Rehoboth will miss its matriarch, Joan Caggiano

May 15, 2017

The Cape Gazette joins our readers and our community in mourning the loss of Joan Caggiano, the welcoming and ever-present face of Nicola Pizza.

Joan co-founded the restaurant with husband Nicholas in 1971, and for decades, Mama Joan would nearly always be found greeting her many customers, recalling, with her legendary knack, their names and the names of their children.

Nicola Pizza has always welcomed children and families, but Joan's love for children did not stop at the restaurant's doors. She was a founder of Rehoboth Beach Cooperative Nursery School, which grew to become the city's leading preschool before it closed in 2014.

She was known to have a special place in her heart for young lifeguards, on many occasions refusing payment for their meals.

That big-hearted reception also extended to legions of young people; she met each one with a smile – and probably a generous slice, served up with a warm word of encouragement.

She was the matriarch of the restaurant, and beyond that, Joan was the matriarch of generations of young people, each one just as important to her as the rich and famous who came through the doors.

Her restaurant also participated in countless fundraising and charity events, supporting Rehoboth Art League, Special Olympics, Rehoboth Museum, CAMP Rehoboth among many others.

In the days when hospitality was not yet a full-fledged industry, Joan and her family built their restaurant on the very qualities most celebrated in today's top-tier establishments: welcoming, attentive service from the moment you walk in the doors; quality ingredients, carefully prepared; and the invention of the now world-famous Nic-o-Boli, with its creative and imaginative presentation.

Since its inception, Nicola's has been an anchor among Rehoboth businesses, one that radiated the small-town charm so compelling to visitors they returned year after year and eventually came to stay.

And at its core was a woman whose keen mind and irrepressible kindness radiated from First Street throughout the city, showering everyone with genuine interest and love.

Rest in peace, Mama Joan.


  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.