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Marco Polo

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A customer enjoys a signature Marcotini of peach schnapps, vodka and peach nectar. Photograph by Thom ThompsonRistorante Marco
3801 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 254-5427
www.ristorantemarco.com

Prices
Appetizers $5-$11
Entrées $15-$30
Grilled entrées $27-$35

Recommended Dishes

Antipasto Cilentano, risotto pescatore, gnocchi alla Sorrentina, maiale alla Abbruzzese (double-cut pork chop)

 

Gregarious owner Marco Rizzo, at the behest of his regulars at Ristorante Marco in Bear, opened a second location in Greenville this summer.

The new Marco is in the same Greenville retail strip that had become sort of a pet cemetery for upscale Italian joints. The former Amalfi and Sapori Ristorante Italiano came and went in the exact same spot.

So Rizzo knows it’s not an ideal location, but he has an asset his predecessors lacked. Besides a good menu that highlights several seafood options, Ristorante Marco’s greatest advantage may be Rizzo himself.

He’s the kind of owner who lives, eats and breathes his ristorante. He splits his days between the Bear and Greenville locations, and takes all his meals there. He makes a concerted effort to get to know his regulars and has famously absorbed a few of their own recipes into his menus. (Good luck finding Scaloppini alla Ed Richitelli anywhere else.) He tracked down and purchased a great selection of wines from in and around his hometown of Santa Maria de Castellabate—a gorgeous coastal Italian hamlet—including Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi, an award-winning red, and Kratos Maffini, a buxom white. Marco gladly recommends a bottle, he pours, he chats, he mingles, and so forth.

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Executive chef Calixto Fernandez puts the finishing touch on the mist mare terra: lightly grilled shrimp, asparagus and artichokes wrapped in prosciutto and served with stuffed mushrooms atop a spring mix. Photograph by Thom ThompsonSo in theory, Rizzo, who shepherded customers to the first Marco from La Casa Pasta, where he worked for nearly 20 years, should have enough built-in clout to make the new Marco a success. Movers and shakers have already come calling. Governor Jack Markell and wife Carla dined there in late summer. Joe Biden has stopped in, too. The veep, whose appetite for pasta is legendary, didn’t eat, but he did grab a menu and, of course, chat.

Set to blossom into a proper sensation, Ristorante Marco averages out to something between fine dining and neighborhood Italian. The menu prices are certainly more Greenville than Little Italy (to the tune of $11 for a sautéed broccoli rabe starter) and, perhaps surprisingly, pasta is a bit scarce, certainly more limited than at the Bear restaurant. In its place is a protein-heavy carte featuring a half-dozen veal dishes and a section devoted to grilled meats.

Rizzo, who grew up a fisherman in Italy, has a special reverence for seafood. The kitchen usually keeps a selection of red snapper, sea bass and branzino (three fish of varying texture and oiliness) that can be prepared several ways. The most interesting is the salt crust. The kitchen will encase a whole fish in a paste made from several pounds (yes, pounds) of salt, which, when baked, fuses into a chamber that locks in the fish’s moisture and flavor. Rizzo cracks and carves the dish for guests tableside. It’s a production that could become a house signature.

I opted for the less ostentatious, but no less delicious, risotto pescatore: creamy arborio rice jacked with a little of the house’s marinara sauce and surrounded with an army of briny clams, mussels and cockles, as well as shrimp. I can’t imagine not loving this dish on a cold night.

Page 3: Marco Polo, continues…

 

Owner Marco Rizzo de-bones the branzino. Photograph by Thom ThompsonThe same can be said for zuppa di ceci e gamberi—a soup recipe Rizzo brought home from a recent sojourn to Italy. Made from puréed chickpeas and shrimp, the best part of this dish was the warm, intoxicating aroma of rosemary. The shrimp was scarce, and I believe Rizzo intends it only as a texture change-up, but I think shrimp could’ve handled a larger role. (Speaking of great dishes for cold nights, Rizzo will unveil a new menu this month, which will be chock full of soups, pastas, grilled seasonal artichokes and even roasted chestnuts.)

Most other offerings from chefs Calixto Fernandez and Marino Cristiano were quite successful. An order of antipasto Cilentano (a region in Salerno) contained grilled eggplant, zucchini, roasted peppers and mushrooms, and was dotted generously with renowned northern Italian prosciutto di Parma, salami, mozzarella and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.

An avid Eagles fan, I couldn’t turn down Scaloppine alla Dick Vermeil, named for the former head coach. A veal dish allegedly of Vermeil’s own design, it combined thin veal medallions, eggplant, melted mozzarella and a tomato sauce. The menu advertised a light sauce, but the dish seemed a bit heavy on tomato, with plump cherry tomatoes compounding the problem. The flavors were there, and the veal was perfectly tender, but I wish the kitchen had eased up on the sauce.

Better were heavenly gnocchi Sorrentina. The little dumplings were pillowy soft, and the accompanying sauce was sweet and smoky, thanks to an infusion of smoked mozzarella, which Rizzo procures, along with the prosciutto and a few other items, at the Italian market in Philadelphia.

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Grilled romaine lettuce is topped with shaved Parmesan, fried diced pancetta and balsamic vinaigrette. Photograph by Thom ThompsonPenne Alla Mamma, a much lighter pasta dish, was understated and rewarding. Penne was tossed simply with sautéed diced eggplant, red peppers, olives and capers, plus some sizable slices of garlic.

I let out a Homer Simpson-esque growl when a 16-ounce double-cut pork chop arrived with sautéed broccoli rabe, chopped tomatoes and smoked mozzarella. Smoked mozzarella, which tastes like the lovechild of cheese and bacon, is a beautiful, beautiful thing. And the pork, despite its considerable thickness, was cooked to perfection. I enjoyed dipping chunks of it into the sweet balsamic vinegar reduction.

Mostly young servers were still finding their comfort zone during my visits, but were supremely friendly and enthusiastic. And an extra tip of the cappello for remaining attentive when the restaurant wasn’t very busy, as was the case during a couple early dinners.

I later wished I’d stuck around to see Ristorante Marco kick it into high gear with its dinner service, which, according to several reports, is a lot of fun. How Marco divides his time and efforts between his two restaurants is certainly something worth monitoring, considering he’s as much a part of the appeal as his food. Make no bones about it: This isn’t trendy Mediterranean fusion. Ristorante Marco does Italian standards and does them well. Could that straightforwardness be the key that keeps Italian in Greenville? The answer might be clearer than a Marco-poured glass of Moscato.

 Page 5: Small but Mighty | Delaware’s newest microbrewery is, well, pretty darn micro.

 

Photograph by Keith Mosher/kamphotographySmall but Mighty 

Delaware’s newest microbrewery is, well, pretty darn micro.

“In fact, we might be the most micro of the microbrews,” laughs Brett McCrea, who, along with partner Chad Campbell, launched 16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown this year.

But from inside the 4,000-square-foot building, the two-man, 15-barrel operation produces big bottles of cold, amber malty goodness. Find Amber Sun Ale, the company’s flagship beer, in massive 22-ounce aluminum bottles at your local liquor store or on tap at Harry’s Seafood Grill in Wilmington and, in Rehoboth Beach, at the Purple Parrot and Arena’s Deli. It’s also offered at Aqua Sol at the Summit North Marina.

McCrea likes the big bottles because people can try it without having to buy a six-pack. And aluminum saves big bucks on labeling and shipping.

McCrea and Campbell, both Delaware natives, spent years perfecting their recipes as homebrewers. “We like the darker beers,” McCrea says. “We like to taste that maltiness in the beers.” Old Court Ale, an American-style pale ale with a bright citrus aroma, launched this fall.

Getting thirsty? Sample some 16 Mile at the March of Dimes Celebrity Chefs event on November 5 at Baywood Greens in Long Neck.  —Matt Amis

Page 6: Tea Partying

 

The British Ball Tea RoomTea Partying

Fancy a cup of rooibos, darling? Some scones with clotted cream? Sure, tea and finger sandwiches might be more abundant across the pond, but Delawareans have some great spots from which to sip.
The British Bell Tea Room (890 Peoples Plaza, Newark, 836-1802) is owner Dawn Viggiano’s ode to classic English afternoon tea. “Our great-grandmother came over from London, and everything came to a halt at 4 o’clock for tea and a treat,” Viggiano says. “Growing up, I thought that was a common practice.”
Her tea room in Newark—adorned with crystal chandeliers, hand-woven tapestry, a brick fireplace and mismatched antique furniture alongside wainscoted walls—has become a haven for those seeking a bit of midday refinement and tranquility. That, and her more than 35 choices of teas, plus a variety of special seasonal teas such as pumpkin-flavored tea.
The Bell offers lunch, afternoon tea and high tea services, as well as wine-tasting parties on weekends. Private parties, especially ones with young girls in attendance, are a hit in the special ParTea room.
“We are strong in the area of young girls, and then with women 35 and above,” Viggiano says. “But we do have our percentage of men, too.”
Inside Milford’s historic Marshall House is The Victorian Lady (112 N.W. Front St., Milford, 424-8272), where owners Kay and Jeff Young host tea parties, lunch, bridal showers and way more. Thank Kay’s selection of more than 70 teas and Jeff’s light bites—including homemade soups, scones, and his Ultimate Chicken Salad Sandwich, which is dressed with cranberry-orange marmalade, apples and baked Brie.
Afternoon tea is only fitting at the Hotel du Pont Lobby Lounge (11th and Market streets, Wilmington, 594-3154), where every weekend between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., folks dine daintily from three-tiered serving trays in the Queen Anne-style lounge. Cheers. Tut tut.      —Matt Amis
 

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