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.
In Vallé Cucina’s kitchen, chefs form fresh jumbo lump crabmeat into thick patties, pan-sear them to a golden-brown hue, and drizzle their crispy crusts with beurre blanc. The eatery’s crab cakes have been hailed by Delaware Today as the city’s best for several years running. Vallé Cucina’s classic Italian entrees are held to the same high standard: chefs hand-roll gnocchi and drizzle them with slow-simmered tomato sauce, and accent dry-aged steaks with elegant flourishes such as peppercorn brandy cream sauce and blue cheese. Servers recommend selections from Vallé Cucina’s vast wine list to enhance steaks or Trevi Fountain reproductions.
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 great 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.
Cafe Scalessa is owned by titular chef Don Scalessa, who serves up authentic Italian cuisine in a sophisticated, lively environment. After 5 p.m. is when the fun really revs up in this cabin of comestibles, as later in the evening, diners are encouraged to dance when the music kicks in and the disco lights oscillate. Opt out of jiggling wildly and alternately dig into a plateful of homemade pasta with chicken, veal, sausage, or meatballs, or take it easy and savor an appetizer of crab dip or calamari. There are plenty of options on Cafe Scalessa's dinner menu, which supports creative sides by encouraging diners to customize dishes to suit their palate and multiple forked tongues. After the hearty meal and before the float down a nearby lazy river, find time to squeeze in a homemade dessert of cannoli, tiramisu, or buttercake.