Since May, residents in Forty Acres and Trolley Square have mourned the demise of De La Coeur Café et Pâtisserie, the tiny slice of Paris on Lovering Street.
The café, a latte-fueled fixture since 2015, fell victim to the coronavirus-related shutdown.
It’s time to dry those tears. On Thursday, July 23, at 8 a.m., Ciro Forty Acres opened in the quaint corner space.
On Saturday morning, a steady stream of patrons started at 8, many leaving with baked goods and coffee, and some sitting at tables outside watching people across the street run up and down the sidewalk, sometimes carrying weights and sometimes doing push-ups before running off again.
The restaurant is owned by Venu Gaddamidi and chef Michael DiBianca, who also own Ciro Food & Drink on the Wilmington Riverfront.
While the original Ciro is open in the evening, Ciro Forty Acres will close at 3 p.m.
“Essentially, we are elevating the brunch game,” Gaddamidi said. For one, it’s not limited to the weekends. “You will be able to get it Tuesday through Sunday.”
For another, there are some innovative dishes. Consider a hearty breakfast pizza with sausage, a fried egg, brie, cheddar cheese, roasted onion, bacon and scrapple ($14).
Order a classic eggs benedict ($14) or trendy avocado toast with a pan-fried egg, ricotta salata, herb salad and poblano aioli ($16). The frittata is studded with smoked ham ($14), and the waffles come with Nutella-roasted bananas ($15).
For those who prefer more lunch during brunch, there is a burger with bacon ($14), served with truffle fingerlings, shrimp-and-grits ($18) and steak-and-eggs ($20).
Ciro also will have breads and pastries to go, including baguettes ($4), warm donuts (6 for $5), scones ($3) and croissants ($3-$4).
The same but different
Gaddamidi and DiBianca hope to replicate the success they found with Ciro Food & Drink, which they opened in 2019 in Gaddamidi’s wine shop, Veritas Wine & Craft Beer.
DiBianca crafted the tapas and tasting menus to enhance the wine and beer selection in the store, which Gaddamidi opened in 2009.
Ciro’s owners felt comfortable extending the brand to the new site. Both spaces are small.
Without COVID restrictions, Ciro Forty Acres can hold 14 inside, and there are six tables outside.
“We didn’t want to open a large restaurant,” Gaddamidi explained. “We wanted everyone to see the chef and for the chef to see everybody.”
Like the original Ciro, the new space gives DiBianca the same control over the dining room.
Putting DiBianca on display is a smart move. In foodie circles, he’s perhaps best known for Moro, the restaurant he opened in 2002. It became an icon for fine dining. Indeed, in 2009, the chef-owner was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Mid-Atlantic Regional Chef award.
DiBianca closed Moro in 2016, but it was hard to keep this chef out of the kitchen. Judging by the second location, it’s also hard to halt his entrepreneurial spirit.
Where everybody knows your name
While the Riverfront has a cosmopolitan ambiance and a blend of business people, residents and tourists, Forty Acres and Trolley Square area have a community vibe, said Gaddamidi, who once lived on Kentmere Parkway.
“Trolley Square and Forty Acres has always been the heart and soul of the town — it’s a little bit of everything,” he maintained.
The partners are counting on a brisk takeout business, which was De La Coeur’s bread and butter. A previous restaurant in the location, Fresh Thymes, also did a lot of takeout.
But some homeowners might get their backs up when they learn Gaddamidi hopes to get a liquor license; in the past, it’s been challenging for restaurants to secure one in this area.
For now, Gaddamidi is courting his neighbors with a pleasant, quiet atmosphere. The restaurant has received a fresh coat of light paint and new floors. Sun spills through the picture windows, and wainscoting stays true to the historic vibe in the neighborhood of brick row homes.
Customers can expect satisfying portions, unusual and traditional renditions and prices that won’t break the bank, he said. Grab a bagel sandwich and La Colombe coffee for under $10.
“People in this part of town are going to want to come more than once a month,” he said, “and we made the prices affordable so they can come here on a weekly basis.”
Given that many people are working from home, he may just get his wish.
THE DETAILS: Ciro Forty Acres, 1836 Lovering Ave., Wilmington DE 19806; 302-543-8948; CiroFoodAndDrink.com or go to their Facebook page.