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Yuichiro Oka (right) and his son and business partner, Chihiro Oka, are still serving their famous creations in Hockessin. Photograph by Jared CastaldiDelaware’s first family of sushi is still thriving—even without a restaurant.
 
When Utage, Delaware’s first sushi restaurant, closed its doors in 2008 after 22 years in business, many devoted regulars refused to let go. So the Oka family obliged. Owner Yuichiro Oka, his son and business partner Chihiro Oka, and Chihiro’s wife, Christy, began hosting private omakase (chef’s choice) dinners to fulfill their regulars’ sushi jones.
 
“At first it was a way of keeping in touch with friends and family who used to love coming to Utage and really missed my father’s food,” says Chihiro Oka. “A lot of these people are like family now.”
 
The dinners blossomed. Now the Okas host them regularly at the Hockessin Athletic Club (100 Fitness Way, Hockessin, 235-5530), where Chihiro also prepares sushi daily for the club café.
 
At omakase parties, multi-course menus run through Utage classics such as its famous cucumber rolls with homemade ponzu sauce and chicken yakitori, while also unveiling some new creations. A December holiday meal centered on shabu-shabu, Japan’s version of fondue. Customers can book seats at oka-restaurant.com, but act fast—the events sell out quickly.  —Matt Amis
 
Page 2: Just a Touch | Something special has arrived in Rehoboth Beach. And the town favored by foodies hasn’t seen anything like it in awhile.
 

A Touch of Italy also stocks an impressive variety of olives. Photograph by Jared CastaldiJust a Touch

Something special has arrived in Rehoboth Beach. And the town favored by foodies hasn’t seen anything like it in awhile.
A Touch of Italy (33A Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1500) is the beach’s newest authentic Italian salumeria and delicatessen. Best-sellers such as handmade ravioli, fresh pasta and bread, a variety of sauces and cured meats join the largest selection of imported Italian cheeses in the state.
 
The Bascio family—led by Louie and brother Frankie—makes all of the prepared foods in-house. That means savory smoked mozzarella, fresh baked macaroons, cannoli, cream puffs and more. “They handle feeding everybody,” says Bob Ciprietti, who runs the business side of the operation.
 
Other products include fresh bread imported from the Bronx and made-to-order hero sandwiches. The rest of the inventory comes straight from Italy. “People are coming grocery shopping here,” Ciprietti says. “They’re bringing their cookbooks and recipes from the Food Network because they can find stuff here that they can’t find in the grocery store.”
 
In today’s economy, affordable specialty stores come as a big relief. “People still want the same quality,” Ciprietti says. “Instead of going out for dinner, they are buying all these components—meatballs, sauces, ravioli—and having a fabulous meal for only $8 or $9 per person.”
 
The response from locals, who happen to live in one of the region’s premier dining destinations, has been positive.
 
“Locals are great,” Ciprietti says. “They begged us not to close for the winter, and we didn’t, and they supported our business.”  –Katharine Gray
 
Page 3: Recipe for Success |  The restaurant known for prime rib and poached Maine lobster made a little room for chicken last month.
 

Recipe for Success

The restaurant known for prime rib and poached Maine lobster made a little room for chicken last month.
That’s because Benny Diaz of Azusa, California, won the first Delaware Today/Harry’s Savoy Grill recipe contest with his Chicken Jambonettes Andalucia.
 
The panel of judges—which included Harry’s owner Xavier Teixido, renowned chef and restaurant adviser Jacques Amblard, and Delaware Today associate publisher Charles Tomlinson—deemed the tender jambonettes, which were wrapped in crispy bacon and drizzled with a citrusy sauce, best out of five finalists.
 
“Our winner was selected because his recipe had a combination of classic cooking techniques and an interesting mix of bold, contrasting flavors,” Teixido says.
 
Diaz’s recipe made the Harry’s (2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3000) menu for April. Executive chef David Leo Banks duplicated the recipe using free-range organic chicken from Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania. —Matt Amis

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