The ribbon cut at this morning’s opening of Bardea Food & Drink on Market Street – yet another new restaurant to open on downtown Wilmington’s main drag – differed in an important way from the usual red or blue sash sheared at such occasions.
This cord was a giant string of pasta, an appropriate homage to the Italian theme of the city’s latest eatery, which went well with a very good bottle of champagne smashed on the corner step to christen the new enterprise – much to the delight of a hungry crowd including Mayor Mike Purzycki.
Restauranteurs dreamed of bringing Italian eatery to Wilmington
For co-owners Scott Stein and Chef Antimo DiMeo, today’s opening marks the culmination a five-year mission to bring their restaurant concept to life in an increasingly revitalized downtown. For years Antimo worked alongside his father Pino at DiMeo’s Neapolitan Pizzeria, also on Market Street. Antimo later left and studied Italian cuisine in Italy and returned to start his own career as an owner.
A fourth-generation restaurant owner himself, Philadelphian Stein says the food business is in his blood. “We’re certainly not in this for the money or the hours. I live and breathe restaurants. Antimo and I are passion first — we love what we do.”
The pair hopes their restaurant plays a big role in Wilmington’s continued renaissance. “This neighborhood has embraced us. We feel like we are already part of the community. We love it down here,” he said.
Bardea is located at 620 N. Market Street (at 7th Street), a short distance from other popular hotspots including Stitch House Brewery, The Farmer & the Cow, Margaux Restaurant, Loma Coffee Shop, La Fia and Merchant Bar.
In their first act of community partnership, proceeds from Bardea’s opening day’s sales are being donated to Wilmington’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
Bardea is ‘beautiful but approachable’
Bardea is the Italian term for ‘the goddess of food and drink.’ The stunning, 5,000 square foot, 120-seat restaurant features a rectangular bar with 20 stools and outdoor seating. The main dining area features beautifully stained wood tables, varied lighting, and comfy chairs. Lots of sunlight streams through the windows overlooking Market Street.
“Even though the restaurant is beautiful, it’s very approachable. All of the decisions we made were driven by understanding what the customer really wants,” said Stein.
The kitchen will utilize ingredients from local Delaware Valley farms and purveyors and will feature a number of composed dishes with both Italian and American origins.
Interpretive menu features Italian favorites
Chef Antimo DiMeo calls the menu ‘interpretive Italian.’ “There’s going to be some things on there that are truly classically Italian, and there are other things that are truly interpretive that you wouldn’t necessarily see at a classic Italian restaurant in Italy. But we think that’s okay because we’re going for great flavors, simple foods, and classics done right.” Bardea will also be utilizing various breads and other grain products from Lost Bread Co., a popular Philadelphia bakery.
Stein says the restaurant will always have Italian favorites that people love, and they encourage sharing. They hope diners will try everything at the table — and give feedback to their servers. The service staff comes with extensive regional and national experience (many also work at other fine restaurants in Wilmington) — professionals who care about their trade and truly enjoy the restaurant and customer experience.
“I’m from Southern Italy, where fish and seafood play a vital role in our cuisine. Our menu embraces ingredients and preparations from Italy’s coastline and other regions,” said DiMeo, who worked under Chef Gennaro Esposito at La Torre Del Saracino — a two-time Michelin Star-winning restaurant located on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Wine and food journalist Brian Freedman steered beverage selections
Stein and DiMeo tapped national spirits, wine, food and travel journalist Brian Freedman to help them select a niche 40-bottle wine list and assemble seasonally-changing beverage selections. Every wine in the restaurant has Italian heritage — though not all of them are from Italy. There was also a deliberate decision to keep the wine prices down.
“A lot of times, there’s anxiety when customers see pricey bottles of wine on a menu. We just want people to come in, relax and have a good time,” said Stein.
The cocktail list includes Italian spritzers and remastered classics, including 10 popular cocktails which will be presented with the restaurant’s own spin on each. Bardea will also feature a rotating selection of regional craft beers.
Stein and DiMeo are currently developing what they call “an aggressive weekday happy hour,” which they plan to unveil soon.
“By using fresh fruits, carefully chosen spirits and infusion techniques, we’ve been able to craft a collection of drinks that are every bit as delicious on their own as they are paired with Bardea’s cuisine,” said Freeman.
Bardea menu highlights
Bardea’s menu highlights include a raw bar featuring freshly shucked local oysters; a small Chilled Seafood Plate; Truffle Toast; artisanal Italian cured meat and cheese boards; a handful of pizzas including Margherita, Spicy Honey, Truffle, Salsicca (sausage), and an inventive upside-down creation. Small Plates feature Nonna’s Meatballs; Charred Octopus; Goat Ricotta Gnudi; and Tuna Tataki.
Imported pastas include Tortiglioni, Pappardelle with lamb bolognese; Risotto with poached lobster and Bucatini. Large Plates including a Pork Porterhouse with broccoli rabe; Baked Norwegian Salmon; Seared Scallops; Fresh Fish of the Day; and a Goddess Burger. Prices range from $6 to $10 for Snacks; $7 to $9 for Vegetables; $10 to $15 for Pizzas; $9 to $16 for Small Plates; $15 to $17 for Pastas; and $15 to $29 for Large Plates.
Bardea will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 am to midnight and Sunday from noon to 10 pm. Lunch every day until 3 pm, with weeknight happy hour and dinner beginning at 5 p.m. Between lunch and dinner service, Bardea will serve a mid-day snack menu featuring raw bar and pizza selections.