New restaurants generate a buzz of excitement, but in Delaware, there is no shortage of establishments that have withstood the test of time—and trends—to become culinary landmarks. These restaurants have hosted generations of diners and witnessed countless marriages, christenings and birthday celebrations. Here are some favorites.
In 1988, Harry’s Savoy Grill opened in a Brandywine Hundred building that had held a series of restaurants since 1938, including four inns: Cedar’s, King’s, Smuggler’s and the Old Admiral’s.
The elegant Harry’s Savoy initially showcased prime rib and other steaks, fine wine and spirits, oysters on the half shell, and cigars. The latter fell victim to the smoking ban, but the other attractions remain. The restaurateur and his team have kept abreast of trends and even brought them to Delaware. (Seared tuna, anyone?) The seafood is some of the best in town. Try the Rhode Island fluke meunière if it’s on the menu.
Don’t save this restaurant for special occasions. The grill is a fun space for locals and casual meetups. Where else can you order a burger, lobster roll or escargot? In a world of chain restaurants, Harry’s Savoy is one of a kind.
2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington; 475-3000; harryshospitalitygroup.com
In 1978, Giuseppe and Anna Martuscelli were the owners of a struggling Italian restaurant in Glasgow. Their luck changed when The News Journal critic Otto Dekom came to dine. His praise for the lasagna, antipasto and mussels fra diavolo brought customers to the door—and they are still coming. While the restaurant has expanded several times, it has not been easy. In 2010, a devastating fire caused $80,000 in damages. The family soldiered on and rebuilt the restaurant. Today, the couple’s son, Gianmarco Martuscelli, runs the daily operations, and the family’s holdings include Chesapeake Inn Restaurant & Marina and Klondike Kate’s.
120 Four Seasons Parkway, Newark; 738-9935; lacasapasta.com
Dennis Forbes knew his audience when he opened a Dover seafood restaurant in 1999. The Kent County native grew up working on the water. The self-taught chef’s inside knowledge of his hometown helps make him successful. However, the primary credit goes to the kitchen’s well-executed preparations. Go old-school with flounder or rockfish stuffed with crab imperial. Or get adventurous with an oyster topped with sashimi-grade raw tuna and lightly kissed with wasabi sauce. Save room for desserts; the restaurant is known for them.
2463 S. State St., Dover; 698-3445; coolspringsfishbar.com
Forbes also knows where to find the beef. In 2011, he and daughter Desiree D’Antonio opened Restaurant 55 to showcase a dizzying list of gourmet burgers and craft beers on tap.
2461 S. State St., Dover; 535-8102; myrestaurant55.com
In 1980, Missy and Dan Lickle opened The Back Burner to serve lunch in their Hockessin Corner shopping center. The eatery adjoined Missy’s shop, Everything but the Kitchen Sink, and when the dining room was closed, she held cooking classes in the space. In 1990, The Back Burner added dinner and the school’s open kitchen and overhead mirror became a hip sensation. (At that time, most kitchens were behind swinging doors.) The move to larger digs in 2000 changed the layout, but no matter. Patrons come for the famous pumpkin-mushroom soup and shrimp Lejon.
425 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin; 239-2314; backburner.com
The Lickles were productive. They turned the Montchanin Village—once part of the Winterthur estate—into a luxurious inn with the Krazy Kat’s restaurant. The dining room décor sticks to the theme with pictures of cats and leopard prints. The menu has kept pace with the times.
528 Montchanin Road, Montchanin; 888-4200; krazykatsde.com
At a time when Rehoboth Beach restaurants served fried seafood platters, steaks and burgers, a well-traveled schoolteacher bucked the norm. In 1974, Victor Pisapia and friends Libby and Ted Fisher opened the Back Porch Café in the old Hotel Marvel. They wanted to create the type of café they’d visited in Europe.
The bacon-and-eggs crowd scratched their heads over the Sunshine Special— granola with fresh fruit and yogurt—and the Back Porcher, a vegetable sandwich with cheese and sprouts. As Chef Leo Medisch mastered French technique in the off-season, the menu evolved.
Pisapia left the restaurant to start Blue Moon, and the Fishers divorced. The owners’ friend Keith Fitzgerald became a partner when Libby York pursued a singing career. After Ted died in 1981, his girlfriend Marilyn Spitz took over. The group found their groove until Medisch passed away in 2014, and his protégée took over the kitchen. In early 2020, Fitzgerald and Spitz sold the Back Porch to employees Dmitry Shubich and Aksana Voranova.
Some things don’t change. You’ll still find the rare tuna loin served with a blini, the rabbit Bolognese and the bun-less grilled spicy turkey burger. The intimate courtyard is still the perfect place to dine on a summer night, and, happily, bartender Bee Neild continues to mix cocktails, just like he’s been doing for more than 40 years.
59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 227-3674; backporchcafe.com