Good eats with a French twist – in Seaford
An enduring misconception about this column is that it’s a restaurant review. It is not. My intent is to tell you about the people who take the financial and emotional risk of opening a restaurant in this resort area. Sometimes we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of this business of eating - from food sanitation to restaurant computer systems and everything in between. Restauranting is a difficult business, and I try to humanize what might otherwise be just a lighted sign on a building. And in doing so, it helps keep my finger on the pulse of Cape Region dining.
My ramblings on these pages have attracted a small army of kind locals who make it their business to expand my dining horizons. One member of that army is none other than Jack Riddle, esteemed Rotarian, lover of good restaurants, and chief lending officer/president of our very own Community Bank. As a lender, Jack’s job requires that he also have his finger on the pulse of the restaurant community. So I know to listen when this guy makes a suggestion.
After 14 years of doing whatever it is I do here at the beach, few things surprise me. But there is the occasional exception. And my first visit to Bon Appétit restaurant in … wait for it … Seaford, Delaware … was one of those exceptions. With all due respect to the town, it’s simply not a place where one would immediately expect to find such a well-run fine-dining French eatery. Every time I’ve visited since then, everything - from the first hello to the final wave goodby – has been perfectly executed.
Karen Pedemonte and her husband Chino met while working at a restaurant in New York. He started as a dishwasher, and she was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. The couple purchased Bon Appétit in 1991, and though the theme is decidedly French, Chef Chino blends German, Incan, Chinese, Japanese and Swiss influences into the ever-changing menu. He cooks only with the assistance of his sous chef, and if he isn’t able to work, they hang a “closed” sign on the door. A guarantee of consistency if there ever was one.
Karen’s center of operations is the beautifully appointed dining room, and she’s all about the details. From the vintage French prints to the fresh flowers, the crisp napkins and the always-filled water glasses and bread baskets, she works seamlessly alongside her waitstaff.
On our first visit, Jack requested the services of the very professional, but delightfully clever server Maggie. Though all the servers at Bon Appetit are on the leading edge, we have requested her ever since. After the carved butter flowers are delivered to the table, things just keep getting better from there. Though their food and menu would stand up to any restaurant I’ve ever visited, the prices are surprisingly reasonable. I wouldn’t have flinched at a $36 price tag on my perfectly seared Black Angus filet mignon with mustard, cream and Bordelaise sauce - except that it came in under $30! Karen and Chino also offer an all-inclusive prix fixe that includes the specials du jour along with pretty much everything on the menu. Quite a bargain when compared to similar menus that dish up portions half the size we enjoyed in Seaford.
Is this a review? No. I’ll leave it to you to try the food and reach your own conclusion. But, without a doubt, after operating Bon Appétit for well over 25 years, the Pedemontes must be doing something right. And it’s no mystery what that something is: tireless dedication, skill, patience and an uncanny focus on customer service. And given the competitive whirlwind that is today’s business of eating, that keeps guests coming back year after year.
Gourmand and educator James Beard said it best: “I don't like gourmet cooking or 'this' cooking or 'that' cooking. I like good cooking.” Treat yourself to some good cooking at Bon Appetit in Seaford. Find the menu at bonappetitseaford.net. Then call 302-629-3700 to reserve a table. It’s well worth the drive.