Within a minute of exiting the train station in Wilmington and entering a taxi, my cabdriver is fuming. “Why did you make me get out of the line for such a short distance?” he asks in a raised voice. I tell him I don’t know the lay of the land, that all I brought with me were an address and an appetite. Before he can get angry again, he pulls up in front of my destination,
La Fia Bakery + Market + Bistro
Long story short: Dinner is within walking distance of the train station.
The greeting inside the corner storefront, introduced in July, is in sunny contrast to the scowl that brought me here. Waiting for my dining companion to join me gives me the chance to soak up the easy charm of the 35-seat interior and unwind with a big-city cocktail. Chef Bryan Sikora, 43, is relatively new to Delaware but brings with him good reviews from his time in Philadelphia, at both a.kitchen, near Rittenhouse Square, and Django, a much-missed BYOB in Queen Village. (In an earlier life, the native of western Pennsylvania worked as a line cook at some Washington restaurants that continue to thrive: 1789, Vidalia and Restaurant Nora.)
La Fia, which the chef co-owns with his wife, Andrea, takes its name from their daughter, Sofia, 2 1
2. In the simple but inviting room: high tin ceilings, reclaimed-wood floors, sheer half-curtains in the windows and a small bar over which the chef displays plywood panels he painted with sunflowers, a cow and tomatoes — an act the chef calls “my therapy” while he was heading toward launch. The shelves in the adjoining market hold olive oil, honey and cheeses; the
bakery is the source of scones, pretzels and baguettes. Sikora says he wanted his latest creation to “be that place” where customers could find both a sophisticated meal and something good to take away.
Like so many of his kitchen compatriots around the country, Sikora weaves some Korean into his menu, in a dish of sweetly spiced sliced duck breast flanked by warm crepes and a fiery kimchi slaw enriched with duck confit. A “fresh catch basket” of cornmeal-crisped calamari, shrimp and flounder brings an easy-to-eat “social plate,” as La Fia calls its dishes for sharing. Meatballs shaped from veal, pork and beef and sauced with “red gravy” — that’s tomato sauce — gather under a soft tent of pasta, an idea Sikora is considering packaging for retail.