At a time when other restaurateurs are leaving Rehoboth Beach, Megan Kee and Nick Pawson have recently opened their third downtown restaurant – an Italian eatery named Dalmata.
“I believe in the people who live in this community,” said Kee, who recognizes the challenges of owning and operating restaurants downtown. “We’re stewards of this city for future generations. We have to decide what kind of place we want Rehoboth to be 30 years from now. I want to be in a place where people are happy.”
Located on the southeast corner of South First Street and Wilmington Avenue, neighbor to The Edge, Dalmata is a restaurant Kee and Pawson, partners in business and in life, have been working on for over a year. Kee said they took over the property in July 2019 and spent the rest of the year coming up with a concept. Renovations began in early 2020, with plans to open as soon as possible. Then, she said, COVID-19 hit and everything just took longer.
“There were struggles with the supply chain,” she said.
Kee opened La Fable on Baltimore Avenue in 2016 and then Houston White Co. on Rehoboth Avenue in 2018. As with those two restaurants, Kee said the name of Dalmata has a special meaning.
“My grandmother always had Dalmatians,” she said, describing a World War II-era picture of her grandmother, then a young woman, sitting in a Cadillac convertible with two Dalmatians as passengers. “It’s just a fun concept. We have dogs and love being around animals.”
Unlike the other two restaurants, said Kee, Dalmata is more of a family-friendly concept, where people can come by and have a good meal at reasonable prices.
“I want this place to be approachable for everyone,” said Kee, who has family in the Tuscany region of Italy. “Italian food is meant to feel like a big hug when it’s being eaten.”
For the time being, while state-mandated COVID-19 dining restrictions are in place, Kee said Dalmata will offer takeout only. She said she’s looking forward to when pasta noodles will be on the menu.
“Rigatoni, garganelli and orecchiette. We bought a very nice extruder, and the pasta is going to be really special,” said Kee.
Pawson, self-taught in the art of pizza making, said all the pizza and the pasta are made from scratch. He described the pizza as a hybrid between Neapolitan and New York City styles.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” he said.
Dalmata offers one size of pizza. Pawson said it’s roughly 15 inches around.
“Two people can share one if they have a salad,” he said. “One person would be really stuffed if they ate the whole thing.”
Pawson said Dalmata may be a more family-friendly experience, but the quality of food will be the same.
“We expect a good experience when we go out to eat. If that’s what we expect, our customers are going to expect the same thing,” he said.
Due to the size of the oven, Pawson said there are some limitations to how many pizzas can be made in a day – he estimated 40. He said they could probably do more, but the pizza probably wouldn’t be as good.
“We’re dedicated to the craft,” said Pawson.
Dalmata, at 28 Wilmington Ave., is open 5 to 9 p.m., Friday through Sunday. Kee said for the time being, texting her at 302-542-3748 or messaging her on Facebook is the best way to order. She said ordering will soon be done online, and customers will have the ability to reserve a time for pickup. For more information, go to deliciousplates.com, the home website for all three restaurants.