Touch of Italy's newest location brings an authentic slice of Arthur Avenue to eager patrons on the Eastern Shore
“Bread is important,” says Touch of Italy co-owner Bob Ciprietti. He and I are standing next to his built-from-the-ground-up multi-deck bread oven at the Villages of Five Points in Lewes. The machine is a little bigger than a Cadillac Escalade (and cost quite a bit more). Every day, 365 days a year, this Cadillac of ovens supplies all three Touch of Italy restaurants and other local eateries with fresh, crusty Italian bread. “It doesn’t have an off switch,” he smiles.
A weekend seat at his newest Touch of Italy next to Nage Bistro in Rehoboth’s Shore Plaza has become the holy grail of casual Rehoboth dining. The restaurant is big, noisy and very Italian, as chunky antipasti, heaping platters of pasta, hearty main courses, pizzas and overstuffed subs (on that yeasty bread) fill everything from farm-style tables for 12 all the way to the gleaming white bar, 3-deep in sipping, smiling patrons.
It’s immediately evident that this is not just another red-sauce Italian joint. Ciprietti and partner Joe Curzi have quite literally transported Bob’s childhood home of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to their three Delaware eateries. And when I say, “quite literally,” it’s just that: 300 cases (per week!) of handmade ravioli from Borgatti’s on 187th Street. Authentic Italian meats and sausages from the cavernous Biancardi’s on Arthur Avenue. Canned tomatoes from Italy, imported cheeses and fragrant olive oils from Teitel Brothers’ grocery just a few doors up from Biancardi’s haven for carnivores. And much of it is carted down the turnpike — week-in and week-out — in Ciprietti’s pickup truck.
“It’s all connected,” he says. “And it’s all about relationships.” He grew up with these people and maintains that connection by treating lucky Rehoboth diners to a true Touch — and taste — of Italy. An example of that relationship is the famed Orazio Carciotto of Casa Della Mozzarella near the corner of Arthur Ave. and 187th. When Touch of Italy first opened in Rehoboth, Orazio generously shared his closely guarded secrets with Mikey Berardinelli, who now oversees not only the making of mozzarella, but also the bakery operations at Five Points.
Italians are known for showing their love through food, drink and hospitality, and it’s hard not to love the Focaccia Robiola Deluxe da Ciro stuffed with tomatoes, robiola cheese, arugula and prosciutto, then baked to a crispy thinness. Talk about relationships! I was present at Touch of Italy when Ciro Verdi, owner of Manhattan’s Da Ciro Ristorante, shared his focaccia construction techniques with young pizza-master Biaggio Lucci. Über-restaurateur and TV chef Bobby Flay dubbed Ciro’s creation “the greatest thing since sliced bread.” It’s now one of the most popular items on Ciprietti and Curzi’s menu.
The traditional pizzas exhibit the dark crusty bubbles that attest to the searing temperatures inside the domed oven. Many of the main courses are also finished in that oven, including the wood-roasted Salmone Oreganata perched on
a bed of escarole and beans. Not sure whether to get sweet Italian sausage or spiced, oven roasted chicken? Get both in the form of the Pollo alla Contadina. Peppers, onions and roasted potatoes redolent of dark olive oil decorate this tribute to comfort food.
One of my favorites is the Braciole con Cavatelli prepared involtini style. Sautéed flank steak envelops seasoned ricotta and a dash of … oops — Ciprietti wouldn’t tell me. Whatever the family secret is, it’s crowned with shavings of sharp provolone and sure does taste good. The Porterhouse Veal Chop is also wood-roasted and presented atop the traditionally rustic escarole and beans. Red-sauce Italian standbys like meatballs, gnocchi and that ravioli from Borgatti’s are also on the menu, including my favorite, the pan-seared Chicken Parm: Impossibly thin and topped with creamy muenster.
All the authentic meats, cheeses, breads, prepared dishes, fresh cookies and pastries are available for takeout from the huge deli cases at Touch of Italy. It’s one-stop-shopping for Italians, Italian wannabes and those who love ‘em. Mangia bene!
Breaking news you read here at CoastalStyleMag.com first! Watch for Touch of Italy's newest location opening this spring in Ocean City!
TOUCH OF ITALY
Let The Foodie be your designated eater at www.RehobothFoodie.com. He can be contacted (not at mealtime) at Foodie@RehobothFoodie.com.
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