Delaware Dining: Articles about Societa da Vinci Vendemmia Wine Festival at Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park in Wilmington and Johnson’s Grill in the Shoppes of Louviers in Newark

A Real Corker

If you thought the Societa da Vinci Vendemmia Wine Festival was one kickin’ party, you’re not alone. Buses already come from as far north as Brooklyn and west from Lancaster. Now the push is on to lure wine lovers from the Washington-Baltimore area. “We’re turning it into a regional event,” says chairman Ron Oronzio.

And why not? Vendemmia, which celebrates the annual grape harvest, is one of the top wine events going.

Twenty-five of the best restaurants in the region—Caffé Gelato, Harry’s Seafood Grill, Soffritto Italian Grill, and the Martuscelli family’s La Casa Pasta and Chesapeake Inn, to name a few—will provide delicious food. Most of the state’s distributors will supply the wine, as will the Italian Mountain Development Agency, which has facilitated the import of wines directly from Italy.

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And that’s not all. Vendemmia would hardly be Vendemmia without a homemade wine-making contest. And there will be plenty of entrants for the homemade gravy contest. (For non-Italian Americans, gravy is tomato sauce flavored with meat.)

Everything happens 2 p.m.-6 p.m. on Oct. 9 at Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park in Wilmington. Tickets are $45 in advance (855-552-9924), $55 at the gate. That gets you food, wine and great entertainment by the likes of diva Andrea Arena and Al Santoro and the Hi-liters.

And don’t forget your opportunity to win a trip for two to Italy. We hear they have some decent food and wine there. —Mark Nardone

Big Food—No Joke

In certain contexts, the name of Johnson’s Grill could inspire more than a few saucy jokes, but don’t think it’s a Hooters for women, even if owner Laurie Clark is working hard to lure the female market.

Because at bottom the cozy bar and grill in Newark is just a great place to get good food and enjoy a novel concept: men at work. Servers dress in blue-collar duds. Silhouettes of power drills and tool boxes adorn the wainscoted walls. Tonka graders and other trucks roll across tabletops.

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“It hasn’t been done,” Clark says. “The construction theme is different.”

Clark was a server at the former Schoonover’s in Greenville 20 years ago. There she met veteran chef Bill Stradley, now head of the kitchen at Johnson’s. Together they’ve assembled a menu of standards with a few surprises: a pulled pork sandwich with aged provolone and collards instead of the expected broccoli rabe, a burger of sausage instead of beef, macaroni and cheese with smoked bacon and wild mushrooms. Pico de gallo for the fish tacos is made fresh daily. Stradley calls his pan-fried mozzarella with prosciutto and roasted peppers “the best thing I’ve ever tasted.”

(Shoppes at Louviers, Newark, 533-7432, —M.N.

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