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Touch of Italy (Lewes)

/ Updated on June 15, 2017
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In spite of the unbelievable popularity of the Touch of Italys on Coastal Highway in Rehoboth Beach, 67th St. in Ocean City and the newest mini-TOI in Bethany Beach, the downtown Lewes location continues to pack ’em in. Case in point: I try to schedule my review visits in such a way that I can go a few times during the season and also the off-season, giving me a better idea of how places adjust their service between summer and winter. To that end, one of my visits to Touch of Italy in Lewes took place on a cool, early spring weeknight. In fact, I wondered if they would even be open. When I called, I was told, “We’ll keep the place open for you.” How nice. And I fell for it.

Open? The place was packed! People were crowded around the door waiting for tables or to be served at the deli counter. In fact, I had to push them out of the way just to get inside. Was this Katz’s or Carnegie Deli in New York? Was this Zabar’s on the upper West Side where you have to fist fight your way to the acre-and-a-half of cheese? Indeed, it was a tiny place in Lewes — in the winter, yet.

Owners Bob Ciprietti and Joe Curzi hit the jackpot with their first of what is now 5 Touch of Italys. At the corner of Second and Savannah in Lewes, this tiny yet busy salumeria/pasticceria is at pretty much the chewing epicenter of the First Town in the First State. Gigantic cheeses and cured meats hang from the ceiling, and the cold cases are jammed with prepared salads, cut cheeses, Borgatti ravioli, fresh ricotta and mozzarella, sausage from Sal Biancardi’s (several varieties) and the entire gamut of Italian meats. Fresh loaves of bread are stacked like logs. Packaged goodies like Nutella (they sell the barrel-sized one!), dried pastas, dressings, panettones, spices and crackers fill every available space.

The wood-fired oven cranks out puffy, charred pizzas and crunchy calzones stuffed with everything from sopressata (think pepperoni on steroids) to basil to spinach to black olives. And, of course, each contains their signature handmade mozzarella cheese. It’s like eating a cloud. Well, OK, a cloud with calories. But some things must be experienced. Leave your silly diet at home.

Table service boils down to three categories: pizza/calzones, stuffed Italian sandwiches/antipasti, and entrees like Chicken Parm, pastas Alfredo or Bolognese and some specials like homemade brasciole or marinated hangar steak on garlicky wilted greens (it was delicious!).

The subs (they call them “Heros”) were packed with the requisite fillings. Can’t eat bread? How sad. Get the antipasto. It’s delicious and jam packed with Italian goodies. Don’t miss the prosciutto-wrapped Bocconcini appetizer. Though it was advertised as a special, we were assured that it’s permanently on the menu. And lo and behold, it is — both in Lewes and in Rehoboth at the Highway location. Three snow-white orbs of marinated mozzarella (aka bocconcini) are wrapped in deeply savory and hauntingly sweet prosciutto. It’s pan-seared in rosemary and olive oil just long enough to crisp up the ham (this is what bacon will be like in Heaven). Trust your Foodie on this one. Order it.

A friendly business lunch yielded another hit. My lovely companion (a former mucky-muck at Southern DE Tourism and all-around cutiepie) ordered the #1 sandwich dubbed the Blanco E’Rosso. TOI’s homemade mozzarella was paired with tomatoes, basil and olive oil to make what is basically a caprese salad on a roll.

One of my favorite subs (oops…Heros) is the Rocky Marciano (spicy sopressata, sliced deli-thin and layered on an impossibly fresh Italian roll along with a bracingly sharp hard provolone and roasted sweet peppers). I add hot peppers. Wimps, don’t fret: They’re not all that hot, but they really add a lot of flavor. On our most recent visit, my favorite Foodie-Cutie (undisputed queen of the hot buttered rums) and that guy she lives with ordered The Dante (grilled eggplant with a grilled melange of peppers, olives, mushrooms and artichokes). A milder, softer provolone tops it off.

Another must-get is the Chicken Parm Hero. I was surprised to find creamy Muenster melted overtop of the chicken. (One of the secrets of my own near-perfect chicken parm. I guess it’s not a secret anymore….) Of course, their milky mozzarella is included. Like it more spicy? Get the Don Orazio (hot Capicola plus all the usual goodies). DO NOT MISS half-price chicken parm night in the off season. In Lewes it’s on Wednesdays. At the Rehoboth location, it’s on Mondays. You will have to call for reservations at either spot. And don’t think it won’t be busy just because it’s cold and snowing outside.

Relive the Atlantic City boardwalk (loved it in the ’70s. <<sigh>>) with a Sausage, Peppers and Onion Hero. Or channel Mulberry Street in New York by digging into the Italian Combo (mortadella, mild parma cotta ham, Genoa salami (soft, cured like a sausage) and a mild provolone. Mangia!

The wood-fired oven stays busy with pizzas, calzones and the like. Of course, I have to be difficult and make up my own toppings, so on our last visit we ordered the Alla Sopressata (mushrooms and that delightful sopressata) and added Italian sausage. It was quite good. In fact, as i update this article in early 2016, I enjoyed that very same pizza just last night. It did not disappoint.

The pizzas come with all sorts of toppings, including the Parma Cotta ham, broccoli rabe, prosciutto, artichokes — you name it. I have to tell you that the meat/cheese toppings are the star of the pizza show here at Touch of Italy. The tomato sauce is OK, but the piled-high toppings are what make it great.

In light of that, one of the sleepers in the pizza dept. is the Al Bianco (white pizza). You can add anchovies for a couple of bucks, but the absence of sauce is no great loss. Fully experience the marriage of three cheeses and that crackly, charred crust. Interestingly, the combination of ricotta, mozzarella, grated cheese and olive oil reminded me of the Sun-Ni Armenian String Cheese upon which I noshed long before I was a fully formed Foodie (black Nigella seeds, an aromatic spice popular in Indian cuisine; a hint of vinegar, and mahleb (a Middle-Eastern spice made of ground black cherry pits, with a taste reminiscent of almond and cherry). The Bianco will surprise you. Go ahead, add the anchovies! Life is short.

The Touch of Italy empire grew out of the delightful little salumeria/pasticceria on Baltimore Ave. in Rehoboth Beach. They quickly outgrew that space, and are keeping an eye out for a larger space with actual seating in downtown Rehoboth.

During the summer of 2014, Touch of Italy expanded into its fifth location in the big Holiday Inn at 67th and the ocean in Ocean City, Md. The place is always crowded. No surprise. In 2015, Piccolino Touch of Italy was born in Bethany Beach. Directly across from the Sea Colony highrises, it is a beachy carryout with all the basics, except for pizza and other oven-centric items. The perfect spot to pick up a tasty sub for the beach.

The Lewes Touch of Italy is  hard to miss at 101 Second St. at the corner with Savannah. Call them (302) 827-2730 to check their off-season hours, and be ready for a bit of a wait. See the menu by clicking here.

The place is lively, noisy and even has a small bar. They have a full liquor license, so enjoy a glass of wine or your favorite cocktail while you strike up a conversation with neighboring tables (it’s easy to do – they’re all within earshot) or the delightful waiter Matty Pfau. (It’s 2016 and Matty is now a TOI regional manager – but sometimes he jumps into the fray and it’s great when he does.)  (L., D., Bar) Price range: Moderate.

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)

101 Second St., Lewes
302-827-2730

2017/2018 off-season specials effective after 10/10/17

Sunday
Open 10-9
Buy one pizza, get the second one for half price!
Monday
Open 11-8:30
Get our cheese board and two glasses of wine for only $20! Now THAT'S amore.
also - 15 wine bottles for only $15 each.
Tuesday
Open 11-8:30
Ziti Night! Get baked ziti and a small Caesar for only $12
Wednesday
Open 11-8:30
Chicken Parm Night! $14 gets it all.
Thursday
Open 11-8:30
DIY Bucatini: choose your sauce for only $10.
Alfredo dine-in only
Friday
Open 11-9:30
Saturday
Open 10-9:30
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. Bob Biros says:

    My wife and I were in Lewes forthe weekend. There was an hour and a half wait at Agave, despite many visible empty tables waiting to be cleared so we wandered down 2nd street. We decide to enter Touch of Italy and were pleasantly surprised. We were pleasantly greeted by the hosted who seated us at the last open table. The food was wonderful. The Meatballs and red sauce were very tasty. The pumpkin ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce was so good. We did not have room for dessert though they all looked so good…especially the NY cheescake. We will return there on on next visit to Lewes.

  2. Lach says:

    We did not enjoy our two visits because the staff was so rude. The food was okay, but we won’t return. Its one thing to offer poor service, but quite another when the employees treat customers with disrespect.

  3. Frank says:

    Sounds like a great place can’t wait until Rehoboth and Five Points opens

  4. BJ Gilmore says:

    My wife and I were both born and raised in the Bronx, NY and let me tell you, “Touch” is the real deal! Great “heroes”, and the recent addition of pizza and a dinner menu makes it even better. Forget Little Italy in Manhattan. If you know the Arthur Ave. section of the Bronx, near the Bronx Zoo and Fordham U., you’d swear you were there. Looking forward to the new bakery shop at Five Points where John, the Baker, will fire up the ovens. I loved Lewes before Touch of Italy came to town, now I love it even more.

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