Tony Bomba and John Ratliff planned to open their new restaurant on March 16, in time for St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness.
However, a pandemic and the restaurant restrictions that followed, had other plans.
In mid-March, Gov. John Carney announced restaurants would be restricted to takeout and delivery only. He later amended his emergency order to allow restaurants to sell takeout beer, wine and cocktails with food orders.
The two co-owners held off on opening Dorcea, an American bistro on North Washington Street, until April 9. Since then, they’ve seen more success with takeout business than they’d expected and this period of business slightly feels like an extended soft opening period.
“We just held off, finished a couple of things we had to do, and then it was early April and we were like, ‘What are we doing? We’re ready,’” Bomba said.
He said this time has allowed the staff to train more and to get little things perfected that don’t always happen when you open your doors to the public.
Ratliff said they looked at the restaurant as an asset waiting and with fixed costs such as rent, utilities and salaries, it was time to open and try to bring in some revenue.
“It was worth it to us,” he said.
Dorcea is in the previous space of Domaine Hudson. Bomba and Ratliff took over the previous restaurant concept in December and closed on New Year’s Day. Over the next few months, the space was designed by Tina and Paul Osier, and Bomba’s wife, Lindsay. The restaurant now has a contemporary pub feel, big screen TV’s and a draft beer system.
The limited menu, created by chef Michael Bomba, offers customers a taste of what Dorcea will offer when they can be fully open to the public. It currently includes a variety of appetizers like Spicy Calamari and chicken wings, entrees like Jumbo Lump Crabcakes, burgers, salads and desserts.
“We’ve greatly exceeded our expectations on the takeout we’ve sold,” Bomba said.
Ratliff said they also have an expansive craft beer and wine list. Currently, people can come in and order select beer, wine and cocktails for takeout with food purchases.
With close proximity to the Mid-Town Brandywine neighborhood and the ChristianaCare Wilmington Hospital, Bomba and Ratliff both agreed the customer response has been tremendous.
“The word is really getting out,” Bomba said. “The response to the food has been amazing.”
The restaurant is set up to encourage social distancing while inside and has plenty of sanitizing stations and disinfectant.
The owners are discussing what necessary steps they will need to take once restrictions begin to lift. The restaurant is a small space with two separate dining rooms and Bomba imagines they’d easily be able to spread out tables, along with other safety precautions. But he said they’ll need to wait for the official call from the state government on proper procedures.
Regardless of what the official opening of Dorcea might have to look like, the owners are ready to offer customers the full experience.
“We’re excited to get people in,” Ratliff said.
Dorcea, 1314 North Washington St., Wilmington, 691-7447, dorcea.com