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A Hit at Hagley

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Popular restaurateur-chef Dan Butler is making history at Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington. Photograph by Jared CastaldiA Hit at Hagley

Dan Butler is bringing a little quattro formaggi to Worker’s Hill. The Piccolina Toscana chef has taken over operations of The Belin House, the café on the grounds of Hagley Museum and Library.

As Hagley’s exclusive on-site caterer, Butler gets to work his magic at picturesque facilities like the Soda House and the Hagley Library. “That’s the easy part,” Butler says. “But for me to run the café is a challenge. People aren’t there because of my café. They are there because they’re interested in seeing the museum and they want to get something to eat.”

Butler, along with Belin chef Roy Eckbold, lures diners with local, mostly organic snacks, sandwiches and salads, plus a few crossover hits from Toscana. House-made granola and blueberry lemonade are big hits at Belin. Those looking for bigger bites can enjoy a slow-roasted turkey breast sandwich with pancetta and spicy mayonnaise on a crunchy stirato roll, or a grilled veggie sandwich.

Of course, there’s always the tortellini and pizza, which has been winning buzz for 20 years—available now at the 200-year-old institution. —Matt Amis

Page 2: Banking on Luca

 

General manager Paul Cullen (from left) and owners Christine and Davide Jones use the former bank’s vault for chef’s tasting dinners. Photograph by Jared CastaldiBanking on Luca

The owners of Luca Ristorante and Enoteca are taking traditional, regional Italian cuisine, homemade pastas and bread, and organic small-batch wines—and putting them in the vault. Luca, which opened in the fall in downtown Millsboro, is housed in a former Delaware Trust Bank building, circa 1916. The 6-by-10-foot steel vault in the center of the room is just a taste of the Old World charm.

Owners Davide and Christine Jones, along with general manager Paul Cullen, turned the old bank into an intimate, Tuscan-tinged retreat with pressed tin ceilings and hardwood floors. The vault houses a single table, the setting for chef’s tasting dinners. “It looks like you walked into a place in Italy,” Cullen says. “There’s nothing like this place around.”
Chef Joe Churchman, who last plied his trade in Philly, gives rise to rustic, regional Italian cuisine. “Each dish is from a different region,” Cullen says. “There might be a truffle-mushroom dish from Piedmont, an Abruzzi dish, a Tuscan dish and so on.” Luca also serves family-style Sunday suppers.

Cullen, who’s worked for Italian wine importers PortoVino, helps source certified and organic Italian wines and craft Italian beers. Traditional leaning aside, Luca (303 Main St., Millsboro, 934-5822, lucaristorante.com) employs some modern technology during its regular wine tastings. Videoconferencing via Skype and a projection screen allow diners to interact with wine producers in Italy. —Matt Amis

Page 3: The Best-Kept Dining Secret in Delaware–Really

 

Executive chef John Gangloff uses antique molds to create white chocolate swan sculptures and rooster-shaped butter sculptures.The Best-Kept Dining Secret in Delaware—Really

“Haute cuisine is alive and well in Delaware,” says chef John Gangloff—just not in a place you’d expect.

A visit to Stonegates Retirement Community in Greenville, where Gangloff is the executive chef, reveals that it is quite possibly the best-kept culinary secret around.

High-end dining is being marginalized in even the fanciest establishments, but not at Stonegates. Gangloff, along with his family and a sizable army of kitchen staff, hosts an array of gourmet dinners, harvest lunches and holiday parties throughout the year. All are luxurious, but it’s the gourmet dinners—held only two or three times yearly—that exhibit truly breathless grandeur.

From a gorgeously appointed private dining room—resplendent in peach-colored fanned napkins, chandeliers and creamsicle damask-print wallpaper—white-gloved waiters circulate with pâté de foie gras speckled with black truffles, with filet mignon and butter-poached lobster, with duck confit in phyllo dough coronets and 30-year-old balsamic vinegar.

“The residents here, they’re educated, their palates are refined, they’re world travelers,” Gangloff says. “I try to give them what they want.”

A 23-year fixture at the gated community, Gangloff was previously stationed at the historic Lord Baltimore Hotel, catering to the stars who performed at adjoining Morris Mechanic Theatre. Tales of Sir Lawrence Olivier’s 2 a.m. cravings for grilled sanddab and Vincent Price’s culinary prowess are the norm during a chat with the chef.

Stonegates hosts another gourmet dinner this month, but unless you’re a resident, or the guest of a resident, your invite’s gone the way of the tallow sculpture—so make a friend there quickly. The meal will be unforgettable. —Matt Amis

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