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DiFebo’s Rehoboth

/ Updated on July 22, 2017

Long before the miracle of RehobothFoodie.com was bestowed on the Cape Region (I can’t believe I just wrote that…), one of my favorite hangouts was DiFebo’s in Bethany Beach. Probably because it was one of the only hangouts in Bethany Beach. Much has happened food-wise in the Quiet Resorts since then, but 15 years ago you ran the risk of malnutrition if you got hungry after about 8 p.m.

Much of DiFebo’s success was due to Wilmington-born co-owner and chef, Lisa DiFebo Osias, who grew up in her dad’s restaurant surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of the kitchen and his famous red sauce.

With her dad's help, she bought an old beach house in Bethany Beach and turned it into DiFebo's Café & Deli, serving breakfast and Italian favorites. When she was accepted into the Culinary Institute of America, she left the business in the hands of her sister Michelle (now Michelle DiFebo Freeman) and became the first woman to do a fellowship at the award-winning American Bounty restaurant at the Culinary Institute. She met young Jeffrey Osias there, and he followed her back to Bethany Beach. Jeff Osias was no stranger to restaurants, even doing kitchen stints in Southeast Asia & Europe.

As the area grew, DiFebo's was rebuilt from the ground up by general contractor Bob DiFebo. After only five months they reopened as a full-service restaurant with beer and wine.

After several relatively unsuccessful ventures (remember Isabella’s across the street from DiFebo’s?) and a short time operating The Den restaurant at Bear Trap Dunes, Lisa and Jeff hit the jackpot when the owners of Adriatico in Rehoboth Beach decided that decades in the business was quite enough. That location at the corner of First and Baltimore couldn’t be more centrally located. Lisa and Jeff remodeled, brightened the place up considerably and DiFebo’s Rehoboth opened in early May 2015. From that night up until now, it has been difficult to get a seat inside or on the patio without a wait.

You can make a meal out of the small plates and starters. The Fried Italian Finger Peppers in garlic and olive oil are little firecrackers of taste, along with the simple but intensely flavored olives served with a nice, sharp provolone. Another Bethany favorite that made it to Rehoboth is the Italian White Bean & Roasted Garlic Dip (think hummus, but with white beans). A schmear of that on the accompanying crostini will have you breathing garlic for a week. Not a bad thing….

One of the first emails I received from my Advance Foodie Crew (thank you, all) was about the calamari. The kicker here is that you can dip it into Bob’s red sauce (officially called Big Bob’s Gravy). We ordered the Cheese Board, but were disappointed at how much truffle oil was used – even on the cheeses. Regulars here know about by intense dislike for the chemical essence that “flavors” truffle oil (most of which never actually met a real truffle). Interested? Click here for a quick side-trip to my mini-tirade, “The truth about truffle oil.” So if you dislike that taste (which is nothing like real truffles, by the way) be sure to order it without all that unnecessary oil. Yuck.

Do not miss the Veal, Ricotta and Smoked Mozzarella Meatballs. These are a long-time DiFebo’s staple and will not disappoint. Until they are gone. Then you will want more. The meatballs are moist and tender (no chance of launching one out the window when cutting with a fork) and are served with a chunky tomato sauce. On our second visit we ordered the Pan Roasted Mussels (I was still going for incognito, so there is no photo in the gallery), and they were delicious. The addition of fennel, greens and garbanzos makes for a nice textural experience for this otherwise one-dimensional dish. I’d get it again (when I do I’ll take a photo).

On our most recent visit, I had the Caesar Salad which was fresh, crispy, cool but rather uninteresting except for the delicious shaved cheese on the top. I suggest you get either the Baby Arugula Salad, the Baby Kale & Romaine Salad or the Beet, Kale & Arugula Salad. They are all spectacular, especially the Baby Kale & Romaine that includes roasted pears (!) and an amazing dressing that they call Green Goddess, but tastes better than that. The perfect light fare would be one of those salads topped with grilled chicken, the fish du jour, a small filet or … tofu (really?).

You will not be sorry with a straight-ahead and simple pasta topped with one of those meatballs or Italian sausage. They have gluten-free pasta available for the poseurs (or those who actually suffer from celiac disease). Most restaurants have begrudgingly given in to this fad. I do, however, love the whole wheat pasta, and if you are used to the semolina variety, this one will make your taste buds smile.

But simple spaghetti and meatballs do not a DiFebo’s make. The Cavatelli Bolognese is as close to perfect as one can get in downtown Rehoboth, especially with a dollop of ricotta and creamy mozzarella. On our second visit (I had the camera, so I was summarily outed), Lisa let us try the Homemade Abruzzi Ravioli that she enjoyed as a child. She warned us that it was sweet, and I am warning you. And I use the word “warning” only because you should know going in that it will be redolent of nutmeg and perhaps a bit of cinnamon. If you are OK with that, you will love this dish. I see it as more of an appetizer or maybe even an unusual dessert. We had it as an appetizer and it was delicious.

But traditional ravioli lovers take note: The Traditional Cheese Ravioli (they make it fresh daily) is very good – especially with a big ol’ meatball. You will not go wrong with this dish. DiFebo’s has long been famous for their marsala dishes, eggplant parm and freshly made gnocchi. My spies tell me all these are the same quality as the Bethany Beach location, and I will eventually get around to trying them all. I do have one gripe about the chicken parm; though it is nicely sauteed, it is not pounded thinly enough for my taste. I like chicken and veal parms to be about half the thickness of DiFebo's. It's not really a taste thing; it's more of a texture thing. On the other hand, the lasagne is properly rustic and delicious. You might end up taking some home, and that is not a bad thing.

On my first visit I had the Lobster Carbonara. The crispy pancetta, roasted tomatoes and baby peas are little happy explosions in your mouth. This one gets an A+, along with the Chianti-Braised Short ribs accompanied by an particularly good fig, mascarpone and gorgonzola polenta. I could have made a meal out of that amazing polenta. Want. More.

Sides all look good, and the Chilled Asparagus with Lemon and EVOO is simple and amazingly refreshing. My favorite psychotherapist (I keep an army of them on standby) loves the Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Oil. (A respectful nod goes out to Big Cip’s homemade version.) And a side of meatballs cannot be a bad thing. I have a number of photos of nightly specials in the photo gallery, so be sure to scroll through it to see what's happening there.

On a long-overdue early 2017 visit, we were not disappointed. DiFebo's has managed to keep the quality up to their standards. I had the lasagne (oh, heck, get it with the bolognese – life is short…). I just can't get enough of Bob's red sauce (aka, gravy). I started with the house salad, and I think you will love the dressing. A little tart, a bit lemony and very refreshing (especially when followed by a lasagne). The duck ragout (see these in the gallery) was exceptional, with a peppery kick. Accompanied by pappardelle pasta, it was as nice to look at as it was to eat. I know I mentioned it before, but Lisa's ravioli must be celebrated. Simply presented with a generous dollop of Bob's gravy, it's what DiFebo's is all about.

I usually don’t make a big deal about desserts, but we do like the Butter Cake and Gelato from Frankie & Louie’s (it's on the little dessert “sampler” dish in the gallery) and the ridiculously good Ricotta Cheesecake and Blueberry, Ricotta and Mascarpone Bread Pudding. The cannoli shells are perfectly crackly. If you try the other desserts, let me know what you think.

Jeff and Lisa are delightful people and I had the pleasure of interviewing them on my radio show. Click here to listen to the podcast. If there is a current Rehoboth Beach menu online, I can’t find it, but the Bethany dinner menu (remember – their menus are seasonal!) is very similar. See it here. You can also follow them on Facebook here.

DiFebo’s is at the corner of N. First St. and Baltimore Avenue. There is a huge outdoor dining patio (covered!), and two dining rooms inside. The bar is small, but fun. It's rapidly becoming the place to see and be seen. The restaurant is open 7 days from 11 until about 10. They serve a nice variety of sandwiches and soups for lunch. Price range: Expensive.

Off-season Specials & Hours

Specials & Moods change quickly. Always call a restaurant first.

pp = per person.
BOGO = buy one, get one.
Bloody = bloody mary.
domestics = American-made beers (e.g., Bud).
imports = foreign beers (e.g., Heineken).
Rails = non call-brand alcohol.
Prix Fixe = one set price.
Mains = entrees.
Margs = margaritas.
Chix = chicken.
AYCE = all you can eat.
Lite = Miller Lite
drafts = draught beer.
Early Birds = arrive before a certain time.
Apps = Appetizers.
bottles = beer in a bottle.
à la carte = order off the menu (no prix fixe).
crafts = micro/artisanal brews (e.g., Old Leghumper Lager)

12 N. First St. Rehoboth


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The Rehoboth Foodie

About the Author

"My goal is to promote Rehoboth Beach dining while remaining honest and impartial. I don’t gush unless a place deserves it, and I don’t pull punches, either. With so many good places to eat around here, it just doesn’t make sense to waste the calories — or the money — on anything less." View all articles written by The Rehoboth Foodie

Add Your Comment
  1. Avatar Mary E Moskowitz says:

    Been coming to this restaurant since it started in Bethany. Rarely have a bad meal. But last night was the exception. I ordered Eggplant parm. It was soggy and over done. Not one hint of crispiness like it had been flashed through the broiler. It was microwaved mush. It also woke me at 3 am with heartburn. Something else that’s never happened before. I garden my own eggplants. My recommendation is to parcook everything but the eggplant. I realize the need to have this item cooked and ready, but it’s in how you finish it. Also, a little parmesan cheese would have gone a long way if added before re heating. Especially if you- re heated it in the oven and not the microwave.

  2. Avatar john says:

    Did I miss something? An Italian restaurant. On the ocean and no mention of how or if they cook seafood? Especially. Since. It takes. The place of Adriatica which excelled in both white and red seafood.

  3. Avatar Keith Mathews says:

    To those of us who actually suffer from celiacs your insensitive and foolish remarks on restaurants giving into the “fad” of gluten free is offensive and shows your level of intelligence. Why would you care whether restaurants offer gluten free in the first place? Yeah I guess giving people the option to actually eat out at restaurants again is such a terrible idea you moron.

    • The Rehoboth Foodie The Rehoboth Foodie says:

      You are one of the many people who did not bother to read my article all the way through before reacting to it. If you had read it in its entirety, you would have understood that I believe that the people who treat it as a fad make it harder for people who actually suffer from the disease to be taken seriously. I have several close friends who suffer from celiacs, and they are concerned that some restaurants do not separate prep areas as they should because they know that 90% of the people who ask for gluten free are just doing it because it is a fad. This is dangerous and not fair to those who actually have the disease and cannot have the smallest amount of gluten.
      Before your call me foolish and insensitive, try reading the article all the way through.

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