening to my crazy feelings. Mom and I have always felt like you all are an extended family.”

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That’s the most heart-warming thing we’ve heard in a long time. People love FTC so much, they’re volunteering their time to keep it open. How about that? We wish the Adams ladies all the best.

Passage to India

With at least five Indian restaurants along its busy lanes, Kirkwood Highway could be considered a passage to India. At India Palace, you will find authentic Northern Indian cuisine prepared by Sushil and Anjna Sharma, both from Punjab, a state in the northwest part of the country. Like many Indians who have brought the cuisine to the United States, Sushil became interested in its preparation as a young man. His mother taught him the ropes, and a friend who had formally trained in the style helped Sushil to master the tandoor (a clay oven used to cook with charcoal). The Sharmas focus on preparation of tandoori and Mughalai cuisine. Mughalai came from the Moguls, Muslims who ruled much of India from the 16th to 19th century, thus, the prevalence of raisins, cashews, almonds and walnuts in the fare. The key to authentic Indian cuisine, the Sharmas say, is fresh ingredients and the proper masala—blending of spices such as curry, ginger, garlic and cumin seeds. Turmeric powder, a deep yellowish-orange, helps give dishes their color. Spices are added to oil and cooked until a reddish or copper color. Then the meat or vegetable is added. It is mixed and left to cook, spreading the flavor throughout. Each dish contains a minimum of eight spices. Meats are marinated and cooked either curry style (in gravy) or in the tandoor. Another key ingredient is patience. “Indian cuisine takes time,” says Sushil. “It can be expensive because it takes time to prepare.” Here are a few favorite Indian places.

Himalaya Indian Restaurant

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2671 Kirkwood Hwy., Newark, 369-3993 • Owner Krish Obillaneni favors the South Indian style of cooking, which he refers to as homestyle. Himalaya’s focus on the southern cuisine is meant to distinguish it from the many Indian restaurants along Kirkwood Highway, most of which lean toward Punjabi cuisine. Obillaneni keeps a number of northern dishes on the menu for customers who prefer that style. The Chicken 65, an appetizer from Hyderabadi in southern India, is cooked with fried curry leaves, yogurt and spices. The masala dosa—a crispy rice crêpe layered with a special paste, potatoes and onions—could be addictive. Biryani of vegetable, chicken, lamb or shrimp is marinated in exotic spices, stirred with onion, ginger and green peppers, then steamed with basmati rice to spread the flavors throughout.

India Grille

3456 Naamans Road, 478-2428 • If variety is the spice of life, India Grille’s got kick. The menu of more than 100 dishes, including soups and salads, welcomes you “to the land of one thousand and one spices of Indian cuisine.” The non-vegetable appetizer is a combination of meats: meat samosa, chi-tikka, shish kabab and shrimp pakora (or shrimp fritters). A selection of five soups includes the standard offering of tomato with spices and curry seasoning, lentil, coconut cooked with pistachios and cardamom, chicken and mulligatawny—an East Indian soup with a lentil base and vegetable and curry seasoning. For dessert, try the coconut kulfi—frozen milk and cream flavored with coconut.

India Palace Indian Restaurant

101 N. Maryland Ave., Wilmington, 655-8772 • Sushil and Anjna Sharma welcome you into their corner restaurant as if it were their home. The couple, from Punjab, India, has brought locals Mughalai and tandoori cuisine since 1991. The Mughalai style originates from the Kashmir region along the northern Indian border and features nuts and dried fruits. A classic Mughalai entrée is chicken shahi korma: marinated chicken simmered in cream with spices and cashews. Other popular dishes at India Palace include the chicken saag: boneless chicken pieces cooked with creamed spinach and enhanced with mild Indian spices; and lamb korma, cooked in mild cream sauce with cashews. Breads such as tandoori roti, made from whole wheat rather than flour, and the garlic naan are baked fresh in the tandoor each day. Some regulars visit often for the kheer—cardamom flavored rice pudding garnished with nuts.

Maharaja Indian Cuisine

1450 Kirkwood Hwy., Shoppes of Red Mill, Suite 121, Newark, 369-1202 • Maharaja offers fine Indian dining in an elegant but casual setting. Leaving the strip mall facade behind, you are welcomed in the foyer by ornately framed paintings of jeweled elephants. The light yellow faux bricks that form the walls in the dining room are complemented by the deep burgundy of the curtains, booth cushions and tablecloths. The extravagant dinner buffet offers favorites such as gobhi Mancurian, mutter pamner, sambar, aloo gobhi, yellow dal, malaikofia, green beans and lamb vindaloo, to name a few. From the menu, the spicy shrimp pakora is made with jumbo shrimp marinated with chick peas, flour and aromatic spices. Vindaloo dishes—spiced cubes of your choice of meat—are cooked with potatoes in a tangy goan sauce made from coconut and mangosteen, a sweet, juicy tropical fruit. Warning to those who avoid spicy heat—this dish is a hotty.

Palace of Asia

3421 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 994-9200 • Located next to the Blockbuster at the former site of Café Bellissimo, Palace of Asia is a regional chain worth checking out, albeit a bit pricier than its local relatives. The ornate dining rooms and bar present a classy atmosphere inspired by the architecture of the royal courts of India. In-house lunch and dinner combinations offer various choices of appetizers and entrées, all served with naan and paratha, mint and tamarind chutneys, raita, sliced salad, achar (an Indian pickle), papadum, soda bar and choice of two desserts.

Star of India

1710A Newport Gap Pike, Wilmington, 999-0855, 999-1802 • Star of India regulars will have to follow their favorite food to this unassuming locale behind Prices Corner Shopping Center, but they can take comfort in the fact that the Star menu will remain intact.

Taste of India

2628 Kirkwood Hwy., Newark, 737-9483 • This spacious but comfortable restaurant includes a full-service bar and seats 75, with an adjoining banquet hall that accommodates 125. The faux white brick walls, dark woods, a elephant border and large copper serving dishes at the buffet add to the feel. The cuisine is primarily northern, featuring plenty of dishes finished in a tandoor oven. The tandoori mixed grill includes a combination of tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, seekh kabab, boti kabab and shrimp grilled in tandoor, all served with a fresh garden salad. Another filling entrée is the chef combination dinner: soup, papadum, seekh kabab, chicken tikka, lamb or chicken curry, vegetable korma, rice, mango chutney and naan bread. Kids specials include shashlik: skewered cubes of chicken or cheese, onions and tomatoes served on a bed of saffron rice with homemade yogurt sauce.

For more great ethnic restaurants, click here.

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