Note: This story has been edited to reflect a firm opening date of Monday, September 17.
Scott Stein thinks it’s probably best that he and Antimo DiMeo didn’t get the space they originally wanted for Bardea Food & Drink, the Italian restaurant the partners are opening in downtown Wilmington.
Stein says that five years ago they moved to a site near Fourth and Market streets. But, for various reasons, the space did not work. It now houses the Merchant Bar, a popular restaurant owned by La Fia restaurateurs Bryan and Andrea Sikora.
Yet their dream of an Italian restaurant is not dead. It just took a few more years and a move three blocks away.
But, this time next week (and possibly sooner), the couple plan to start welcoming customers to their new 120-seat restaurant.
Bardea, at the corner of Seventh and North Market streets, takes over the space once occupied by Kennedy Fried Chicken. It’s also the latest restaurant to open on the city’s North Market Street thoroughfare.
The restaurant joins other newcomers such as Stitch House Brewery and Farmer & the Cow, which both opened in March, and Margaux, a French brasserie in operation since June.
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The choice of downtown restaurants, including Chelsea Tavern, Ernest & Scott Taproom, UD Creamery, DiMeo’s, BrewHaHa!, the Green Room at the Hotel du Pont, Bull Bay Caribbean Cuisine nearby on Orange Street and the food hall DE.CO coming soon to the DuPont Building at 10th and Orange streets, giving customers more restaurant choices in the area than in years past.
Indeed, while the wave of restaurant construction once seemed almost solely focused on Wilmington’s riverfront, it’s hard not to notice the downtown revitalization movement.
Bardea, pronounced bar-DAY-ah, is the Italian term for “the goddess of food and drink.” The 5,000 square foot space, which also once housed an optical store, law firm and other businesses, has been completely renovated.
“As soon as we walked in, we were blown away. We’re so excited to be a part of Market Street,” Stein said of the space created by Philadelphia-based Eimer Design. Renovation costs were not disclosed.
Decor includes using some of the building’s original tin ceilings, showcasing a large bank of windows overlooking Market Street, and creating a 20-seat rectangular bar. A high-tech “garden of the goddess” lighted mural in the main dining room was inspired by the sights DiMeo saw daily while cooking in restaurants in Italy.
Five years ago may have been too early for Bardea in downtown Wilmington, said Stein, who lives in Philadelphia.
Although he thinks the potential was still there for the Italian restaurant, the area has now become much more of a foodie destination and has more residents than in 2013.
“I felt like it was about to start and now the market is ready for us,” Stein says. “It reminds me of Fishtown in Philadelphia. It’s starting to pop.”
The Buccini/Pollin Group, one of Wilmington’s largest landowners, purchased the historic 2 E. Seventh St. building that houses the restaurant in 2016.
The restaurant was originally to be called Ardé Osteria and to be run by Giuseppe “Pino” DiMeo, Antimo’s father and partner of DiMeo’s Pizzaiuoli Napulitani on Wilmington’s Market Street as well as restaurants in Pennsylvania which are now closed.
He is no longer involved. Pino DiMeo pleaded guilty in September 2017 to two counts of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, failing to report $2 million in income and nine counts of filing false returns. of income.
Stein says he and Antimo DiMeo decided to change the name from Ardé to Bardea. Ardé, a restaurant they operated in Wayne, Pennsylvania, was sold late last year.
Antimo DiMeo, who lives in Philadelphia and worked at DiMeo’s Pizza, is Bardea’s executive chef.
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He and Stein say Bardea and DiMeo’s Pizza at 831 N. Market St. are separate businesses and will not share or overlap menu items. DiMeo’s is a Neapolitan pizzeria, while Bardea will offer upscale but accessible Italian cuisine.
Bardea will be open daily for lunch and dinner. Stein says they hope to attract families on Sunday, a slow day for downtown businesses, and possibly offer brunch.
For the restaurant’s beverage program, Stein and DiMeo turned to Stein’s former high school pal, Brian Freedman, a national liquor, wine, food and travel journalist who writes for Food & Drink magazines. Wine and Forbes.
Freedman has ensured that every wine in the restaurant has an Italian heritage, even if not all are from Italy. Some are made from Italian grape varieties grown around the world. Freedman also helped create a cocktail list of remastered classics, including 10 cocktails that will be presented with the restaurant’s personal touch.
Bardea will offer a rotating selection of regional craft beers. Glasses of wine will range from around $8 to $12.
Stein and Chef DiMeo say that while their new restaurant will feature a number of classic Italian dishes, don’t expect “old-fashioned, red-sauce Italian classics.”
The couple call the menu “interpretive Italian,” saying they remaster classic Italian dishes, but also present dishes with their own spins.
DiMeo, who is from southern Italy and worked with chef Gennaro Esposito at La Torre Del Saracino, a Michelin-starred restaurant on the Amalfi Coast just south of Naples, says fish and seafood will be an important part of the menu.
A raw bar will offer freshly shucked local oysters, a small plate of chilled seafood and tuna crudo. Dishes include charred octopus with Nicoise potato salad and green olive gazpacho, poached lobster risotto, dayboat scallops with smoked Hollandaise and cioppino, an Italian seafood stew.
In addition to sliced meats and imported cheese, the menu also includes thin-crust pizzas made from organically ground wheat and rye flour and baked in an imported oven.
Fresh pasta will be made for the lamb bolognese pappardelle, but the dishes will also use Pasta Mancini dried pasta imported from Italy.
DiMeo says the premium pasta comes from hard durum wheat grown on a family farm in the Marche region of central Italy. He says the pasta has an artisanal, textured finish that holds sauces better than fresh pasta.
“People are so educated about pasta now,” DiMeo says. “This is made in the old school tradition. It really is pasta farmhouse. The flavor of the pasta speaks for itself.”
Bardea will also offer gluten-free pasta. Various breads and other grain products will come from Lost Bread Co., a popular Philadelphia bakery run by James Beard Award-nominated baker Alex Bois.
Prices in Bardea will range from $6 to $10 for snacks; $10 to $15 for 11-inch pizzas; $9-16 for small plates; $15-$17 for pasta and $15-$29 for large plates.
The opening date is tentatively set for Monday, September 17, though partners could just quietly open their doors before then. The city is holding a ribbon cutting Friday at 10:45 a.m.
Bardea will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and from noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday. The restaurant will serve lunch daily until 3:00 p.m., with happy hour on weekdays and dinner from 5:00 p.m.
For more information, call (302) 426-2069 or visit BardeaWilmington.com.
Contact Patricia Talorico at (302) 324-2861 or firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @pattytalorico