Savor, The Review: Fare Enough?

With its surprisingly unusual dishes and great preparations, Pomodoro seems to promise greatness.





Grilled Mediterranean grouper is served with a tomato-zuccini purée and sautéed baby eggplant.
Photographs by Thom Thompson
www.thomthompson.com

There are many things I miss about the ’90s. The Italian restaurant boom is not among them.

By the middle of the decade, more than half the new restaurants in Wilmington and its environs, even the national chains, seemed to be Italian. Restaurateurs looking for a familiar menu that didn’t require much training to cook competently flooded the area. I’m sure it was great for tomato canners and veal producers, but it sure put a crimp into restaurant hopping.

I’m not sure when the trend began to abate, but it clearly has. Once-popular Italian eateries have closed, replaced by Indian restaurants.

If there’s one place Italian restaurants still hold sway, it’s Wilmington’s Little Italy. Like similar neighborhoods in larger cities, Wilmington’s ethnic enclave is shrinking at the edges, and many of its stalwarts have disappeared. It retains its cornerstone spaghetti-and-meatballs icons, Attilio’s and Mrs. Robino’s, and its pizza parlor, Pala’s. Still, its onetime high-end Italian restaurants are long gone. Only a couple of more ambitious Italian restaurants, Mona Lisa and Luigi Vitrone’s Pastabilities, remain.

Maybe the neighborhood is ready for a Mediterranean rebound. That might explain why Ristorante Pomodoro opened last summer, the first time in years a new Italian restaurant has replaced one of the interlopers (in this case, the succession of Mexican eateries that inhabited the northwest corner of Eighth and Union streets).



Massimo Parmisciano pours wine for Imma Cristiano at the bar

The trattoria atmosphere is out of the ordinary for Little Italy. Pomodoro is more casual than a white-tablecloth dining room, but classier than the neighborhood’s checked-tablecloth family spots. The 60-seat dining room retains the bar along the front wall that marked Pomodoro’s Mexican predecessors, but the color scheme is now a sophisticated mix of salmon, dark gray, mustard and black, with stretches of fake brick and stone. What distinguishes it from the typical striving-for-hip bistro is the warm atmosphere fostered by the Parmasciano brothers, who own and run the restaurant.

Pomodoro might sound like a run-of-the-mill name for an Italian restaurant (it means tomato) but it doesn’t serve run-of-the-mill Italian cuisine. The focus is on the food and wine of the country’s southernmost regions, particularly Calabria, the area that forms the toe of the peninsula’s boot, and Campagnia, the area that surrounds Naples. Familiar ingredients—pasta, olive oil, garlic and tomato—form the backbone of the cuisine.

That’s driven home with the first visit of the waiter or waitress, who brings a mixed basket of breads, from white to herbed focaccia, along with a trio of dipping sauces—red, green and umber daubs flavored with sweet pepper, spinach and eggplant.

But the menu is fleshed out with ingredients and dishes seldom represented in local Italian eateries. A good example is polpette, the Italian word for meatballs. In Italy, meatballs aren’t made from ground beef, and they’re not served with spaghetti. Pomodoro’s are formed of finely ground veal, chicken and mortadella (a cured meat that resembles bologna), then fried. The end product is densely textured, subtly seasoned and more complex than what you’ll find at any red-gravy restaurant. And three of them, each the size of a racquetball, are the star attraction on the plate.



From left: Sous chef Marino Cristiano, waiter Piero Galieti, chef Francesco Parmisciano, waiter Massimo Parmisciano and sous chef Marco Parmisciano

The kitchen seems to have a thing for cured meats from the old country, especially in salads. You can order a plate of mixed greens, walnuts and orange segments topped with thin slices of braseola, a thin-cut, air-dried beef. Even more unusual is a salad made with slices of speck, an air-cured ham (a Northern specialty, but tasty nonetheless). It’s drier and chewier than prosciutto, and it works well as a wrap for ricotta cheese. Served with greens and fruit, it’s another starter you won’t often find outside its home region.

Sometimes the southern cooking style comes out not in the ingredients themselves so much as in the way they’re employed. For example, pasta with a sardine sauce is the sort of peasant cooking that’s common in Italy but rarely encountered in America. Some might find the combination of strong-tasting little critters with very little tomato sauce a bit too fishy, but for me, the kitchen’s decision to tame the oiliness with a shot of tomato purée allowed the pasta’s flavor to merge with the other two, a light but sturdy triad in perfect balance.

Pork is the most common meat in the south. Pomodoro’s kitchen does it justice with a garlic- and rosemary-infused red wine reduction and careful sautéing. The cuts are tender slabs of juicy meat. In fact, every dish I tasted over two visits was hot and fresh when it reached the table.

For me, the most impressive dish on the menu was a plate of gnocchi dressed with a Bolognese sauce made with, of all things, duck. The little rhomboids of potato dough with a pinky-tip dimple in the middle, light and firm at first, yielded to the slightest pressure. This is as good as any gnocchi you’ll find, especially when it’s dressed with a slurry of ground duck and tomato sauce. Because the duck is a bit sharper than beef or veal, it’s a nice match for the deep but creamy fruit.

The best matches for this assertive cooking are the wines of the southern regions, and Pomodoro proves it with more than a dozen wines from the exotic areas where hot sun bakes red grapes for weeks on end and the rocky soil imparts intense levels of fruit and flavor. You can experiment freely—several are available by the glass, most for under $7 a pour—and whoever’s on duty will steer you toward something appropriate. We took advantage of the latter option, choosing a Nero d’Avola, a dark, burly Sicialian red that is the perfect match for the sauce Bolognese.



Homemade tiramisu with lime cello, espresso cello and chocolate cello.

After three generous courses, dessert might prove a challenge. The dessert list typically offers a flavored cheesecake, a few flavors of gelato and the masterpiece of the dessert menu, a haunting tiramisu, the cake moistened just enough to soften it, hastening the mingling of many flavors. The gelato, by contrast, didn’t distinguish itself much from other local versions.

The only major problem we encountered was a distressing shortage of things that seem like they should have been standards. We ordered a Campari and soda, only to be told the bar was out of the apertif. How about a glass of Prosecco instead? Oops, all out of the bubbly, too.

As if that weren’t sketchy enough, the menu was full of unannounced absences and substitutions. Red wine risotto was made with rice that was too long grained to be Arborio, so it lacked the creamy-but-firm texture that distinguishes the dish. The grilled vegetables the menu promised with the meatballs were nowhere to be found. Such lapses gave our meal a slapdash air that was out of synch with the quality of the cooking.

Service didn’t exactly help. On our first visit, the Italian waiter was still learning English. On the second, our waitress was unfamiliar with the menu. Everyone was friendly to a fault, but at these prices—entrées average about $20, starters nearly $10—more than good intentions is required.

I suppose the signature dish, in terms of both promise and where it wasn’t met, was the seafood soup, or zuppetta de pesce. The stellar mix of seafood—scallops, clams, shrimp, mussels, fish and more—was fresh and flavorful. But where was the broth? Whether you consider it soup or stew, the broth is what elevates a mix of seafood to the sublime. As the various bivalves release their essences and the herbs and garlic apply their signatures, there should be some broth to soak up the flavors and deliver them to anyone who wants to sop them up with some bread. Pomodoro’s loaves are sturdy enough for the task, but one swipe and the bottom of our bowl was dry. It tasted great, yet we were left a bit disappointed.

Ultimately, that’s how I feel about Ristorante Pomodoro—so much promise, so close to greatness. If only it would realize that the grand vision isn’t enough, that the little things must be exceptional, too, and that the service has to be as sharp as the cooking. If and when they do, Little Italy will have a unique entry in the must-try derby.

D

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January 2016

Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

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Delaware State University
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Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute
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1200 N DuPont Highway
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East Coast Garden Center
30336 Cordrey Rd
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500 McKennans Church Rd
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Cost: FREE

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Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street
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Philadelphia, PA  19104-6324
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3260 South Street
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801 Middleford Road
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Cost: Free

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Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
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Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
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Topic: Hearing Aids and Wireless Technology To register: 800-693-2273, or www.events.christianacare.org/calendar/2016-02

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4755 Ogletown-Stanton Road
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Cost: 35-180

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Chase Center on the Riverfront
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Telephone: 302-739-9939
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Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

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View map »


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More information

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801 Middleford Rd
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View map »


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640 S. State St.
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110 Orchard Rd
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View map »


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Where:
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Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
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801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
View map »


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Telephone: 302-629-6611 x 8810
Contact Name: Shelly Geis

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Cost: $50

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801 Middleford Rd.
Seaford, DE  19973
View map »


Telephone: 302-629-6611 ext. 2540
Contact Name: Maternal Child Health Clinical Educator
Website »

More information

Prepare to gasp, shudder, and be on the edge of your seat in this ingenious thriller which inspired the classic film that garnered an Academy Award nomination for Audrey Hepburn. This murderous...

Cost: $15-$29

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

More information

Location: Milford Senior Center, 111 Park Ave., Milford, Time: 8:40 a.m.– 9:30 a.m. Fee: $2 for non-members

Where:
, DE

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Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

More information

Chances are, if you look out your windows, it’s pretty wintry. When was the last time you saw lush green plants in that view? We have a cure for your blahs, straight from the...

Where:
, DE

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

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Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Website »

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Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, taking more lives than all cancers combined. On Friday, Feb. 5, the American Heart Association (AHA) asks that everyone wear red to raise awareness for...

Where:
Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center
1131 N. DuPont Hwy
Dover, DE
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Two-hour guided tours are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests will visit Eleutherian Mills Residence, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

Prepare to gasp, shudder, and be on the edge of your seat in this ingenious thriller which inspired the classic film that garnered an Academy Award nomination for Audrey Hepburn. This murderous...

Cost: $15-$29

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

More information

Chances are, if you look out your windows, it’s pretty wintry. When was the last time you saw lush green plants in that view? We have a cure for your blahs, straight from the...

Where:
, DE

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

Location: Lewes Public Library, 111 Adams Ave., Lewes, 2nd Floor Time: 8:40 a.m.–9:30 a.m. Fee: Free

Where:
, DE

More information

Wear red and dine out at a participating restaurant to receive a free heart-healthy menu item. Tell your server you’re wearing red to celebrate “Wear Red Day.” “Go Red...

Where:
, DE

More information

A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

More information

Show More...
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First Saturdays in the First State   Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

More information

Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

First Saturdays in the First State   Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

More information

Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

On Saturday, Feb. 6, the Wilmington, Del. Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction will host the 22nd annual Block Kids competition. It’s a free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hodgson Vo-Tech High School
2575 Glasgow Ave.
Newark, DE  19702
View map »


Sponsor: National Association of Women in Construction
Telephone: 302-453-4000
Contact Name: Laura Massimini
Website »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

Guests can explore three floors of exhibitions in the Visitor Center, stroll along the river through dozens of historic structures from the Industrial Revolution, and explore the gardens and...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romance. Join Macy’s Christiana for an afternoon of Valentine’s Day cheer to celebrate all the loves in your life—including yourself!...

Where:
Macy's at Christiana Mall
Women's Department, Level 1
502 Christiana Mall
Newark, DE  19702
View map »


Contact Name: Jessica Chan

More information

First Saturdays in the First State Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for details. Free admission. Something new every...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
43 The Green
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

More information

The Chadds Ford Historical Society hosts its 8th annual Plein Air art event. Artists will be painting around the local area as well as the Barns Brinton House, John Chads House and Brandywine Creek...

Cost: General Admission: $10 | Exclusive Preview Party (includes 2 Tickets): $50

Where:
Chadds Ford Historical Society
1736 Creek Rd
Chadds Ford, PA  19317
View map »


Telephone: 610-388-7376
Contact Name: Derek Larson OR Allison Schell
Website »

More information

Prepare to gasp, shudder, and be on the edge of your seat in this ingenious thriller which inspired the classic film that garnered an Academy Award nomination for Audrey Hepburn. This murderous...

Cost: $15-$29

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

More information

Chances are, if you look out your windows, it’s pretty wintry. When was the last time you saw lush green plants in that view? We have a cure for your blahs, straight from the...

Where:
, DE

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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