Food and Drink: Grotto Pizza’s 60th; Lefty’s new chef; SoDel expands outdoor dining; new Wilm. juice bar; Stewart’s opens dining room

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Grotto Pizzais celebrating 60 years in business.

Grotto’s is known for its swirl, a combination of sweet tomato sauce and a blend of cheeses.

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Brenda Milbourne, a 32-year Grotto employee.

Dominick Pulieri, Grotto Pizza founder, was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, to Italian-immigrant parents. After graduating high school, Pulieri enrolled at Kings College and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology in 1964. He taught biology, general science, and chemistry in the Smyrna School District from 1965 to 1970.

Pulieri first started making pizzas with his brother-in-law, Joseph Paglianite, at his pizza restaurant in Harvey’s Lake, PA. Looking for a way to fund his college tuition, Pulieri went to Rehoboth Beach in 1960 to open a pizza restaurant with his sister, Mary Jean, and his brother-in-law Joe.

During his first summer in business, pizza slices sold for 20 cents, and a whole pie was priced at $1.60. Pulieri celebrated his first $100 earned on July 2 – his 18th birthday.

It wasn’t easy selling slices during that first summer in business as pizza wasn’t a “thing” at the beach, according to a company release.

To get the locals interested, Pulieri and his sister talked to everyone about pizza and handed out free samples to folks that passed by his store.

In 1963, Grotto Pizza opened a second location along the boardwalk but remained a seasonal operation as Pulieri taught school in Smyrna during the year.

Pulieri opened Grotto Pizza as a year-round restaurant in 1974. Today, Grotto Pizza operates 19 locations in Delaware and Maryland with its 20th store slated to open its doors in Millsboro late this year. The company has a number of employees with more than 30 years of experience, despite operating a number of seasonal locations.

Grotto also has three locations in the Wilkes Barre area of Pennsylvania.

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The view from SoDel’s Catch 54.

Outdoor dining upgrades added by SoDel

Five of SoDel Concepts’ 12 restaurants have enhanced their outdoor dining areas. SoDel is based in Rehoboth Beach.

Improvements were made at Catch 54 in Fenwick Island; NorthEast Seafood Kitchen in Ocean View; Matt’s Fish Camp in Bethany Beach; Matt’s Fish Camp in Lewes; and Fish On in Lewes.

“Our guests love to sit outside and eat fresh seafood, and many of our restaurants have incredible views,” said Scott Kammerer, president of SoDel Concepts. “From beer gardens to landscaped terraces, we already have some of the best alfresco spaces along the coast. We decided to create even more opportunities for our guests to eat outside.”

Two other SoDel restaurants, Bluecoast Seafood Grill + Raw Bar and Thompson Island Brewing Company feature enclosed outdoor sections.The Clubhouse at Baywood has a terrace overlooking landscaped grounds. Bluecoast Seafood Grill + Raw Bar in Bethany is situated on the water, and Papa Grande’s Coastal Taqueria in Fenwick shares the same view as Catch 54.

Outdoor seating is also gaining more popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the meantime, New Jersey and Philadelphia are sticking with outdoor-only dining only in their reopening plans. Delaware limits indoor capacity to 60 percent.

For more information about SoDel Concepts, visitsodelconcepts.com.

New York City chef joins Lefty’s Alley and Eats

Lefty’s Alley and Eats in Lewes has announced the appointment of Paige van den Burg as its new executive chef, according to a release posted from the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.

Van den Burg comes to the property after most recently serving as the Operator/Chef at DIG Restaurant in New York City’s financial district.

Paige started her career in St. Louis before moving to Rehoboth initially and working as a line cook at the Bellmoor.

Her first restaurant job in New York City was at the Russian Tea Room and later joined the opening team at DIG Restaurant.

Van den Burg will oversee introducing new offerings at Lefty’s Alley and Eats, as well as for Lefty’s new catering operations and the menus for VIP and corporate meetings/events at Lefty’s.

Lefty’ has also added outdoor dining space and family drive-in movies.

Juice bar opening on the Riverfront.

The Juice Joint,a new juice bar will open on the Wilmington Riverfront on Friday 17 at 323 Justison St.TheJuice Joint specializes in juices, smoothies, and other plant-based foods.The owners ofThe Juice Joint are Renee Sellers and Lanice Wilson.

Stewart’s opens inside dining

Stewart’s Brewing Co. in Bear is now open for inside dining.

The brewpub had held off on reopening the dining room while offering takeout. The neighborhood spot at the Governor’s Square Shopping Center does not have room for outdoor dining.The days of operation are Tuesday through Saturday.

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