Feeling Italian? The beach is the place to be

August 10, 2017

I don't think there's anybody who doesn't like Italian food. (This is NOT an invitation to email me if you don't.) There's no shortage of Italian joints here at the beach; some are certainly better than others, and outspoken locals are passionate about their favorites.

So grab your red checkered tablecloth and candle wax-covered Chianti bottle and let's get started. It's always a party at Touch of Italy in Rehoboth. It's a deli; it's a pasticceria (bakery); it's a salumeria (deli meats to go); it's a trattoria (casual sit-down restaurant); it's a pizzeria; it's a bar – it's a little of everything and they do it all right. The wood-fired pizzas are very good – but the lasagna is a recent menu addition and it's also quite good. Save room for dessert!

Downtown Rehoboth sports four Italian places. Comfortably ensconced in the Hotel Rehoboth is Lupo Italian Kitchen. The veal meatballs, the chicken parm and the wall of all-Italian wines are must-gets in this sunny and open eatery. Just around the corner where Baltimore Ave. meets First St. is DiFebo's, Chef Lisa DiFebo Osias' second incarnation of her popular Bethany Beach spot. The salads and anything ravioli are exceptional. Over on Lake Avenue, the upscale Zebra adds an Italian accent to breezy dining on the front porch, and at the westernmost end of Rehoboth Avenue, longtime Rehoboth restaurateur Johnny DeLeo brings neighborhood Italian comfort food to locals and vacationers alike.

Lewes is not without its homage to sunny Italy. Though it seems like just another pizza place, Pat's Pizzeria in Mariner Plaza dishes up exceptional lasagna. And their signature square pizza (owner Alex calls it "Greek pizza") is endlessly cheesy. Get it a little well done and you can thank me later. Yet another wood-fired pizzeria is just up the road at Mr. P's Pizza & Pasta. Owner Rick Thomas' sense of humor is not lost on the signs that announce lunch slices until 2:59 p.m.

Mara DePace's Villa Sorrento in Lewes is about as "neighborhood" as it gets, and as if clams with linguini and a good chopped salad weren't enough, classically trained Mara randomly bursts into song to celebrate particularly busy nights. Continue down Savannah Road to experience the terminally tiny, but temptingly tasty Half Full. Uniquely topped rectangular pizzas are served up on wooden paddles. It's a little tight in there, but well worth the crush. At the other end of the block is the original sit-down Touch of Italy. Same goodies and same pizza as the Rehoboth mothership, but in a smaller footprint.

There are two places in lands far, far away that deserve mention. The first is Mancini's in Fenwick Island where Gabriel Mancini serves up huge portions topped with his Nonna's red sauce. Many an evening I spent at the bar with mixologist-in-residence, Todge, fortified by his choice of the perfect Sangiovese. Honorable mention #2 belongs to La Dolce Vita on Long Neck Road off of Rt. 24. "Pops" Beddia glides from table to table making sure everything is right. The place reminds me of the old-fashioned Italian places in Baltimore's Little Italy. The eggplant parm is one of the go-to goodies.

And by the way, I was kidding about not emailing me. Go ahead. I have a delete button.

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