A Welcome Return
The long-awaited rebirth of the venerable Columbus Inn has finally happened, leading a scene full of changes in the restaurant world. Here’s a taste.
(page 1 of 3)
Perhaps it was a wedding rehearsal. Or maybe it was an anniversary dinner, or a Sunday brunch, or an office gathering that got a little too rambunctious. No matter the circumstance, lots of Delawareans have memories tied to the Columbus Inn, the legendary Pennsylvania Avenue tavern that shut its doors in 2007 to make room for condominiums.
The condos never came. Instead, Louis Capano & Associates purchased the historic building last fall and began an extensive modernization to return the inn to its glory. “At the beginning, I think we wanted to do more of a nip-and-tuck and put some fresh lipstick on the face of this old girl,” says general manager Rich Snyder. “But it wound up taking an entire facelift inside. It just kind of snowballed.”
The owners were careful not to diminish the Old World feel and the many memories associated with the original Columbus Inn (2216 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington, 571-1492). With help from designer Ron Fenstermacher, the inn is once again steeped in dark woods and deep, rich leather chairs, though the color palette is brighter and more modern. A few structural changes include installing a 1,000-bottle wine room in place of an old coatroom.
Young and promising chef Chris D’Ambro takes over the kitchen. The 25-year-old has quite the resume, having studied under revered Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri and working as a sous chef at excellent Sovana Bistro in Kennett Square before taking center stage at Philly’s upscale Italian bistro, Bocca.
He’s tasked with creating upscale, seasonal American menus that harken to the inn’s surf-and-turf days. His version includes dishes like olive oil-poached salmon with black olive, almond and raisin couscous alongside a rustic dry-aged strip steak with white beans and leeks.
Some things just never change: the inn still offers free valet service, and its famous horseshoe-shaped bar remains untouched.
While Columbus Inn was busy working its rebirth magic, a few other Wilmington restaurants made their debuts. Le Shio Asian Fusion Cuisine (2303 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 888-0145) is the industrial-chic addition to suddenly global Concord Pike, where executive chef Hon Fung’s expansive menu has earned a warm reception. Le Shio means “in salt” in Japanese, but the restaurant’s eye-catching cuisine spans the globe, from Malaysian roti canai to Japanese sushi and sashimi to Chinese wok dishes.
Page 2: A Welcome Return, continues...