Just as soon as I can, I am going food shopping again in Wilmington, Delaware. As a culinary road-trip destination, Wilmington does everything its own unique way! Take pizza, for example. While other cities feud over the crust, Wilmington’s tomato pie does the whole thing differently.
“We make it with no cheese and serve it cold. We are the only ones who do it,” explained Katelyn Orsetti, from behind the counter at Serpe’s Bakery, arguably the home of Wilmington’s version of the Southern classic.”
Unlike the Southern tomato pie, with mayonnaise, basil, and cheddar cheese, and baked like a conventional pie, Wilmington’s is more like a pizza, but decidedly different. The doughy crust, slathered with a sweet tomato paste and riddled with garlic, is iconic to Wilmington’s vigorous Italian community. The savory square slabs also frequently appear at parties and as a staple while watching football.
The Bobbie, considered by many to be Delaware’s signature sandwich and lauded by AOL.com as “The Greatest Sandwich in America”, also puts a unique twist on a common dish. Created by Capriotti’s sub shop in Wilmington’s Little Italy, the Bobbie piles house-made shredded turkey, classic cranberry sauce, stuffing and mayo on a Serpe’s Bakery roll.
Thanksgiving on a Roll
“It’s like Thanksgiving on a roll,” quipped Deanna Bendistis, as she prepared one to go. Since opening on Wilmington’s Union Avenue in 1976, Capriotti’s has expanded to more than 100 stores nationwide, all sparked by a creative idea for Thanksgiving leftovers.
Though Downtown Wilmington displays a staid, business-like façade, culinary creativity is never far away. The prestigious Hotel Du Pont greets guests with macaroons baked at Spark’d Creative Pastry, the hotel-run pastry stall in the adjacent DE.CO Food Hall. The almond cookies are literally a taste of the hotel’s elegance and tradition, and are available at the hotel’s front desk as well as at the Spark’d stall in DE.CO.
While at Spark’d, take the opportunity to investigate DE.CO’s other culinary offerings, such as contemporary favorites smoothies, sushi, and Vietnamese pho and more traditional lunch fare including burgers, deli sandwiches, chicken and pizza.
For something more “down-home”, Walt’s Flavor Crisp Chicken has been a Wilmington family favorite for more than 40 years. Featuring Southern-style comfort food, Walt’s has built its reputation on its peppery, lightly breaded fried chicken. Based on the owner’s grandmother’s recipe for cooking jackrabbit, the chicken is marinated before cooking and coated with a thin, Asian-style breading.
For dessert, Sweet Somethings Desserts has taken numerous awards and accolades for their cakes, tarts, cheesecakes and cupcakes. Much of their work is unique, one-of-a-kind custom cakes for special occasions. Visiting the Union Avenue bakery is both a gustatory and visual delight, with display cases full of inviting pastries. Try their popular salty caramel bombe or a snickerdoodle tart.
If cakes are not enough, Woodside Farm Creamery, in nearby Newark, makes two dozen flavors of fresh ice cream on a 220-year-old family farm, using the milk from its 30-plus Jersey cows. In 2016, USA Today named it one of the nation’s best ice cream parlors.
From PA Dutch to the Pickleman
For foodies, browsers, and market shopping aficionados, prepare to spend at least a half-day in the New Castle Farmers Market, and bring a large capacity shopping bag. Seventy owner-operated shops present goods, groceries, and cuisine representative of the diverse cultures and ethnicities in the Wilmington/New Castle area. From a large Pennsylvania Dutch section selling fresh Lancaster County meats, baked goods and produce, to a taqueria, Indian specialties, a pizzeria, Hispanic grocery store; and even the Pickleman, the New Castle Farmers Market adds an array of specialty shops and services to its sprawling warren of aisles and corridors.
In operation since 1954, the market is also a gathering spot for an eclectic mix of locals spanning many ethnicities and age groups. In that respect, it reflects Wilmington’s gastronomic spectrum. Diverse, easily accessible, and focused on locally crafted cuisine and beverages, a culinary road trip to Wilmington can satisfy a foodie’s desire for fine cuisine and epicurean adventure.
Smokehouse Sausages and Sauerkraut
1 pound sausages
1/2 pound sauerkraut
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion
1/4 cup brown sugar
To fry sausages, put shortening into a clean frying pan, and as soon as it is melted, put in the sausages. Fry them gradually over a moderate fire, shaking the pan and turning them frequently. When done, put them on a sieve or paper towels, to drain off the fat. Finely chop the onion. Melt butter in a large skillet. Sauté onion until golden brown. Add sauerkraut and brown sugar. Simmer until heated through. Add sausages to the skillet and simmer for 15 minutes.
For more information:
Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-489-6664, visitwilmingtonde.com
Reed Hellman is a professional writer living in Alberton, Maryland. Email your questions and comments to RHWay2Go@gmail.com.