Cape May restaurant scene has a changing face

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Louisa's Restaurant on Jackson Street Louisa's Restaurant on Jackson Street

CAPE MAY — If you are coming to Cape May for the restaurant be prepared for a different look on the face of the local restaurant scene.

Don’t look for the Beach House, Jackson Mountain, or Martini Beach. In their place will be Angelo’s, Delaney’s and M’OCEAN.

Stop in Louisa’s, but don’t ask to speak to Louisa — ask for Will instead.

Visit Bliss Ice Cream, but don’t bother to look for Nicole — it’s Deena behind the counter now.

People have been talking about even more restaurants being up for sale in Cape May, which could lead to even more changes.

Merion Inn owner Vicky Watson said she is trying to reopen the landmark restaurant after advising her regular staff she might not be able to reopen. (See related story). Watson said she might seek a buyer if efforts to find a partner were unsuccessful.

The Beach House restaurant, located near Convention Hall, is being opened for the 2014 season as Angelo’s. The Beach House was operated as Henry’s on the Beach for a number of years. The property is city-owned and leased. The current contract requires the lessee to operate an “upstanding casual family restaurant.”

MacLeod said the prior tenant had a 10-year lease, but was only able to operate the restaurant for three years. According to MacLeod, the operator had health related issues that became a financial burden.

“Considering the situation we did reduce the number of years in the lease. The new tenant only has a three-year lease,” MacLeod said.

He said the city also restructured the minimum bid, with the current tenant, Mhmoud Nasr of North Cape May, paying the base bid of $65,000. MacLeod said Nasr has been operating a similar type restaurant in Avalon.

“I think he’s hoping to open around May 1,” MacLeod said.

Angelo’s is located at 702 Beach Ave., near Convention Hall.

Jackson Mountain is being converted to Delaney’s, an Irish-style pub and grill. Michael Slawek said he recently purchased the restaurant from his father and began an extensive renovation. He gutted the kitchen and installed new equipment front and back.

“It’s going to be a similarly casual restaurant,” Slawek said. “We will feature all homemade food.”

Asked if it was risky changing the name of a longtime restaurant, Slawek said, “I don’t think so.

“Cape May needs restaurants that are renovated and refreshed with upgraded food. With the amount of people coming into Cape May it was a no-brainer.”

Slawek said Delaney’s would continue the traditional American fare that could be found at Jackson Mountain, but would also have shepherds pie, fish and chips and at least 10 other popular Irish dishes.

“We are going to be open year-round and have lots of specials, with moderate prices. A lot of dinners will be under $15,” he said. 

Slawek said there would be a wide variety of Irish beer and Irish music. A soft opening is planned for May 2.

Delaney’s is located at 400 Washington St., Cape May. For more information, call 609-884-5648.

The former Martini Beach is being reopened as M’OCEAN Pacific Coast Cuisine and Raw Bar in May. Terry White, director of operations for the restaurants which include M’OCEAN and Cabanas Beach Bar and Grill, said he would handle the daily operation of M’OCEAN.

White had been at the Princeton in Avalon for the last five years, and said he and the owners discussed ideas for “re-concepting” the restaurant. They brought in an architect and completely reconfigured the interior, including a California recycled pine bar top.

“We’re going to return the restaurant to its former white tablecloth glory,” White said.

White is also brining in West Coast-influenced cooking including Ceviche and Crudo. Ceviche is a preparation using citrus acid to cook fish, and Crudo —called Spanish or Mediterranean sushi — is lightly cooked or raw fish.

“We’re bringing in larger varietals of options,” White said.

He said there would be three different kinds of East or West Coast oysters, for example, colossal crab and U-12 shrimp cocktails. 

“We will serve local (food) as much as possible — I’m a big supporter of supporting local fishing,” White said.

M’OCEAN is located at 429 Beach Ave., Cape May. For more information, call 609-884-1925.

Louisa’s will remain basically the same, with the same décor and famous Louisa’s desserts, said new owner Will Riccio. He and sister Honna have both worked for Louisa’s for years. Riccio started as a dishwasher, then started making appetizers, desserts, and then took over cooking. He said it was always his dream to own Louisa’s one day. He said Louisa (Hull) and David Dietsch just decided to do other things.

Riccio said they would be putting their own mark on Louisa’s, which includes taking more reservations.

“We plan on keeping the vibe Louisa’s created,” Riccio said.

Originally, Louisa’s was famous for not taking reservations. Later, they started taking reservations a week out. Riccio said they would book reservations a month in advance.

“Hopefully this will help people plan their experience,” Riccio said.

Louisa’s will continue to offer local fish and local produce, working with the Beach Plum Farm in West Cape May for the latter.

“We want to feature healthy, simple cooking,” Riccio said. “I hope we can carry on what Louisa created and bring a new dimension to the place as well.”

Riccio and his sister were born and raised in Cape May. He worked in New York for years and said he’s excited to be back.

“Coming back and participating in the community — it’s a good feeling,” he said.

Louisa’s is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday and will open Thursdays in May. The restaurant will be open six days per week in June, July and August.

Louisa’s is located at 104 Jackson St., Cape May. For more information, call 609-884-5882.

Deena DiBacco has been opening Bliss Ice Cream seven days a week since April 1. Originally from Voorhees, DiBacco was living in Hawaii when she got the idea she would like to open her own organic café. Back home in New Jersey, her father brought her on her first trip to Cape May.

“I never knew Cape May was so charming until I came here,” she said. “When anything has a little magic in it I fall in love with it — and Cape May is magical.”

After they arrived they found their way to the Bliss Ice Cream shop on Carpenter’s Lane.

“I met the former owner, Nicole, who said she just wanted to be a mom,” DiBacco said. “The business wasn’t advertised, it just happened organically.”

DiBacco said she would continue to sell organic ice cream and smoothies, but has added four kinds of acai bowls. Acai is a Brazilian Portuguese name for a small dark purple fleshy berrylike fruit of a tall slender palm (Euterpe oleracea) of tropical Central and South America that is often used in beverages, according to The fruit is said to be high in antioxidants.

DiBacco’s acai bowls are basically the acai berries, granola, and honey, with a variety of other ingredients, from coffee beans to coco flakes.

“Everything else is the same,” DiBacco said, referring to the ice cream and smoothies.

And that means organic.

“When I was in Hawaii the focus was on organic as the standard, almost. It really opened my eyes about being cautious of what I what I put in my body,” she said.

Bliss Homemade Organic Ice Cream is located at 326 Carpenters Lane, Cape May. For more information, call 609-884-3350.

Frank Hineline, owner of the Pilot House, said the restaurant, while up for sale, has not been sold.


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