‘A nice last day’ for dining at original Nicola Pizza

Pizzeria closing both Rehoboth locations right after Labor Day; October opening for Lewes location
June 15, 2022

Story Location:
Nicola Pizza
8 North First Street
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

For the past 50 years, visitors and locals alike have enjoyed many meals in the booths of the wood-paneled original Nicola Pizza on North First Street in Rehoboth Beach. That tradition ended June 12 with the final day of dining service at the original location.

Nick Caggiano Sr. and his late wife Joan founded Nicola Pizza in 1971. The original restaurant opened on North First Street, and then a second location opened on Rehoboth Avenue in 2010. In August 2020, the Caggiano family announced the restaurant was leaving downtown Rehoboth for a new site on Route 1 outside Lewes on property adjacent to Ocean One Plaza.

As is often the case, Nick Caggiano Jr. was still making the table-to-table rounds, checking on customers. There’s been a lot of familiar faces that haven’t been around in a while, he said.

“Old employees. Old customers,” said Nick Jr. “It feels good, but it’s bittersweet.”

Caggiano was 6 years old when his parents opened the original location.

“I’ve slept under the ovens. I’ve taken quarters to go use at Funland. There’s a lot of old memories,” he said, laughing.

The Wooten family live in Glen Mills, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, and own a place in Dewey Beach. They’ve been coming to the original restaurant since before they had their three kids.

“We always come when we’re in town,” said dad Gary. “We didn’t even know it was the last day today.”

Mom Maisy said the original Nicola was the first restaurant that all three of their children ate at. There are pictures with each of them, she said, smiling.

On the final day, Gary and Maisy were enjoying lunch with their youngest child Molly. The two boys are back in Pennsylvania, and they’d already sent a couple of selfies of them enjoying their last meal.

“They’re going to be jealous for sure,” said Molly.

The Wootens said they’ll absolutely be customers at the new location, but they’ll also miss the original.

“There’s so much character,” said Gary.

Making the drive from Newark were two couples who had to eat one last meal in the famous window booths – Eddie and Sarah Jimenez, with their 14-month-old son Edward, and Rob and Lauren Schane.

“I’m 30 and I’ve been coming here for 30 years. This table is where I celebrated my 30th birthday, and it’s where she had her bachelorette party,” said Sarah, pointing to Lauren. “It’s always been our summer spot.”

Eddie was quick, and proud, to point out that son Edward had already eaten at the original Nicola “at least a dozen times” in his young life.

Lauren is pregnant with her and Rob’s first child. The baby won’t be born before Nicola closes, but it will enjoy the meal while in her belly, she said. It was a comment that garnered a like-she-said look from Rob.

Waitress Rosa Portillo is one of a number of employees who have worked at Nicola’s for decades. She’s been walking the aisles between the tables and booths for 25 years.

People were waiting at the door when the restaurant opened at 11 a.m., she said.

“It’s very sentimental. There were a lot of amazing people and so many memories. It kind of feels like leaving a home,” said Portillo. “It’s been a nice last day.”

Looking forward, Nick Jr. said they’re going to bring everything they can to the new location – all the old memorabilia, the booths. The only thing not coming is the train, he said, referencing the toy train that goes in an oval above diners.

“We’re going to make it feel as much like the original as we can,” he said.

The original Nicola will remain open for takeout the rest of the summer, while the Rehoboth Avenue location remains open for dine-in service. Caggiano said it will get emotional when they close the two locations for good Labor Day. The goal is to have the new restaurant open by mid-October, he said.

“The day I see them starting to move things out of here is when it will really hit me,” he said. “It’ll be a sad day, but I know the move is going to be good for the customers and the employees.”


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