Nicola Pizza co-founder Nick Caggiano Sr. has operated in downtown Rehoboth Beach for 50 years. During a chamber lunch Jan. 30, he said he’s never seen so many vacant storefronts.
Caggiano opened the restaurant with wife Joan in June 1971. Counting 24 vacancies in Rehoboth’s commercial district, Caggiano said getting those storefronts filled is the most important thing the city should be working on.
“We need to get the foot traffic back in town,” said Caggiano.
Caggiano was asked to speak at the monthly luncheon by Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carol Everhart. She said she asked him to address the business leaders after the two had an interesting conversation about the future of downtown.
“Nick always has a story, so fasten your seat belts,” said Everhart, introducing Caggiano.
A lot of ground was covered by Caggiano – business history, keys to success and thoughts on how to get more foot traffic, without bringing more cars into downtown.
Caggiano opened Nicola Pizza with his wife Joan, who died in the spring of 2017, on North First Street in June 1971. He said the restaurant’s signature dish, the Nic-o-Boli, was created soon after opening as a way to satisfy hungry lifeguards and employees. The dish was introduced to the public, he said, when an employee asked if her family members could have one also.
“I don’t remember what I charged her, but it was probably a lot,” he said, smiling. “I had to get my money.”
The restaurant expanded to Rehoboth Avenue in 2011, and day-to-day operations are now run by Caggiano’s son Nick and niece Kelly Munyan. The restaurant patriarch said a third generation of Caggianos, his grandson Vincent, joined the management team in 2019.
“It’s exciting,” he said.
Caggiano said the keys to his company’s success have been a strong work ethic, belief in his product and perseverance.
“I knew I could out work the rest of them. I did not see failure as an option,” said Caggiano. “Fifty years later, I still believe in the product.”
On perseverance, Caggiano said just don’t give up. He said his parents couldn’t read or write, but they knew how to work, and that’s something they passed along to him.
Caggiano said he thought the water taxi and proposed dock at Grove Park are a great idea. He said instead of putting a parking garage next to Rehoboth Beach City Hall, the city should be exploring other options, like, he said, at Grove Park. A parking garage at Grove Park would provide a place for people to park, without having them congesting downtown, he said.
Caggiano said there would be things to work out with a garage at Grove Park – primarily that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns the area along the canal – but he said he thought something could be worked out that could bring a structure with two levels below ground and three above.
“It’s a much better idea than the city hall parking lot,” said Caggiano.