The Best of Delaware 2009
From crab cakes and cheesesteaks to prime rib and clam bakes, little Delaware is packed with great places to eat and terrific places to shop. Here’s the cream of the crop.
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Best Neighborhood Italian Place
Readers, upstate: Café Napoli (4391 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 999-7553)
Readers, downstate: Trevi Ristorante (53 E. Glenwood Ave., Smyrna, 653-6800)
Critics, upstate: “I love this place,” Chen says of Ristorante Attilio. “The pasta is second to none, and I love the lasagna, but you must try Attilio’s smelts.” Ristorante Attilio is the place families celebrate major events and the guys get together for beers. The place isn’t fancy—walls are covered in dark paneling and the tables are the kind your grandma had—but it feels just like home. And nowhere will you find better Italian wedding soup, pepper-and-egg sandwiches, or chicken Parmigiana. And all that pasta is homemade. (1900 Lancaster Ave., Wilmington, 429-7584)
Critics, downstate: It doesn’t get more down-home Italian than owner Mara DePace serenading diners tableside while they twirl linguini pescatore around their forks at Villa Sorrento. The Leishears love the pizza and pasta at this newcomer, but the pescatore, served with clams, mussels, jumbo shrimp, scallops and fresh sautéed calamari, all topped with jumbo lump crab meat, is a big hit. Just like grandma’s kitchen, the aroma of garlic and red sauce hits as soon as you walk through the door. (1551 Savannah Road, Lewes, 644-7051)
Readers, upstate: Johnnie’s Dog House (3401 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-1440)
Readers, downstate: Agave (137 Second St., Lewes, 645-1232)
Critics, upstate: “Tapas is the latest trend in dining, a tradition in Spain that’s caught on amid our economic recession,” says Ciro Poppiti III. He raises a fork to Olé Tapas Lounge & Restaurant. You can nibble several small plates of food, or you can gorge on one big one. “I cannot fully underscore the effort and attention to detail that went into the restaurant before it opened,” Poppiti says. “And because of that effort, Olé Tapas has quickly evinced itself as one of the best Delaware has to offer.” Olé opened to great acclaim last year, drawing patrons to traditional Spanish flavors in dishes such as wild mushrooms with chorizo and plump shrimp cooked with Spanish olive oil and slivered garlic. The potato-white bean soup is sublime. Chef Ivan Torres writes a new menu daily. (1126 Capitol Trail, Newark, 224-9378)
Critics, downstate: Fruit-filled drinks and stuffed tiger sharks don’t begin to explain the experience at Nalu Hawaiian Surf Bar and Grill. “Love the open-air aspect of it, how the windows fly right open to a nice view of the bay,” Leishear says. Great fish tacos, tempura shrimp and pulled pork tacos are among menu favorites. The laid-back beach party vibe—tiki torches, live music and looping surf videos—is unbeatable. (1306 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 227-1449)
Best New Steakhouse
Critics, upstate: One of the hottest tables in Delaware belongs to Firebirds, the boutique Aspen-style chain that brought a Rocky Mountain lodge vibe to Christiana last year. Patrons pack the place nightly for cocktails and Firebirds’ signature steaks, which are thick and tender and charred perfectly. Tender filet mignon is one of the best around. Decorate it with blue cheese and bacon. The signature chile-rubbed Delmonico is intensely juicy and flavorful. Hickory and oak wood give the steaks that little something special. (1225 Churchmans Road, Newark, 366-7577)
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