Ratings110 Touch of Italy III3Click here to make reservations at TOI III through OpenTable.com.

Installation #3 (the bakery at Five Points actually makes it 4) of the popular Touch of Italy Italian deli/restaurant group opened with great pomp & circumstance in mid-July 2013 in Shore Plaza, directly across from Tanger Seaside Outlets. It's been a wild ride for everybody involved with Touch of Italy, from the drama surrounding the opening of their first location on Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth, to the sad conflict between former friend/investor/mentor Bob Ciprietti and original Millville Touch of Italy owners Frank & Louie Bascio, to the largely unfounded rumors and scuttlebutt flying all over the place about everyone involved. As of this writing, the former paisanos and business partners are still not speaking to one another, and the whole thing is probably going to TOI opening pizza guyRFend up in court. Perhaps mixing friendship, family and business isn't that good an idea after all. That's all you'reTOI opening pizzaRF getting out of me. My lips are sealed.

But one thing that the above-captioned guys will always have in common (whether they like it or not) is a genuine love for Italian cooking, baking and eating. Ciprietti and the Brothers Bascio grew up surrounded by Italian cuisine and those who love to prepare it. Ciprietti speaks reverently of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, where to this day there are bakeries, butchers and cheese shops where very little English is spoken. I've been there and know it to be true. Things don't get much more authentic than that.

The newest Touch of Italy is similar to TOI II in downtown Lewes, except that it's much (much!) bigger and can turn out a wider variety of dishes more efficiently. And the deli-bakery counter is almost 3 times as long.

One of my favorites is the wood-fired pizza. No, my friends, it is not "burned!" Forget about that limp, tepid product that's passed through a window at Ray's in Manhattan. The pizza that Biaggio Lucci [pictured, left] and his fellow piemakersTOI Lewes Sopresatta sandwich close create in the almost 1000-degree oak-fueled clay chamber is puffy, surprisingly light and crunchy. The crust bubbles up from the intense heat, creating thin, air-filled voids that generate a sensation that's akin to the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Zipper at Trimper's at the Ocean City Inlet. The higher the bubble, the closer it is to the heat and the more it will char. The "CRACKLE" that ensues is testament to the fresh, yeasty dough that is worked just long enough to TOI Lewes Don Orazioensure an elastic "pull" to every bite. I save the best 'til last: The crust.

There's a wide variety of toppings, including broccoli rabe (rapini -- more like turnip tops than broccoli), arugula, balsamic (yup -- you heard it), prosciutto, ricotta, parma cotta ham and oil-cured black olives. My hands-down favorite is the sopressata, Italian sausage and mushroom pizza [pictured, right]. The thin-sliced sopressata (sort of a thin salami resembling prosciutto, but firmer and more intense) crisps up quickly in concert with the spicy Italian sausage. Don't plan to eat again for a couple of days.

My preferred Foodie-at-Arms loves the broccoli rabe/fresh mozzarella-topped pie. The stems of the vegetable have notTOI Lewes dante sandwich been boiled to death, so they are still firm and perfectly to the tooth.

OK, I think I've made my point. Of course, where there's pizza, there's calzones and strombolis. Basically pizza turnovers, and they are also a wood-fired delight.

The TOI Bakery in Five Points runs around-the-clock turning out bread and baked goods not only for the three TOI stores, but also for other eateries and sandwich shops in town. The star item is the sub roll. The sub menu at TOI III is TOI Lewes Bocconcini and prosciutto appvery similar to that of TOI II in Lewes, including the Rocky Marciano (my favorite) with hot sopressata, sharp provolone, roasted peppers and olive oil [pictured, upper right] (add a sprinkle of grated parm, ground hot cherry pepper flakes and a drizzle of balsamic -- all available at the table). Other tasty sandwiches include the Don Orazio (named after the very same Don Orazio who taught TOI mozzarella maven and all-around-nice-guy Mikey Berardinelli to create that creamy and slightly salty nectar of the gods), consisting of hot capicola ham, mozzarella, roasted peppers and the required olive oil [pictured, left], the Dante (grilled eggplant, olives, mushrooms, peppers, artichokes and provolone) [pictured, right] and 17 others. The slightly firm, sesame seeded outside of the rollTOI NEWTellagio chix crenhRF gives way to a light and eggy inside that soaks up the oils, vinegars and pepper juices, thus becoming an integral part of the sandwich experience. Try 'em all and zero-in on your favorite.

One of the stars of the appetizer show is the bocconcini wrapped in prosciutto and roasted with a hint of rosemary and olive oil [pictured, left]. Chalk this one up to the quintessential bacon & cheese experience, as the ovoid dollop of mozzarella softens as the prosciutto crisps up. Another must-get is the traditional Arancini, a ball of rice TOI Ital wed RFinfused with mushrooms, peas and fontini (a hard aged Italian cheese), pan fried and served with a porcini cream sauce. Other tasty appetizers include an eggplant tower, pumpkin ravioli and mussels, just to name a few. Mama's Meatballs are also quite good; tender and rich with Italian spices. You can get them and the parms as subs too [pictured, lower left].

Man (or woman) cannot live by pizza alone! (I love those old proverbs.) One of the entree stars of the show at TOI III is the simple, straight-ahead and expertly pounded and cooked chicken parmesan, lovingly slathered with creamy melted meunster sidled up to a nest of taglietelle pasta. Twice (twice, I tell you!) I have tried to get a photo of this dish for you, and TWICE it was attacked before I could even get the camera running. I will continueTOI opening Sergio guitar RF to try, though I fear I might lose a finger in the process. Mmmm ... maybe a telephoto lens....

Other entrees that have visited our table include the Orecchietti Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Sausage and Garlic; hand-crafted Ravioli from Borgatti's on Arthur Avenue served simply with a Tomato-Basil marinara and a dollop of fresh Ricotta, and the unbelievably creamy Pollo Taleggio [pictured, left], topped with Prosciutto de Parma in a TOI opening bartender w blmacrenhRFWhite Wine Herb Sauce. There are 10 other Primo and Secondo Piatti from which to choose. I have been witness to the post-prandial smiles they have all generated.

Of course, Touch of Italy started out as a bakery many years ago, so dessert is de rigueur. The eclairs, creampuffs and napoleons are filled with real egg custard (not that cheap whipped-cream nonsense some places dish-up to the philistines who don't know any better). The almond-infused cookies include little ping-pong ball-size rounds either plain or studded with nutty pignolis. The chocolate cream cheese cookie is ... do I really need to describe it? The name says it all. And the macaroons can easily be popped into your waiting mouth with -- or without -- a dip in chocolate. Don't leave without trying the Italian Wedding Cookies [pictured, above left].

It's difficult to see the end of the deli cases at TOI III because of the curvature of the earth. But if you squint, you will see endless Italian meats, cheeses and confections all for the choosing, slicing, wrapping, or eating right there in front of everybody.

If you're lucky, mozzarella guy Felipe "C.C." Santendener's very talented dad, Sergio Azocar Delle Valle will be singing and playing the guitar [pictured, right]. I spent over 50 years in the music business, and I'm here to tell ya' this guy is good. He sings in TOI NEW outside wideRFItalian, Spanish and English.

I really hate telling you this, as it's hard enough to get a seat there, but the bar is the place to be at Touch of Italy III. The bartenders are all friendly and fun [say hi to Kymmr, pictured left], and some of their specialty drinks are not to be missed; in particular the grapefruit TOI NEW stglass 3crenhRFcrush.

Bob Ciprietti does pretty much everything first-class, and as both a builder and restaurateur, he has put a lot of himself into this location. The huge skylight (how did they get all that copper to verdegris in just a few TOI NEW products on wallRFweeks!?! Go, and see if you can figure it out....), the custom stained glass pieces (one of which has a real wine bottle soldered into the window) [pictured, right] and the big, inviting communal tables all add up to a home run.

I debated whether to write this, but decided to do it anyway: Around noon on TOI III's first day in business, I was honored to join Bulldog, Big Al Reno and Coach from WOCM 98.1 on TOI Opening WIDE RFthe air during their live broadcast in the parking lot. As things wound down, I assumed my place at the bar and proceeded to stay until about 11. The place was literally slammed with customers,TOI NEW huge cheese RF and Sergio was strolling, strumming and singing amongst the tables. At one point, the entire room burst into song with him (I think it was "Volare"). Mind you, co-owner Bob Ciprietti had spent the last 6 months of his life, from early morning to late at night, nursing, coaxing and wrestling this restaurant to completion; and as the entire room raised their glasses and sang along with Sergio, I was watching Bob. I've never seen a smile that big.

Touch of Italy III is located at 19724 Coastal Highway, in Shore Plaza, adjacent to Nage, Root Gourmet, Hickman's Meats and Outlet Liquors and directly across from Chipotle Mexican Grill and Tanger Seaside Outlets.

TOI lewes meatball sub rfIf you time your visit carefully, you can even get your Oreck vacuum cleaner fixed as you buy Hot Stix from Bill and Will Hickman, grab a cocktail at Nage, pick up a red velvet cheesecake from Root, and order a pizza to go (and those ricotta cookies!) at Touch of Italy. Don't forget your favorite beverage from Outlet Liquors. Check out the dinner menu here. Check out the lunch menu here. (302) 227-3900. Open 7 days until about 10. (L., D., Bar) Price Range: Moderate-.


Why a 9.5? The ratings are not direct comparisons of one restaurant to another. That wouldn't make any sense, given that so many different types of restaurants are reviewed here. The rating is intended to tell you how well a restaurant delivers on what it claims to be, and how much value it gives for the money spent. Up to this point, Touch of Italy has consistently fulfilled those requirements both in the food and service categories. That could always change, and often does....








+3 # Patrick 2013-08-10 21:30
I and my family (visiting from GA) ate there 5 days ago as of this writing and I am still in awe of the quality of the food and service we received. The entrees were amazing and the desserts were incomparable to any I ever had. You "LSD" people have a real 4 diamond quality experience there and you should be sure to enjoy it any chance you get. Bravo to Bob [Ciprietti] and his team. We will be back I promise.
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+2 # Always Hungry 2013-08-10 22:59
Foodie didn't pay sufficient attention to Mama's meatballs! Truly spectacular. I have eaten at some fine Italian restaurants, including Lidia Bastianich's Becco in NYC, and these are right up there in quality. It's always a painful dilemma to decide what to get at TOI, choosing among the pizza, the chicken parm, the pasta. So hard to decide. And you cannot miss the sweets, either. We're very fortunate to have such a high quality red sauce Italian restaurant here in Rehoboth, and the newest location on Route 1 is delightful. Don't miss it!
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0 # T&T 2013-08-10 23:07
My wife and I ate there last week and after we finally got a table (we waited about 20 minutes) our food was spectacular. This place is a lot more than a deli. My wife had the chicken parmesan (love the munster) and I had the mozzarella and black olive pizza. We split the caprese salad. We are fans of the Lewes one, but the parking is always a challenge. How nice to just drive up and park in the lot and get the same good dinner. It was also nice seeing Matty in Rehoboth, who is our regular waiter in Lewes.
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+1 # Jay in PA 2013-08-10 23:10
Foodie! A rare 10! And you are spot on yet again (we are fans...). We spent last week in RB and ate at the new Touch three times. Had something different each time. Looking forward to returning in a couple of weeks. Great article.
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+1 # Bonnie Cullen 2013-08-15 07:09
The Cullen's are in the house , again , and again and I think about 6 times since they opened already . We love it all the food , the wine , the music , and the staff . Thanks Bobbie for our seats at the bar which I'm sure will have our names on there soon , can't stay away !!
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0 # Stephen Petersen 2013-08-18 19:46
We just ate there, and while the food was generally quite good, there was a major disconnect in the service and timing of the meal. Specifically, two in our party ordered pizzas for dinner, and the dinner service was much delayed (over half an hour after the appetizers were done). Meanwhile we noticed that the two pizzas had been cooked and were sitting outside the pizza oven. 15-20 minutes went by, and we asked if those were our pizzas sitting there. We were told (by the manager/owner on premises) that they were not ours. Then they were stuck back in the oven and served to us. Having lived in Italy we know that re-heated pizzas are not so cool, and they tasted like it. Also, we were not told the truth (blatantly). As we told our server (who kept apologizing for the delay) fresh pizza would have been a lot better than reheated pizza. That the distinction was lost on the cooks and management is a problem. We thought we'd be going back but after tonight are not so sure.
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0 # Leslie Beall 2013-08-25 11:27
Had dinner on Thursday with friends. I usually agree with you Foodie, but not this time. You gave the noise a 7.5. I would give it a 1. It was extremely noisy. I think the menu is somewhat limited and a bit overpriced for a plate of pasta. We started with Mama's Meatballs ( 3 meatballs for $8.00). The meatballs were fine, but nothing special. I had the Ravioli, and again - nothing special for $16.00. Overall I would give the food and 8 and the dining experience a 2 because of the noise and the long wait for the food.
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0 # Mel 2013-08-30 18:11
Had high expectations, food is great, but please fix the service at the bar. The servers are spending too much time talking to each other while we sit at the bar waiting ... And waiting. Amp up the servers professionalism please.
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0 # Debbie 2013-09-02 13:55
Ate there with a friend. After waiting 20 minutes for a table, we were finally seated. Unfortunately, our server had our table and one other that seated 14. Needless to say, the table of 14 got all of our servers attention, along with the owner who stopped by numerous times to their table but never even looked our way. We sat and watched other patrons be seated and immediately get bread. After watching this for 15 minutes, we finally asked if we could have bread. The noise level was terrible. Our eggplant appetizer was very small (two tiny pieces). Our entrees were OK (chicken parm. and pesto pasta), but what we were really looking forward to was a cannoli for dessert. Unfortunately, they did not have any. Very disappointed and not sure if I will return.
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0 # Lynn 2013-09-08 08:51
Is it possible that the preparations have declined so quickly..? Had to call five times to place our carry out order. We started with the Bacconcini. In fairness, probably a poor carry-out choice. No crispiness to the prosciutto and the mozzarella was still a cold, hard ovoid. Inedibly salty. Chicken Parm was not bad, but unremarkable. Signature dish of Pesto Avellinesi promised "lemon basil pesto" but it was all balsamic vinegar, likely from the grilled portabello strips...any basil or nutty notes of the pesto were lost. I really wanted pesto, so it disappointed, but if you like balsamic... Finally, Mama's Meatballs. I so wanted fluffy balls of italian herbs and melt away ground meat...I wanted to love these. But they were dense and unbelievably absent any flavor. Seriously, the most bland meatballs of recent memory. Rather surprising, seeing all the meatball love, here. If nothing else, get the meatballs right! All in all, the dinner fell far short of expectations.
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+1 # Pete H 2013-09-10 19:54
We've dined four times at the new Touch of Italy location on Route 1. The food has been consistently excellent, but the service has declined just as consistently with each successive visit. On our most recent visit, entrees were delivered before we finished our salads and the bus person checked on us more frequently than our server, who at the end of the evening litterally threw our check into the table with a thud. While we love the food, we also appreciate good service, and there are plenty of restaurants in the area that understand how to deliver both. If Touch of Italy doesn't improve the quality and consistency of its service, we will gladly take our business elsewhere.
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0 # Chris Katcher 2013-10-25 16:21
My husband and I love the ther locations and deli selections. We stopped by in august and I did the deli buy while my husband talked with the pizza chef and was impressed by the wood oven cooking. We decided to return the next night for dinner (pizza) and were totally disappointed with the service. I'm sure the pizza woild have been delicious if it had been served when ready and hot. This place needs to get it together for service, it ruins the good food.
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0 # Barbara Teal 2014-02-24 12:29
I agree with you about the food - love it. However, I will not be back to this location - within walking distance of my house - due to the noise level. My 2 friends and I were shouting at each other across the table. I knew it was bad, but did not realize how bad it was, until we left. Walking outside to the welcome sound of silence was amazing. They really need to do something.
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0 # Mike D. 2014-04-07 14:45
I was there two weeks ago for Sunday lunch and Saturday night for dinner. Both times I had the calamari and it was the best I have ever had. The Place was packed Saturday night, but Kimmer had the bar running smoothly despite the packed house. The food was excellent and the help was friendly and efficient. I think this place will be crowded to the gills when the season gets into full swing. I can't wait for the Ocean City location to open.
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