Rehoboth’s culinary window to the world

August 4, 2023

I get emails all the time from dune dwellers who silently pine away for their beloved ethnic cuisines and markets left behind in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York or Baltimore. As a dune dweller myself, I still remember my excitement when the front window of a tiny storefront on Baltimore Avenue proclaimed: “Touch of Italy – Opening Soon!” 

Who would’ve thought that this little walk-in spot would morph into an empire of four sit-down restaurants (including a fine-dining steakhouse), a full-service bakery and an authentic salumeria/deli/pasticceria in each Italian restaurant? There’s nothing like that heady fragrance of olives and fresh bread blending with earthen notes of charcuterie and cheeses to whip your taste buds into a frenzy.

Those of us who count ourselves among the salami starved and cheese challenged have Bronx native Bob Ciprietti to thank for bringing this little bit of the Big Apple to the beach. Ciprietti’s Italian-born father worked as a tailor (along with his father’s father and brother) in the garment district of lower Manhattan. Bob’s mother’s family owned an Italian restaurant in Pennsylvania that stayed open for 55 years. When Ciprietti bought a vacation home in Bethany Beach, there were no local places specializing in Italian provisions that compared with his childhood home in the Bronx. And this was a problem for him. So on holidays, he’d trek to the Bronx, fill his car with cured meats, cheeses, breads and pastries, trade some of those with friends for cookies and wine, and throw a huge party with bountiful Italian-style feasts.

He moved here full time in 2003, and the rest is wood-fired pizza and chicken parm history. “Build it and they will come” almost always comes true, and suddenly there was an expanded sit-down Touch of Italy in Lewes sporting the now-legendary Mozzarella Room where Bronx deli owner Orazio Carciotto (award-winning mozzarella maven and owner of the famed Casa Della Mozzarella at 187th and Arthur Avenue) instructed Touch of Italy’s budding cheesemongers in the fine art of creating that mild, milky and slightly salty Italian staple. Now, that cheese and lots of other Italian treats can be enjoyed not only in Lewes, but also in Rehoboth Beach and in Ocean City, Md., at 66th Street. On top of that, Ciprietti fulfilled his dream of operating a fine steakhouse by opening the Royal Prime Restaurant a couple of years ago at the Bally’s Casino in Dover.

But it doesn’t end there. I’ve been flooded with emails and photos of the mysterious new building attached to the Rehoboth Beach Touch of Italy in Shore Plaza. A couple of weeks ago a sign appeared that read: Chef’s Table. Still sorta mysterious, huh? Well, not any more. Last weekend, on a (brilliantly produced) radio show, Ciprietti revealed everything.

The Chef’s Table will serve three distinct purposes. First, it will replace the current Touch of Italy Bakery at Five Points. Head baker and pastry chef Marta Lucci will now craft her beautiful Italian desserts right there in Rehoboth Beach. The huge, custom-built bread oven at Five Points will be inherited by Anita and Ludovic Bezy, who are opening the second location of their Dover-based La Baguette bakery in that Five Points space. Touch of Italy’s famous breads will be overseen by the talented Chef Ludovic and pastry expert Anita.

The second purpose of the new building is to centralize the restaurant’s existing Ocean City commissary into one location. The food handling and preparation system there is fully state-of-the-art to ensure freshness and total food safety. The technology is truly amazing, and it passed the initial food safety inspections with flying colors.

As we move to the first floor, the third purpose of the building becomes immediately apparent. What I’ve dubbed a culinary media center is a fully equipped TV studio/kitchen that rivals anything at Food Network. Ciprietti plans on hosting guest chefs – both local and from all over the world (especially from Italy!) – to do cooking demonstrations before a live audience for both online streaming and broadcast. They can even route the TV images to the lighted sign in the parking lot! The studio will also serve as a venue for local ProStart culinary students to hone their talents in hopes of becoming eligible for the of Italy Culinary Scholarships. This is the very first venue of its kind here at the beach, and it will be instrumental in bringing the talents of our Cape Region cooks and chefs to a much wider audience.

So the beat goes on. We, the starved and challenged, are not only proud of the accolades earned by so many of our restaurateurs here at the beach, but also happy to anticipate (and support) the success of ventures like the Chef’s Table. I think we’re ready for it.


  • 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

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