That’s Amoré! The Complicated History of Pizza in Delaware

Forget politics. Pizza in Delaware seems to be even more polarizing, with scores of people weighing in on what’s best, which pizza has the best sauce, and holding onto traditions, such as pizza on the boardwalk.  

Legend has it that pizza was introduced to Southern Delaware by Grotto Pizza, a steadfast and iconic provider of pizza in Rehoboth since 1960. Begun by teenager Dominick Puliere, who at age 17 opened up a take-out with his sister and brother in law, Grotto’s started as a classic entrepreneurial adventure. No one on the boardwalk seemed familiar with the strange pizza concept. Puliere and his sister hawked pizza for free to gain attention.  

Eventually, it caught on, and repeat customers came back, netting Puliere his first $100 on his eighteenth birthday. What started as a seasonal venture in Rehoboth ultimately became year round for Puliere, who traded in a teaching job in Smyrna for pizza making. 

Grotto’s now operates an astounding 23 locations throughout the Delmarva peninsula, as well as in Northeast Pennsylvania, where its roots began. Even so, the pizza craze around here grew…and we all know what happens next. Competition. 

The pizza wars began! As the fame of the curious slice grew, so did the market for pizza-making at the beach. After all, it’s an easy meal to feed a crowd.  

In the early 1970s, Nicola’s was formed in Rehoboth Beach – home of the famed Nicobola, a unique rendition of stromboli. And just steps from the boardwalk and beachso did Louie’s, established in 1974 by a young Greek man who had never made pizza before, but was told by his Philadelphia owner-uncle he had to learn the trade quickly. Today, still family owned and operated by his sons, Louie at age 78 keeps his hands in the business, showing up to the shop most days. In addition to pizza, Louie’s specializes in Philadelphia style grinders served on oven roasted rolls with a wide choice of fillings – a mixture of hot and cold that keeps customers coming back.   

Today, in nearby Lewes on Savannah Road, Mr. P’s pizza thrives, as does Crust & Craft on the Coastal Highway closer to Rehoboth. Both sell fashionable wood-fired pizza and do well in Delaware, where opinions about pizza are sometimes fierce. And then, there is wicked competition for wood fired pizza coming from Full Belly Bistro on Wescoats Road, just off Route 1as well. 

Rehoboth’s Casa DiLeo’s, which has bragging rights to “Old Forge Style” pizza – a nod to the style of a northeastern Pennsylvania town named Old Forge dubbed to be “Pizza Capitol of the World.” Not to miss out on the pizza market, A Taste of Italy of both Rehoboth and Lewes offers pizza as well as plenty of Italian specialties. 

As for the most expanded local pizza brand, Grotto has a love it or leave it reputation. Its online reviews, and the countless articles written about it cite why: it uses cheddar rather than mozzarella, and the sauce is on the top instead of the bottom. But it’s also a three-generation tradition that Delawareans and visitors insist on pursuing because it’s where beach memories originate. It is even in the Pizza Hall of Fame (yes, there is such a thing). 

Nicola’s is also expanding – get ready Lewes! It will soon be moving to Lewes near Five Points on the bustling Coastal Highway. Louie’s, meanwhile, holds its own as a traditional boardwalk area mainstay. 

That slice of heaven had humble beginnings here, but now dominates the debates on which is the best. So give them all a try! You might just get some lively conversations going with your friends and neighbors about which is the best 

3 responses to “That’s Amoré! The Complicated History of Pizza in Delaware

  1. And THEN there’s Pizza Villa in the Midway shopping center. They’ve been in the area for 50 years and I just now finally tried their pizza … and I LIKED it!

  2. Interesting Pizza stories. The Miltonian Pizza restaurant in MILTON has great pizza. Michela Coffaro

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