Salvatore DiLisi and his family immigrated from Carini, Italy in 1978, and they founded DiLisi Ristorante soon after. A few years later, his parents returned home, and Salvatore took over. The next 35 years saw some changes. Sal expanded his family to include his wife Nancy and their children Giacomo and Valeria. He made the eatery's name synonymous with family-style servings of seafood, pasta, and pizza. And he opened up a second location, connected to the original by a 10-mile-long zip line of spaghetti. Today, in DiLisi's two kitchens, chefs draw upon the culinary traditions of northern Italy and the Mediterranean, kneading dough by hand and combining meat and seafood in unexpected ways.
Caffe Gelato sates appetites with Northern Italian and French- and Mediterranean-inspired fare, house-made gelato, and vino from a 1,500-bottle cellar, all of which has amassed the restaurant an impressive collection of praise and awards from the likes of Delaware Today and Wine Spectator. Meats such as filet mignon and prosciutto-wrapped veal appear alongside a rotating collection of seafood entrees, such as pan-seared scallops, truffle maple-roasted salmon, and local line-caught rockfish. House-made pappardelle and linguine pastas entangle ingredients ranging from littleneck clams to lump crab to chiffonade-cut basil. Twenty-four rotating flavors of gelato are crafted on the restaurant’s premises, delighting tongues with a chocolate-hazelnut blend or scoops of raspberry. Sommeliers strap on their headlamps and crampons to belay into the caverns of the restaurant’s opulent wine cellar, where more than 100 varietals nestle in bottles.
Half-moon booths welcome companionable groups among sunny yellow-and-red-orange walls in the dining room, and the gleam of a granite bar inspires tipplers to toast the memory of loyal pet rocks.
Conjuring authentic Italian cuisine, the chefs at Lupo di Mare cook a variety of upscale pastas, entrees, and dishes. A true team player in Mediterranean cooking, olives—marinated and served with sun-dried tomatoes and herbs ($4)—start the meal by proving their tasty batting average, and the lobster bruschetta pitches a perfect culinary game on crostini with lobster, rosemary-lemon cream, white beans, and chili oil ($11). Tiny balls of gnocchi kindle a loving bond with herb-whipped ricotta while wading through a red sea of tomato sauce ($16). With roasted mushrooms and fragile baby green beans, tender veal cutlets covered in a rich marsala demi-glace never find themselves dining alone ($22). The pan-seared sea bass—caught off the coast of the famous, sun-baked Italian city of Pan—cloaks itself in sweet corn, pancetta risotto, spinach, and white balsamic butter ($26). Because consuming Italian food without wine is practically a crime, Lupo di Mare supplies a long and varied list of whites, reds, and dessert wines to complement any dish.
A first-place winner at the 2010 Stephen Starr-Gary Maddox BBQ Challenge, Big D's composes succulent barbecue symphonies over a wood smoker, lit by apple and cherry wood, in addition to spinning delectable disks of pizza, and more. The brisket sandwich, boasting beef that was smoked for 16 hours in honor of the number of hours William Henry Harrison served as an American president, combines homemade seasonings on a hearty kaiser role ($6.75), and the pulled-pork pizza fuses two culinary styles ($16). Those with a congenital aversion to carnivorous fare can load up their cuisine depositories with a flavorful mélange of mushrooms, green peppers, onions, and black olives that forms the large veggie pizza ($13.99). The culinary constructors at Big D's also build an 8-ounce burger edifice out of beef, cheese, bacon, and indefatigable spirit ($6.75).
Chiapparelli's first opened its doors to Baltimore's Little Italy in 1942, regaling diners with a tradition-inspired approach to Old-World cuisine that the founding family's present generations continue to embrace. The chefs simmer pots of ripe tomatoes, onions, and herbs to craft marinara sauce and deftly form meatballs and ravioli by hand. By incorporating steamed clams, lump crabmeat, and fresh kraken, they allow the mid-Atlantic region's maritime ingredients to influence the menu's iconic, transatlantic flavors. In recognition of the family's commitment to hearty and nostalgic Italian cuisine, Zagat praised the menus of both the Little Italy and Havre de Grace locations, rating them each as "very good to excellent."
In 1940, crowds of people would line up outside Tresilla Robino's front door, all awaiting coveted seats in the tiny dining room she had set up in her basement. Today, Mrs. Robino's grandson replicates her beguiling Italian recipes and maintains a family business that has thrived for more than 70 years. Cooks place hearty meatballs atop tangles of housemade spaghetti and tuck seasoned meat and creamy ricotta cheese into hand-formed pockets of ravioli. The kitchen staff also breads veal cutlets by hand before topping them off with provolone and red sauce, and dusts sweet cannolis with powdered sugar for clear fingerprinting.