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The Only Constant: Change

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The Club Bistro and Pub in Pike Creek serves roasted duck with fettuccine, wild mushrooms, imported cheeses and a creamy alfredo sauce. Photograph by Jared CastaldiNothing is static in the Delaware dining scene. Restaurants open. Restaurants close. But if one storyline was most persistent this year, it was the Comeback.

Two New Castle County giants recently announced their returns from the abyss: Greenville’s popular Brandywine Brewing Co. was rebooted by owner David Dietz as BBC Tavern and Grill, and the stoic, long-shuttered Columbus Inn in Wilmington, previously marked for upscale condo buildings, will return to its former glory this spring.

Greenville is abuzz about the BBC. Dietz hesitates to call his BBC Tavern and Grill a reopening or a rebirth, but the owner of the former Brandywine Brewing Co. acknowledges his legacy. Famous pretzels, gigantic nachos and fabulous beer are once again hot-ticket items, but the kitchen, helmed by talented Mark Doto, also does barbecued scallops and seared sea bass. Customers must be nutty for BBC’s repurposed church pews, because the place is heavenly popular.

The Columbus Inn, the nearly 300-year-old Wilmington landmark on Pennsylvania Avenue, was purchased last fall by Louis Capano & Associates, which hopes to revive its old charm while bringing it into the 21st century. That means a few cosmetic changes will be made—like turning an old coat room into a glass-enclosed wine room—without departing from the Inn’s famous cozy, dark-wooded atmosphere.

Dover saw some promising signs to its dining scene, including Frankie’s in Dover Downs, a casual, Sinatra-themed Italian restaurant that’s big on wine, pasta and brick oven pizzas.

Celebrity chef Jamie Weist carted back into town with The Club Bistro and Pub in the former spot of the Three Little Bakers in Pike Creek. A comfortable upstairs bistro serves hand-cut pappardelle pasta, certified Angus steaks, pan-seared scallops and golf course views. The downstairs pub offers burgers, nachos, sandwiches and light fare—with a cold beer, of course.

Speaking of beer, Delaware got its newest brewery in the form of 16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown. Native Delawareans and homebrew gurus Chad Campbell and Brett McCrea opened the microbrewery inside a 100-year-old former farm building. The fruits of their labors include the sweet and hoppy Amber Sun Ale and the slightly citrusy Old Court Ale, both available in bottles and kegs, and at select bars and restaurants.

Page 2: The Only Constant: Change, continues…

 

The new Abbott’s Grill in Milford serves such delights as beer-braised mussels.Michael DiBianca unveiled a new menu concept for his acclaimed Moro in Wilmington last fall, making the switch from new American to Mediterranean. He now prepares artful selections of pastas, seafood, salumi, and risotto while sourcing some of the best product around. Seafood comes from famed Philly fishmongers Samuel and Sons, and salami gets flown in overnight from Seattle’s Creminelli Fine Meats.

Another bona fide celebrity chef, Kevin Reading of Nage, got his newest project under way in Milford. Along with chef Ryan Cunningham, formerly of Bonz in Harrington, and fellow Nager Josh Grapski, Reading opened Abbott’s Grill in December. The family-friendly restaurant features down-home and affordable fare such as lobster pot pie, lamb shanks and slow-roasted pork loin with black-eyed peas.

The always-exciting culinary landscape of Rehoboth Beach continued to change. In the place of the former Partner’s Bistro on Rehoboth Avenue is Rigby’s Bar and Grill, a colorful and casual eatery with a nice-looking menu that includes buttermilk fried chicken thighs, braised Berkshire pork and succulent hanger steak.

One block over, Baltimore Avenue welcomed A Touch of Italy, a New York-style Italian deli, bakeshop and gourmet grocer. You’ll find house-smoked mozzarella courtesy of owner Lou Bascil, some great cured meats, cheeses, fresh bread, sandwiches, and more. Down the street is Hobos Restaurant + Bar, steered by owner and executive chef Gretchen Hanson. Hanson’s approach to healthy, global cuisine yields menu items such as couscous towers with garlic, spinach and tomato, and quinoa salad with ginger salsa.

Nearby, Salt Air dazzled in its first season. A venture of Jonathan Spivak and Nino Mancari, who teamed up years ago at Sedona in Bethany Beach, Salt Air bills itself as a Delaware beach picnic, combining some of the best local ingredients and culinary traditions in interesting ways—then mixing in an airy decor complete with hanging beach towels. For proof, try the Chincoteague salt oysters, line-caught rockfish or roasted organic chicken.

Taqueria Moroleon, a much-beloved Kennett Square eatery that helped put upscale-casual Mexican cuisine on the map in this area, packed up and moved just outside Hockessin to Route 41 in Avondale, Pennslvania. Now housed in the former Il Giardino, Moroleon still produces authentic Mexican, from rustic sopas to sizzling skirt steaks.

Walter’s Steakhouse, the oldest of its breed in Wilmington, is sometimes accused of being too old-school, but lately, the place has packed in throngs of young folks with a theme party straight out of 1930s Chicago. Speakeasy nights each month transform Walter’s into a Prohibition-era hootenanny, replete with period costumes, secret passwords, drink specials and more.

Restaurateur Carl Georigi has been on quite a roll. The head of the Platinum Dining Group saw rapturous response to his newest spot, Wilmington’s upscale-casual Capers and Lemons, then followed up by being named Restaurateur of the Year by the Delaware Restaurant Association. This month he’ll put his hot streak to the test when he transforms his Dome Restaurant in Lantana Square in Hockessin into Redfire Grill + Steakhouse, a contemporary steakhouse that will stress affordable, family-friendly cuisine.

Times may be tough, but that hasn’t stopped restaurants from opening, re-opening, re-imagining and re-inventing. And we eager diners couldn’t be happier with the hubbub.

Page 3: A Special Honor | The Delaware Restaurant Association recognizes Delaware Today with its Allied Member of the Year award.

 

Rob Martinelli, Gerret Copeland and Donna Creese. Photograph by Karen EllerA Special Honor

The Delaware Restaurant Association recognizes Delaware Today with its Allied Member of the Year award.

Last fall, those much-beloved restaurants returned the sentiment. The Delaware Restaurant Association awarded the magazine its Allied Member of the Year award, an honor bestowed upon a company for going above and beyond to serve the restaurant industry.

Carl and Lisa Georigi of the Platinum Dining Group with their son and daughter. Photograph by Karen Eller“We felt that Delaware Today in this past year has really come up with creative solutions to help the restaurant industry and my members in light of our economic downturn,” says association president Carrie Leishman.

Delaware Today was presented with the award on November 16 at the Delaware Restaurant Association’s annual Cornerstone Awards at Dover Downs. A publication had never before won Allied Member of the Year.

Xavier Teixido of Harry’s restaurants, Delaware Today publisher Rob Martinelli and chef David Leo Banks. Photograph by Karen Eller“Our readers tell us, survey after survey, that dining is one of the topics they want most,” says Delaware Today publisher Robert Martinelli. “The magazine is proud of its relationship with Delaware’s fine restaurants and the state’s hospitality community in general. And Delaware Today is extremely honored to be awarded the Delaware Restaurant Association’s Cornerstone Award for Allied Vendor of the Year in 2009.” —Matt Amis
 

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