Bardea Food & Drink in downtown Wilmington turns two years old on Saturday, but owners Scott Stein and Antimo DiMeo aren’t pausing to celebrate just yet.
They’re too busy rolling out a new menu, relaunching the family meal program and creating a heated outdoor garden for alfresco dining for Bardea, 620 N. Market St.
“We’re making big updates,” said Stein, who was so excited about the new dishes that the Italian eatery debuted the new menu before the anniversary date. “It went over really well. We’re really excited.”
Not to worry, loyal customers. Octopus, lamb skewers and fried calamari are still on the menu.
Eggplant parmesan is another staple, but it’s now in the vegetable category, which also includes a “wedge,” made with cabbage and topped with guava Bearnaise and puffed amaranth. Fennel has also proved popular.
“We’ve been very plant-forward in 2020,” Stein said. “The oakwood-shiitake mushroom tart is to die for. We do a take on potato-leek soup — a tartlet. It’s a nice, composed bite.”
The tartlet is in the “snacks” section. There are also categories for pizza, small plates and dishes meant for sharing, which now features whole, crispy-skinned Rohan duckling dry-aged on site.
DiMeo, the executive chef, and his team are taking a lighter touch with the pasta dishes to offset such hearty dishes. Take, for instance, the reimagined pasta Bolognese.
Most versions have a meaty sauce with ground beef, pork and veal. Bardea, however, purees the meat, incorporates it into the sauce and then cooks the pasta in it.
“When people get the dish, it blows their mind because they expected to see the meat,” Stein said. “But it has this great, robust flavor of meat, but it’s very light. It has a nice bright red color. Antimo did a great job with it.”
Fans of Bardea’s family meals will be happy to learn that they are returning this month. “Some guests aren’t comfortable yet coming out to dine,” Stein said.
To make it easy, there is a set calendar for each day of the week, from Tuesday through Saturday. For instance, shepherd’s pie is available on Tuesdays.
The meals, available in limited quantities, include a composed snack, salad, vegetable or starch, dessert and house-baked bread with cultured butter. “For $75 for two people, you’re getting a five-course experience,” he noted.
Those who want to dine alfresco will appreciate Bardea’s outdoor café, which will include a heated tent with open sides, spaced seats and planters. Stein hopes to area complete in the next two weeks.
The additions and changes are as much about the staff as they are the guests.
“Our staff is everything; they’re depending on us,” Stein said. “Antimo and I are going to fight to the last.”