After ten years of writing, kvetching, opining, chattering about and photographing what and where we eat here at the beach, few things surprise me. But from time to time there is an exception, and last weekend the exception was Bon Appétit restaurant in … wait for it … Seaford, De. Nothing against the quaint burg of Seaford, of course, but it’s simply not a place where one would immediately expect to find such a well-run fine-dining French eatery. From the moment we arrived to the moment co-owner Karen Pedemonte handed us our coats, everything was perfectly executed.
Karen and her husband met on the job at a restaurant in New York. Chino started as a dishwasher and Karen was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. The couple purchased Bon Appétit in 1991, and though the theme is decidedly French, Chef Chino blends German, Incan, Chinese, Japanese and Swiss influences into his cuisine. He works only with the assistance of his sous chef, and if he isn’t able to work, the restaurant closes down. A guarantee of consistency if there ever was one.
Karen’s bailiwick is front of house, and she’s all about the details. From the fresh flowers to the crisp napkins to keeping water glasses and bread baskets filled, she works seamlessly alongside her seasoned waitstaff. And wait ‘til you see the vintage French prints and pin-ups that gently decorate this understated bistro.
Bon Appétit: Sneak Peek1/8 Veal with artichokes and cheese2/8 Bon Appétit: Sneak Peek3/8 the empenada special4/8 Bon Appétit: Sneak Peek5/8 Bon Appétit: Sneak Peek6/8 Bon Appétit: Sneak Peek7/8 Bon Appétit: Sneak Peek8/8
I knew things were going to be interesting when our professional, but very funny server Maggie delivered carved butter flowers to the table. And it just got better from there. On that night, Bon Appétit was featuring five courses for only $45. No, these aren’t “tasting” portions or a few selected low-cost items: The very reasonable prix fixe includes the specials du jour along with pretty much everything on the menu. Quite a bargain considering that the typical per-person ticket in a big-city French restaurant can easily exceed $100 – with portions half the size we enjoyed in Seaford.
We started with artichoke crostini (a choice engraved in stone after we perused the online menu). Artichoke hearts are perched on toasted French bread and enrobed in warm Parmesan cheese sauce. There are no words (I know – for me that’s a welcome rarity). Poached mussels in white wine with shallots, garlic and cream followed. Bracingly spicy with a gentle creaminess. Another silent moment on my part.
The chicken empanadas appetizer reminded us that it’s not all francophilic there at 312 High Street in Seaford. But rather than the traditional fried version, Bon Appétit’s are encased in an impossibly flaky puff pastry. After the salad course was devoured (a word to the wise: Don’t eat anything before you visit Bon Appétit!), our entrees included a perfectly-grilled-to-temperature Black Angus New York strip slathered with roasted garlic butter; veal scaloppini sautéed in lemon butter laced with capers, and crispy, slow-roasted duckling topped with warm cherries. All three were top notch and something I would expect in any big-city eatery.
Considering that the Pedemontes have been operating Bon Appétit for over 25 years, they must be doing something right. And it’s no mystery what that something is: tireless dedication, skill, patience and an uncanny focus on customer service. And it keeps guests coming back year after year. It goes without saying that reservations are a must. (Of course I had to say it anyway.) Check out their hours and the lunch and dinner menus at bonappetitseaford.net, then call 302-629-3700. It’s well worth the drive.