For fans of Italian food in southern Delaware, Monday was a good day.
Longtime local favorite Tamburelli’s, which shut down in late April, is back in Greenwood.
Instead of vanishing like so many other eateries in Delaware during the pandemic, Tamburelli’s is now under new ownership and reopened Aug. 9. The restaurant had a kickoff event Sunday, offering free food to guests.
New owner Sabri Cengiz Karayilan, of East New Market, Maryland, said he has spent years in the restaurant business, starting as a dishwasher and busboy and working his way up to chef. Now, he’s launching into ownership.
The restaurant was quiet on a recent day with a handful of customers in the dining room. Not much has changed with the atmosphere from the previous version, and Karayilan said he’s keeping the menu much the same and using the same recipes.
“I don’t like changing stuff; I like to keep it the way people like it,” he said, but did add that he’s upgraded some of the ingredients.
He's also added breakfast, available on Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Karayilan said customers have been enthusiastic so far, and several diners backed that up.
“I’m super excited because I work around here all the time and I’ve had to go to Royal Farms every day for lunch,” local resident Ryan Collins said. “I’m excited to have real food again.” He highly recommended the Reuben.
His wife Miranda had even higher praise, noting that she grew up in the Bronx and when she tasted the pizza, it reminded her of her childhood.
Everyone at the table favorably compared the food to what was available at the previous iteration of the restaurant.
New additions to the menu include a “Country Specials” section with dishes like meatloaf, country fried steak, a hot roast beef sandwich, or, if you’re feeling more British than Italian, liver and onions.
Tamburelli’s has been a draw in Greenwood for decades. It opened in 1997, per the restaurant’s history on its website, started by Italian cousins Giuseppe (Joe) and Pietro Randazzo. Joe later took over, and then, facing health issues, sold the business to longtime employee Steven Stapleford.
The timing was catastrophically bad. The restaurant held its grand reopening in March 2020, according to the website. That was just as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading worldwide. Almost at the same time, Delaware instituted emergency orders banning in-person dining at restaurants all over the state, and restrictions in some form persisted for months.
Stapleford said Tuesday that COVID was one of the main reasons he had to close. An employee tested positive in early 2021, and the restaurant had to shut down for 10 days. That took a devastating economic toll and he ran out of money.
“That 10 days really hurt us,” he said.
Stapleford also said another big challenge was finding employees.
“Oh my God, it was so hard,” he said. “...nobody wanted to work,” and employees were working double shifts.
When he ran out of funds, he had to sign everything over to his partner, who still owns the building but sold the business to Karayilan.
For Stapleford, that was only part of what he’s gone through lately. He said he lost both his parents to COVID in July 2020, growing emotional. “It’s been really a rough year,” he said. He is now out of work and “trying to pick up the pieces.”
“It’s been exhausting,” he said of the past year.
For a time, things were also looking grim for Greenwood’s West Market Street, the main thoroughfare through town, after a fire in May destroyed the Pit Stop bar. That fire, later ruled arson, also damaged a building next door housing Amity Coffee and Wilderlove Handmade and Vintage.
Since then, though, Wilderlove has reopened in a different building, and Amity recently announced to the joy of its local fan base that it will move across the street to 8 West Market, in the garage of the old fire hall.
And now, Tamburelli’s is back too.
“I’m excited to be a part of this town,” Karayilan said.
3 Market St., Greenwood, 19950
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