A slice of Rehoboth Beach: The pizza chronicles
I get suspicious when people blame their parents for various and sundry dysfunctional habits. After all, we’re not kids anymore. Can’t we use our strength of mind to overcome whatever nasty behaviors we’ve picked up?
For example, my parents loved pizza. On a weekend night, mom would make the fateful call to the Villa Rosa in Silver Spring or the Capri in Wheaton and order a large with pepperoni and sausage. Dad would cleave through the night in the big Buick. Frequently a slice would be missing by the time the pie reached home.
I love pizza. And I can’t share the front seat with a flat square box without testing its steaming contents. (So much for strength of mind.) But, beware! Driving with your knees, incinerating your lips and dribbling sauce all over yourself (not to mention endangering everyone on the road) is thoroughly frowned upon. Do not try this at home. I am a professional.
Oceans attract pizza. The sheer availability of the stuff makes it easy to pick and choose. So I thought a little rundown of our plethora of pies might be fun, if not downright educational. They only give me so much space for my humble ramblings, so I’ve limited my comments to places that feature pizza or include it in their name.
It all started with Grotto. In 1960, Dominick Pulieri introduced a thin-crusted pie that shares a trait with many Chicago deep-dish versions: The sauce is applied on top of the secret blend of cheeses. The delicate crunch when it’s well-done helps explain what they call “that legendary taste.”
In 1971, Nick and Joan Caggiano founded Nicola Pizza. Nicola’s crust is smooth and softer than Grotto’s, and the slightly sweeter sauce is topped with the cheese. Now, take a whole pizza, fold it over like a big hot turnover, and you have Nicola’s signature Nic-o-Boli, a cross between a calzone and a stromboli. Forget the details. It’s tasty.
Three years later, Louie Gouvas opened Louie’s Pizza. His sons, Tim and Tony, have been running the Rehoboth Avenue storefront since they could see over the counter. Louie’s thin and yeasty crust has an appetizing “pull” that takes center stage without hogging the spotlight. The boys are well known for pilin’ on the pepperoni. A few fistfuls of quality cheese, spiced sauce and oven-seared pepperoni are widely considered to be greater than the sum of the parts.
Mr. P’s Pizza in Lewes is built around an Italian wood-burning oven. Glowing oak bakes the pies quickly, creating slightly charred crust bubbles and a puffy perimeter. Owner Rick Thomas takes pride in his exclusive dough recipe. After all, yeast is a living thing, and like many living things, it can be persnickety.
But these guys know how to coax Mr. P’s pies out of the oven for a smoky bite that never disappoints.
Half Full is the smallest jewel in the DiSabatino family’s triple crown of Lewes eateries. The 8-by-12 rectangles are served on a wooden plank, and the cheese extends to the edge of the pie to caramelize onto the crust. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Half Full bypasses the humdrum with trimmings like crab and sweet corn. Pizza purist that I am, I yearn for the traditional: Crumbles of fennel sausage cavorting with fresh basil and thin-as-air slices of sopresatta. By the way, if you don’t like pizza, no problem: Go somewhere else. If it’s not a hot pie, beer, wine and a cookie, you’re outta luck.
Speaking of rectangles, the original Ledo’s has been pushing square pizzas since 1955. Marty McDonnell’s storefront near Midway builds remarkably thin pies on a finely layered crust. The pastry-like foundation transports its precious cargo of thickly cut pepperoni or … wait for it … pre-cooked bacon – lots of pre-cooked bacon. Need I say more?
I didn’t include flatbreads (code for “too dainty to be seen uttering the word ‘pizza’”) or places where pizza is part of a much larger menu. And I didn’t forget Pizza Hut either, but its remarkable system for maintaining the same quality over so many locations makes its signature pies practically universal.
So, hop into the big Buick and seek out your favorite. And just think: If you have kids, 50 years from now one of them might even write an article about it.