I don't want to ruffle the feathers of any of you Blue Hens out there, but I'm going to have to say that most people outside Delaware don't know much about the place. This isn't the usual NYC provincialism talking here. I've lived all over the country, and no matter where I've lived before — Massachusetts, Kansas, Oregon — First Staters have managed to stay off the radar of the country at large. Except for Joe Biden — maybe not the kind of attention you want ...?
No, the state seems to exercise its influence in more subtle ways: It didn't fire the first shot in the American Revolution, but, as every schoolchild learns, it was the first state to ratify the Constitution. It's home to a rather large chemical manufacturer whose products you likely use every day without thinking about. And, if you're like most Americans, you probably grudgingly send a payment there each month.
The pizza culture in Delaware seems to follow that MO, too. You never really hear that much about it outside the state, but when you do a little digging, you come up with some nuggets. What follows are the nuggets that Slice–Serious Eats readers have provided over various Delaware-based threads — along with some intel from confidential sources within the state. Enjoy ...
Wilmington is the largest city in the First State and as such has a large amount of the pizzerias recommended by our sources. In 1802, Frenchman Éleuthére Irénée du Pont founded a gunpowder mill near the city, starting what would later become known as DuPont and lending the city its self-proclaimed nickname, "Chemical Capital of the World." You may know Wilmington better (and possibly loathe it) as the city you have to send your credit card bills to. That's because in 1981, Governor Pierre S. du Pont IV (hey, wouldn't you know, a descendent of ol' Eleuthére Irénée!) did away with the state's usury laws, removing the cap that the state could charge on interest rates. As a result the city basically became the headquarters of the credit card industry.*
Wilmington also happens to be in the upper part of the state, which is where we're starting this quick tour ...
Ciao Trolley Pizza & Grill
Longtime and prolific SE'r gingercookiewithlime piped up pretty quickly with a rec for this place.
Spicysara seconds the rec later, saying, "go for the Bianco Broccoli." Ciao Trolley is a thin-crust New York–style place. Ciao Trolley Pizza & Grill: 1600 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington DE 19806; 302-654-5331; myspace.com/ciaopizzatrolleysquare
A Couple NYC-Style Recs
The Wilmington News Journal's Buddy Hurlock, in his Top 5 Delaware Pizzerias article (paywall; sorry!), names Dom's Pizza & Steaks as his No. 1 Delaware pizzeria, saying, "Aficionados of New York-style pizza should not overlook this top choice," and that the crust is "thin ... and chewy but crunchy at the end." 224 West Market Street, Newport DE 19804; 302-998-7154; ilovedomspizza.com
Little Vinnie's is another of Hurlock's recommended NYC-style pizzas. "Rarely a misfire from this place," he says in his Top 5 Delaware Pizzerias article. 1706 Faulkland Road, Wilmington DE 19805; 302-633-6801; website
Pizza by Elizabeths
"Elizabeth's in Greenville has some very interesting and tasty gourmet pizza," says imwalkin. The concept at Pizza by Elizabeths is that all the pies are named after a famous (or semifamous or now-obscure Elizabeth). Hence the "Taylor" (goat cheese, rosemary onion sauté, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, basil, and black olives), the "Arden" (original tomato sauce, rosemary onions, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, mozzarella, and parmesan), the "Queen" (creamy mushroom duxelles sauce, white chicken chunks, Parmesan, chives), or the "Boop" (as in Betty, get it? — fresh mozz, basil, balsamic vinaigrette, tomatoes).
"Pizza by Elizabeths is delicious, if a bit pricey," says spicysara; the cheapest is $11.50 (the "Barrett Browning"), but most are $15.75.
Still, says nosillak, "Pizza by Elizabeth's is like pizza crack. You MUST go!"
Wilmington News Journal food editor Patricia Talorico writes on the blog Second Helpings, "Right now, I'm convinced that Pizza by Elizabeths in Greenville still offers one of the best pizzas in Delaware." 3801 Kennett Pike, Greenville DE 19807 (map); 302-654-4478; pizzabyelizabeths.com
Coal-Oven Pizza: Anthony's
There's a pizza trend that's been sweeping the country in the last two to three years. I'm not talking about the march toward wood-fired ovens, though that's a huge one. No, there's also been a crapload of coal-oven pizzerias opening in the U.S., with Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza leading the charge in terms of numbers. The Florida-based chain now has locations in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and, recently, Delaware. Coal-fired pizza is kind of a "thing" with certain pizza nerds — usually those from NYC or New Haven, Connecticut, where pizza cooked in these types of ovens is sort of a treat. It's different from regular gas-oven pizza and even from wood-oven pizza. Anthony's tries to re-create the coal-oven pies of the NYC area, which I've described here as pizza that "follows the tenets of Neapolitan style in that it's thin-crusted, cooked in an ultra-hot oven, and uses a judicious amount of cheese and sauce (sauce which is typically fresh San Marzano tomatoes, as in Naples). It deviates from Naples-style in that it's typically larger, a tad thinner, and more crisp." Anthony's is worth noting here simply because it's the only coal-oven pizzeria in the state. 5611 Concord Pike, Wilmington DE 19803; 302-477-1105; anthonyscoalfiredpizza.com
Moving west-southwest of Wilmington brings us to Newark, Delaware, where an unusually high number of people threw their recs behind Margherita's Pizza. Maybe because it's near the University of Delaware campus. First suggested by jaf, it "has amazing pizza," s/he said. That was backed up by EazyB ("Excellent NY style slices"), Specs ("I went to school at UD and can recommend Margherita's, as others have. Good, greasy, thin-crust pizza that's great for a hangover"), sixsonnets ("I'm a native NYer and this was the closest to home we could find"), and chedder9876 ("100% recommend Margherita's in Newark DE....doesn't even compare to Grotto's, Seasons', or Pat's"). 134 East Main Street, Newark DE 19711
Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk Pizza
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, which, according to Wikipedia, bills itself as "the Nation's Summer Capital," is known for its beaches and wooden boardwalk. Like many seaside boardwalk-havin' towns, there are plenty of pizza places on or near the planks. When asked, SE'rs dished up a lot of intel on boardwalk pizza in Rehoboth Beach.
Louie's, which bills itself as "Home of the Grinder" (important enough that its URL is homeofthegrinder.com) also boasts that it's "world famous for our pan-style pizza." They've also declared themselves "the best-kept secret in Rehoboth Beach." Not anymore. Serious eater pbisNOTmyname gives it a nomination as a place to check out, and excellindy seconds it. Wondering what a grinder is? From the website: "Grinders are subs, oven baked for 3 minutes!" Louie's: 11 Rehoboth Avenue, Rehoboth Beach DE 19971 (map); homeofthegrinder.com; large 1-topping pizza, $15.25
Pizzerias in Rehoboth Beach seem to love being the "home of" something or another. Nicola Pizza is the "home fo the Nic-o-Boli," basically a stromboli. Or, as pbisNOTmyname, who recommended this place along with Louie's above says, "kind of like a folded over pizza." It comes standard with ground beef, Nicola's "fat-free pizza sauce," and a blend of cheeses, plus whatever add-ins you want. Delorenzosfan (and I think s/he's talking about DeLorenzo's in Trenton, New Jersey, if that lends any cred here) also seconds Nicola Pizza. Nicola Pizza: 8 North 1st Street, Rehoboth Beach DE 19971; 302-227-6211 and17 Rehoboth Avenue, Rehoboth Beach DE 19971; 302-226-1393; nicolapizza.com
Grotto was a love-it-or-hate-it kinda place. Mostly a "hate-it" place, judging by SE'r reaction, but there were a few "love-it" folks — or, not to varnish the truth, these folks were mostly "like-it-for-nostalgia" people. As Kevin A. said, "I love grotto's for the nostalgia factor, which is probably the same case for locals, but for someone from outside the area, it's probably not worth a visit."
At such a young age, I don't think I made a distinction between good and bad pizza. I ate a fair amount of Jerry's, we'd order from Domino's occasionally, and when I was at the beach... yes, we'd go to Grotto. But it wasn't just my family who made obligatory trips to this institution. My most distinct memory is the crazy lines. Dozens of people would be waiting outside for their names to be called. Crying children. Impatient parents. And a hostess who was completely overwhelmed.
Yelpers are for the most part dismissive and even those who give it decent reviews seem to use a lot of qualifiers when describing it — "good for Delaware," "I've never eaten it when sober," "was just OK." Even serious eater EazyB says, "Grotto's is a unique pizza and pure Delaware. Is it amazing pie? No, but for a micro-regional chain it's worth trying."
Whatever you do, don't go expecting New York–style, as many people point out on Yelp and in comments on Serious Eats/Slice.
We'll leave it up to you whether you want to spend your pizza dollars there and (possibly) start a nostalgia trip of your own. Grotto Pizza: Multiple locations; grottopizza.com
Lewes Boardwalk Pizza
Lewes is another Delaware beach town and is one of the terminals of the Cape May (NJ)–Lewes Ferry. Two places here come hesitatingly recommended by Pizzablogger.
I grew up in Slower Lower and go back frequently to visit family. After the long drive from Jersey to Sussex County we always -- always -- stop at Delmar Pizza. This place has been around for about 15 years now and has only improved with age. The pizza is thick, not thin, and has a perfect sauce to cheese ratio. The cheese is mild but sprinkled with spices. The crust is buttery and chewy, which means that even I, not a crust person, always eat it. My New Jersey born and bred boyfriend (where, he tells me, they know from good pizza) loves this place, too. If I visit my parents without him I'm under strict instructions to bring back a large pie, carefully resting in the passenger seat. We then risk getting terrible bacterial illnesses from room-temperature food by eating a pizza that's been sitting in a car for two hours. That's how good this stuff is.
38650 Sussex Highway, Delmar DE 19940; 302-846-2971; delmarpizzapasta.com
More Recs Needed
I know we all didn't cover Delaware as thoroughly as you may have liked. That's why the comments section is always open and waiting for you to drop us some intel of your own. I know we've missed something. Tell us what it is!
See also: Pizza in Delaware [Pizza Therapy]
* At the time, the only other state to have done away with the interest-rate cap was South Dakota, which is why anyone who doesn't send money to Delaware likely sends it to Sioux Falls. Why didn't Sioux Falls become the credit card center of the U.S.? My guess is that that was too big a move west for most financial institutions and Delaware was the preferred option.