I've written that there is, in fact, intelligent life (or intelligent dining) south of Rehoboth Beach, and one of the best examples is Mancini's, on the east side of Rt. 1 smack in the middle of Fenwick Island. Yes, it's a bit of a haul from Rehoboth Beach, but if you're down in the southern hinterlands anyway and you have a hankerin' for excellent Italian food, you'll not be disappointed. Mancini's is a well-run, consistent restaurant with good food and good service.
One of the stars of the show is the Crabmeat Bruschetta. Tiny cubes of tomato are marinated in balsamic dressing and then slathered across the top of a crusty, garlicky crostini. The whole thing is topped with about a pound of crabmeat. The balsamic tang, combined with the cool crab over the warm bread makes for a wonderful mouth-feel and a bright, lingering taste. Another favorite little side is their simple but intensely flavored Roasted Garlic Bulb, served with that hot crusty bread. Make sure everyone at the table has some, or you'll probably be asked to run behind the car on your way home. The Portobello mushrooms and garlic-roasted red peppers with gorgonzola, perched atop fresh foccaccia (made right there in the wood oven) is also a great nibble “for the table.”
I always get the Romaine and Gorgonzola Salad. It is quite generous (I HATE teeny-weenie little salads), fresh, cool and crispy, and is topped off with Mancini's wonderfully complex balsamic dressing. If I could, I'd order that dressing in a wine glass and sip on it during dinner (note that The Foodie is not beyond doing that). The House Salad is full of crispy field greens and features the same dressing. Either one will satisfy. A recent dining companion ordered the Caprese Salad and reported that the mozzarella was cool and moist, and that the tomatoes were deep red and fresh (a rare thing in the off-season down here in the woods!).
Regulars here know I like dishes a la Parmigiana, and Mancini's Veal Parmesan is always good. It's not pounded quite as thin as I have seen at other places, but the veal is lean, well-spiced and lightly breaded. There is no shortage of cheese and their great marinara. I'm sure the same thing can be said for the a la Marsala and a la Piccata veal dishes too. My favorite dining companion loves the seafood dishes, especially the Capellini Frutti di Mare (gulf shrimp and scallops are quickly sauteed in garlic and white wine, plum tomatoes and capers and ladled over a bed of angel hair pasta). The two other stars of the seafood show are the Linguini Posillipo (clams, mussels, scallops and shrimp, bathed in that light marinara with white wine and basil) and the Linguini Scampi (loaded with shrimp paired with lemon juice, white wine and lemon butter). Our old next-door neighbors from Bethany Beach love the simple, very straight-ahead Linguini Cozze, featuring a dishful of mussels (choose your topping, red or white). I must also mention the Capellini con Pollo & Carciofi (a dishful of angel hair pasta crowned with chicken breast and artichoke hearts (that's the Carciofi part), and then topped again with sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic, white wine and parmesan cheese). It isn't my intention to narrate the menu to you, but I've had all these things and they are all quite tasty and generously portioned. If you've had some of the other goodies, please post your thoughts below.
Fresh seafood Italian style1/6 Mancini's2/6 The always friendly Gabby Mancini loves his pizza!3/6 Lemon Shrimp linguini4/6 Wood fired pizza5/6 Linguini Posillipo6/6
As soon as you hit the front door, you're face-to-face with Mancini's huge wood-fired brick oven, and it's obvious that somethin' good is gonna come outta there. Well, somethin' good does: Mancini's wood-fired pizzas. Magic happens in an oven that hot: The pizza dough puffs up with a slight char on the top (no, it is not burned), and the toppings are quick roasted, melting down into the slightly golden cheese and the marinara. This makes for a crispy crust infused with the essences of the cheese, sauce and toppings. The pizza is a meal in itself and is simply wonderful. I get the sausage (a slightly spicy Italian that you can actually TASTE on the pizza), pepperoni and mushrooms. Trust your Foodie. Just order it. I like to ask for it a little well-done (I like that crunchy, ever-so-slightly charred top), but it's good either way. My favorite dining companion gets the Margherita Pizza (topped with basil). Mancini's offers a wide variety of toppings, but the one defining point is the puffy, yeasty, almost elastic crust. That and a salad will do it every time.
Fenwick Island is not exactly a bustling metropolis (especially in the off-season), but Mancini's bar always seems to be full of pleasantly mellow, friendly people. Much of that can probably be attributed to the skills of long-time bartender Todge. He remembers your favorite drink, gets your meal out quickly if you choose to nosh at the bar, and is always willing to discuss just about anything. Mancini's was our favorite mid-winter hideout, but beware of the long lines in the summer. Good news travels fast, and lots of Ocean City people make the short trek into Delaware for Mancini's consistent quality and friendly service. So chill out, hang out front with your little beeper, watch the sunset over the bay, and anticipate the exceptional experience that is Mancini's.
They are not open every day in the winter, so call (302-537-4224). Click here to see Mancini's menu. (L. (seasonal), D., Bar). Price Range: Moderate.