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Touch of Italy (Ocean City)

/ Updated on June 15, 2017

Touch of Italy at 67th and the water in Ocean City, Md. is, at the moment, the largest of the four Touch of Italy locations, and the only one located outside of Sussex County, De.

People thought co-owner Bob Ciprietti was “spreading himself too thin” by opening this location, but as usual, he was ahead of us all. While we weren't looking, he was importing his friend and Food Network-featured Ciro Verdi from midtown Manhattan to run the joint! Ciro was already famous for his Da Ciro Ristorante and his Robiola Focaccia Pizza (he taught Bobby Flay how to make it on TV) in NYC, but he chose to join forces with Ciprietti, Curzi and the rest, at the wildly popular and ever-growing chain of Bronx-like trattoria/salumeria/pasticceria combos. Ciro is part of the ownership and the executive chef at the Ocean City installation at 67th and the Atlantic, and supervises not only the restaurant operation but also the hotel event catering, hotel breakfasts, room service, and pool bars. Needless to say, Touch of Italy OC hit the ground running in spring of 2014.

One of the most popular items at Touch of Italy is the wood-fired pizza. In fact, the pizza prep areas and the glowing, domed oven are the centerpiece of the main dining room. Wood fired pizza is not like that limp, tepid product that’s passed through a window at Ray’s in Manhattan. It is crunchy, crusty and rustic, and, most importantly, it is not “burned.” Young pizza maven Biaggio Lucci has taught his fellow piemen to craft these pizzas in the almost 1000-degree oak-fueled clay chambers and they come out puffy and surprisingly light. The crust bubbles up from the intense heat, creating thin, air-filled voids. The higher the bubble, the closer it is to the heat. The resulting CRACKLE is testament to the fresh, yeasty dough that is worked just long enough to ensure an elastic “pull” to every bite. I will nitpick a bit by saying that the pizzas at TOI OC are served on big china plates rather than the absorbent wooden pizza peels like at the other installations. The difference between the two materials results in a change in the firmness of the crust on the bottom. The taste is not affected in the least, but the pizzas in Delaware and the ones in OC do differ in that regard. I think I know why they use the glass plates instead of the peels, but I want to be sure before I spout off.

UPDATE: The Foodie's whining was heard! The pizzas at TOI OC are now being served on wooden peels like in Lewes and Rehoboth. They will retain their wood-fired crispy crust much longer because of that. Thank you Bob, Joe and Ciro for listening to the plaintive cries of The Foodie in search of the perfect pizza crust.

The pizzas sport a wide variety of toppings, including broccoli rabe (rapini — more like turnip tops than broccoli), arugula, balsamic (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it), prosciutto, ricotta, parma cotta ham and oil-cured black olives. My hands-down favorite is the alla sopresatta (sopresatta and mushroom). I add Italian sausage (fresh from Sal Biancardi’s butcher shop on Arthur Ave. in the Bronx). The thin-sliced sopresatta (sort of a thin salami resembling prosciutto, but firmer and more intense) crisps up quickly in concert with the spicy Italian sausage. Don’t plan to eat again for a couple of days.

One of the highlights at all the Touch of Italy sit-down restaurants is Bob Ciprietti’s own broccoli rabe. The Il Migliori pizza is topped with that and fresh mozzarella. The stems of the vegetable have not been boiled to death, so they are still firm and pleasantly to the tooth.

The bread and baked goods served at the Ocean City Touch of Italy (and, in fact, all of the installations) are fresh from TOI’s bakery in Five Points in Lewes. They even supply bread to other eateries and sandwich shops. And this brings us to the subject of the Italian subs. The sub menu at TOI V is very similar to that of the other TOIs. My favorite is the Rocky Marciano with hot sopresatta, sharp provolone, roasted peppers and olive oil (add a sprinkle of grated parm, ground cherry pepper flakes and a drizzle of balsamic — all available at the table). Other tasty sandwiches include the Don Orazio (named after the very same Orazio from the Bronx who taught TOI mozzarella maven, all-around-nice-guy and now TOI mucky-muck Mikey Berardinelli to create that creamy and slightly salty nectar of the gods). His namesake sandwich consists of hot capicola ham, mozzarella, roasted peppers and the required olive oil. The Dante is my next-door neighbor Jack’s favorite: grilled eggplant, olives, mushrooms, peppers, artichokes and provolone. There are 17 others. The slightly firm, sesame seeded outside of the roll gives way to a light and airy inside that soaks up the oils, vinegars and pepper juices, thus becoming an integral part of the sandwich experience.

One of the stars of the appetizer show is the bocconcini wrapped in prosciutto and roasted with a hint of rosemary and olive oil. Chalk this one up to the quintessential bacon & cheese experience. Another must-get is the traditional Arancini, a ball of rice infused with mushrooms, peas and fontini (a hard aged Italian cheese), pan fried and served with a porcini cream sauce. One of the stars of the appetizer show is the eggplant tower (this has become a big seller since they opened). Seasonal goodies like the pumpkin ravioli and mussels, just to name a few should not be missed. Like meatballs? Mama’s got ‘em for you – both as a plate in the restaurant and for takeout so you can lie and tell people you made them yourself.

One of the entree stars of the show at TOI OC is the simple, straight-ahead and expertly pounded and cooked chicken parmesan (they also have veal and eggplant), lovingly slathered with creamy melted muenster sidled up to a nest of pasta. When Ciro Verdi joined the ownership of this restaurant he brought his signature Bolognese from his New York eatery. Get the chicken parm with the bolognese! You will not be sorry. Again, don’t plan on eating again for a month or so.

Other entrees that have visited our table include the Orecchietti Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Sausage and Garlic; hand-crafted Ravioli from Borgatti’s on Arthur Avenue served simply with a Tomato-Basil marinara and a dollop of fresh Ricotta, and the unbelievably creamy Pollo Taleggio, topped with Prosciutto de Parma in a White Wine Herb Sauce. There are 10 other Primo and Secondo Piatti from which to choose. I have been witness to the post-prandial smiles they have generated.

Dessert at Touch of Italy – any Touch of Italy — is de rigueur. The eclairs, cream puffs and napoleons are filled with real egg custard (not that cheap whipped-cream nonsense some places dish-up to the philistines who don’t know any better). The almond-infused cookies include little ping-pong ball-size rounds either plain or studded with nutty pignolis. The chocolate cream cheese cookie is … do I really need to describe it? The name says it all. And the macaroons can easily be popped into your waiting mouth with — or without — a dip in chocolate. Don’t leave without trying the Italian Wedding Cookies.

The deli cases at TOI in Ocean City face the outside windows. They are long and full of goodies! You will see endless Italian meats, cheeses and confections all for the choosing, slicing, wrapping, or eating right there in front of everybody.

Co-owner Bob Ciprietti does pretty much everything first-class, and as both a builder and restaurateur, he has put a lot of himself into this location, and has achieved a “look” that defines the TOI brand. The custom stained glass pieces (one of which has a real wine bottle soldered into the window) are there, and the big, inviting communal tables all add up to a home run. If you are lucky, you might get a seat at The Marble Table. Nirvana.

Touch of Italy OC is located adjacent to the lobby of the Holiday Inn at 67th and the water in Ocean City, Md. It’s a busy place, but there is ample free parking next to the hotel. Just turn east onto 67th and turn left.

See the dinner menu here.

See the sandwich menu here.

See the takeout menu here.

For reservations, click here, then scroll down the list to Touch of Italy in Ocean City. Click the Open Table logo.

(L., D., Bar). Price Range: Moderate.

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 Sherri Close says:

    On February 20, 2015, on the recommendation of The Rehoboth Foodie, some friends of mine and I had dinner at Touch of Italy in Ocean City, Maryland. This was for a birthday celebration.

    From the moment I called Matt for a reservation to Ivo, our server bringing our doggie bags, it was a fabulous experience!

    We didn’t come in the Holiday Inn, front desk entrance. There is a separate entrance right off the parking lot that takes you right into the restaurant. As soon as we walked in, there sits the eye popping “deli and dessert” counter. Parnell was behind the counter and greeted us enthusiastically, warmly, and with a big smile. We told him we were there for dinner and he helped us to find the area we needed to be so we could get seated.

    Once we found our way over to the desk we were promptly seated. This was at 6:00 PM. It wasn’t too crowded at that time but not long after that, every seat was filled and there were people waiting. And this was off-season on one of the coldest weekends of the year! By the way, I love the atmosphere of this location as well as the room setup.

    I had made my reservations a week before with Matt. He was very accommodating in my request for a little cake for our table (3 of us) for our friend’s birthday. I spoke with him just after we were seated and he had everything taken care of, right down to the candle I forgot!

    Then our server, Ivo took charge. He described all the specials to us. One of the specials was a double cut pork chop. My other friend got the marinated steak with pasta. I got meatballs with marinara sauce (there’s a reason for my meager portion!).

    We were entertained with the bread, olive oil and spices to mix in the olive oil before the dinner was served. My friend shared a taste of her pork chop with me and it was absolutely divine! I should have gotten that and taken the rest home! Which she ended up doing!. My other friend finished every bite of her steak and pasta dish. They do serve very very generous portions! Everything was wonderful.

    Then, they brought the cake. It was small, as I had requested, looked delicious and I was told it was delicious! A chocolate cake filled with canola “icing” and decorated beautifully. They brought it on a large charger where the chef had spelled out Happy Birthday and then my friend’s name in chocolate. Wonderful!

    Our entire experience was everything I knew it would be. I had been to TOI in Rehoboth and knew that this location would provide the same top quality food and service. I will definitely go to ANY Touch of Italy restaurants that are affiliated.

    Thank you Rehoboth Foodie for your suggestion! And thank you to Matt, Ivo and Parnell for your wonderful attention to 3 old (sorta!) gals!


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