Carnevale! event funds scholarships for culinary industry trainees

April 19, 2019

Cape Region food industry professionals recently teamed up to help local high schoolers realize their dreams.

Every spring, the business of eating here in the Cape Region faces the inescapable fact that trustworthy, skilled help in professional kitchens is getting harder to find. In response to this, the Delaware Restaurant Association stepped up to the plate with the well-regarded ProStart program – a nationwide, two-year, industry-written curriculum for high school students. Graduates can either apply their newfound culinary and management skills to entry-level positions in the industry, or continue their education at professional postsecondary culinary schools.

In spite of the DRA’s efforts to swell the ranks of kitchen and management professionals, there is always room for more support, especially for students who might return to the Cape Region to staff our ever-growing lineup of great restaurants. To that end, Touch of Italy restaurants and teamed up five years ago to create the Culinary Scholarship Foundation. The fund provides tuition assistance to high schoolers who distinguish themselves in the classroom/practical levels of ProStart, in similar programs, or on the job locally. Qualified applicants for these merit-based scholarships have a shot at generous grants to top schools in the country.

Last Tuesday, April 9, Touch of Italy and, along with sponsors Freedom Boat Club, Cape Gazette, Delmarva Broadcasting Company, SoDel Concepts, artist John Donato, Signarama, Dogfish Head, Atlantic Transportation, ANC Sports, Vintage Imports, Specialty Wines & Liquors, Country Vintner, Breakthru Beverage, Tom and Beverly Rosella, Lanterna Distributors, Fat Vinny’s Food Truck, Bacchus Importers, Ocean 98 Radio, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Ocean City’s Harrison Group, Delaware Coastal Realty, Big Fish Restaurant Group,, Ruark Golf Properties and the Ocean City Golf Club (plus a long list of generous contributors) presented the 4th annual Carnevale! Italian Street Fair to benefit the scholarship fund. In fact, the insanely busy Touch of Italy in Rehoboth Beach actually closed for an entire day in order to accommodate the gala. Talk about generous!
Every year the theme of Carnevale! celebrates the cuisine of five Italian culinary regions. In the past, the kitchen crew at Touch of Italy Rehoboth has accurately duplicated favorite dishes from Tuscany, Sicily, Piemonte, Calabria, Campagna, Napoli, Emilia-Romagna, Marche, Umbria, Sardinia, Liguria, Lazio and Basilicata … just to name a few.

This year, it was all about the five “hidden Italian regions”! Touch of Italy’s neighbors started figuring out the well-kept secret when that shiny stainless steel Sabrett street vendor cart – complete with the huge blue-and-yellow logo umbrella – was towed up to the front door (thank you, Fat Vinny!). After all, what better place to have Italian food than in New York! The five hidden regions turned out to include Manhattan (with none other than Sabrett “dirty water” dogs with all the fixins, including TOI Corporate Chef Ciro Verdi’s own sausage, peppers and onion topping, and mini meatballs with sauce, pancetta and reggiano), The Bronx (with oak-fired Neapolitan pizzas just like those at Zero Otto Nove on Arthur Avenue & 187th St.), and Brooklyn (with Ciro's Brooklyn wings, roasted radicchio wrapped in speck, and beef with yellow squash, red onion and portabella ‘shrooms). Staten Island was honored with fried ravioli topped with sun-dried peppers and clam focaccia crostini along with mini chicken parms (the parms were mini, not the chickens). Last and certainly not least, the borough of Queens took the stage with a gigantic antipasto that included a mountain of charcuterie, cheeses, mozzarella (made fresh by hand as it was being served) and sliced-to-order prosciutto. Each food item was adapted from popular Italian eateries in each borough. Nobody left hungry – or thirsty. The generous wine distributors listed above kept everyone’s glasses full.

Fundraising efforts not only included a live auction of one-of-a-kind items and experiences conducted by Delaware Realty auctioneer Richard Bryan, but also the annual raffle for an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Italy. The Italy raffle continues through May. This year’s destination is none other than Rome. Ticket sales are limited to only 300, so every ticketholder has a better chance of winning. And that lucky winner will be selected live at 4:30 p.m., Saturday, June 1, on Delaware 105.9 FM’s Sip & Bite with the Rehoboth Foodie radio show. One hundred percent of the proceeds benefit the scholarship fund! Chances for this $8,000 all-expenses-paid trip for two are available through May 31 at any Touch of Italy restaurant or online at

Many people aren’t aware of the skills required to open and operate a successful restaurant. And nowhere is that more obvious than in a resort town, where Grand Opening signs morph into For Lease signs in the blink of an eye. Through events like the recent Carnevale! extravaganza, organizations like the Touch of Italy/ Culinary Scholarship Foundation and the Delaware Restaurant Association work behind the scenes to help ensure that Delaware dining experiences continue to be safe, creative and enjoyable.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at