Nick and Joan Caggiano's colorful eatery has been a Rehoboth Beach staple since that big blue wet thing was installed at the end of Rehoboth Avenue (or at least since '71…). This is beachy, family dining all the way. The original location on N. First St. is complete with the scarred wooden booths, hour-long waits in the summer, wood floors and the cool electric train chugging around the perimeter.
The big seller at this pizza joint is the Nic-O-Boli. Nicola's version of the stromboli, it's basically a pizza, filled with all sorts of stuff and then folded over onto itself, sealed and baked. Though their regular pizza is good, the Nic-O-Boli is certainly the star of the show. Heck, you can even buy them frozen!
I very much respect the Caggiano family for their amazing concept and longevity. But there is one thing about Nicola Pizza that annoys me, and it has nothing to do with the food or the service. For some unexplainable reason they feel it's necessary to make a major point that THEIR pizza sauce and dough are “fat free.” It's emblazoned across the menu, their advertising, pizza boxes, etc., etc. Are the dough and sauce “fat free?” Well, quite possibly they are. But most, if not all bread (and pizza) dough–and just about all marinara sauces–are virtually “fat free;” not just theirs. They also make a big deal that their french fry oil is “cholesterol free.” ALL frying oils are cholesterol free. And why do they make a big deal of the fact that “Our products are loaded with lycopene?” ALL foods made with tomatoes are loaded with lycopene. It's like going to a car dealer who advertises that “all my cars have four wheels!”
Are they lying or misrepresenting anything? No. Everything they claim is true. But it makes me sad to think that these restaurateurs who have so expertly proven themselves over the years, feel the need to suggest that their food is somehow healthier than other food of the same type. With the exception of their low carb items (no dough) and healthy heart items (no beef or cheese), their pizzas and strombolis are no more or less fattening or nutritional than anyone else's. That bandwagon, especially the gluten-free nonsense (nobody needs to avoid that wheat protein unless they suffer from celiacs disease or the early onset of celiacs – see my article, “The Truth about Gluten”), is rapidly becoming passé as people wake up to the fact that it's all marketing hype. Thank you for slogging through that with me.
All the basics are there at Nicola Pizza, including baked Ziti with good-tasting meatballs, and sandwiches with chicken parm, meatball, tuna, sausage and hot roast beef. Generously portioned, they are guaranteed to fill you up. My favorite is the white pizza with pepperoni. (I'm not a fan of their red sauce, but that's just me. A lot of people like it.) I ask for the white pizza a little well-done so the top darkens a bit and the crust is a little crisper (what's better than a little burnt cheese?). I also like the “Red Devil Pizza” made with a spicy hot marinara. It reminds me of the standard sauce at Chicho's Pizza in Virginia Beach.
Nicola Pizza on Rehoboth Avenue. Beachy, noisy, FUN.1/2 The original Nicola on First St. A Rehoboth institution.2/2
Wanna make your guests think you've been slavin' over the stove all day? Pick up Nicola's meatballs, ziti and ‘bolis in quantity to take home. Transfer to your own pots, turn on the food channel, splatter a little sauce on that big blousy schmata, wave your big spoon, and tell 'em it's yours. I don't think Nick and Joan will mind a bit. These are nice people and they will understand.
Regarding their “health” claims, don't go to Nicola's because you think you're going to get skinny on their (or any other pizza parlor's) food. Go there because of the festive, resort atmosphere, the reasonable prices and the consistent product. They have built an empire here in Rehoboth Beach and don't need vapid health claims to convince people that it's good.
The new Rehoboth Ave. Nicola Pizza has been open for a while now. And it is certainly the place to see and be seen. The old one is still there (cool electric train ‘n' all), but the new installation features a big and inviting slice window right there on the sidewalk in the event you need a slice so badly that you can't drag yourself inside. If you do make it in, there's a big friendly bar and lots of seating. It's noisy (no surprise) and very “beachy.” But that's why you're here, right? Order another 16 mile Old Court.
They also have a busy carryout business, so call them at 302-227-6211 to check their hours. They no longer offer delivery service. (Delaware lifeguards, take note: They have a generous 15% year 'round discount for eat-in meals! Just show your lifeguard ID card.)
The original location is at 8 N. First St., next to Lily Thai. The new one is right around the corner on Rehoboth Avenue. Click here for Nicola's Menu. (L., D.) Price range: Inexpensive -.