‘First we eat, then we do everything else.’

July 11, 2019

This quote from preeminent food writer Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher is most often attributed to Italians and their penchant for delicious, hearty cuisine. I don’t think I know anybody who doesn’t like Italian food (this is NOT an invitation to email me if you don’t). That gives even more credibility by the fact that there is no shortage of Italian joints here at the beach. Some are certainly better than others (I’ll leave those comparisons to, and locals are passionate about their favorites.

So grab your checkered tablecloth and Chianti bottle candle and let’s get started. Touch of Italy is arguably one of the most popular Italian joints around. With four locations, weekend waits can be long. But it’s worth it! Corporate Chef Ciro Verdi’s creations like his Robiola cheese ravioli with mushrooms and his Focaccia Robiola Di Ciro (a thin focaccia filled with robiola cheese and drizzled with a floral olive oil) was made famous on Bobby Flay’s “Throwdown.” It’s one of the most popular items at Touch of Italy, followed closely by the authentic Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzas.

In Rehoboth, Bethany Beach and in Berlin, Md., Lisa DiFebo Osias continues a well over-20 year tradition with DiFebo’s Italian restaurants. These year-round trattorias never disappoint. A few blocks west on Rehoboth Avenue, longtime beach chef Johnny DiLeo brings us neighborhood Italian comfort in the form of reliable red-sauce Italian cooking and Casa DiLeo’s New York-style pizza. Back downtown, Azzurro Italian Oven and the brand new Sazio give upscale an Italian accent. Azzurro’s branzino (served whole & crispy, or as a filet) and lasagna are Rehoboth Foodie pick hits, while Lupo’s veal meatballs, sausage with peppers and chicken parmesan have kept guests smiling for years.

In Lewes, don’t miss Mara DePace’s Villa Sorrento. This little spot is about as “neighborhood” as you can get, and as if clams with linguini and a good chopped salad were not enough, classically trained Mara occasionally bursts into song to celebrate particularly busy nights.

There is one place in a land far, far away that certainly deserves mention, and that’s Mancini’s on Fenwick Island, where Gabriel Mancini serves up huge portions topped with his Nonna’s red sauce. Ahh, many an evening I’d nibble on a crusty wood-fired pizza and pretend to be interested in the golf game on TV.

I have been asked what I mean when I say a place is a “sleeper.” A sleeper is a restaurant (or a dish) that you might not immediately expect to be exceptional – but it is. And one of those spots is Pat’s Family Pizzeria in Mariner Plaza in Lewes.

Yes, they have two kinds of pizza (I like Alex’s square Greek-style pie loaded with creamy cheese), but the sleeper there is their made-in-house lasagna. The salads are also quite good at this casual, unassuming storefront.

OK. So that should keep your Italian needs at bay for a while. And by the way, I was kidding about not emailing me. Go ahead. I have a delete button.

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