New Business: Ali family brings taste of Trinidad and Tobago to Dover

Nicole and Darryl Ali opened their new restaurant – Trini Quizeen – in early December. The Trinidadian and Tobagonian eatery is located on 1855 South DuPont Highway in Dover. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

DOVER — In early December, husband and wife duo Nicole and Darryl Ali officially opened the doors of Trini Quizeen — a new Trinidadian and Tobagonian restaurant on 1855 S. DuPont Highway in Dover.

Natives to Trinidad and Tobago themselves, they came to Dover about two decades ago. After a long career as a retail manager at Kmart and Bed Bath and Beyond, Mrs. Ali had been toying with the idea of opening a restaurant for a while before starting to cater and attend “tent events” to showcase her cooking.

“We’ve always wanted to open our own place,” she said. “Every time we’d cook for friends and family during backyard barbecues and things, they’d always say: ‘you guys should be selling this, it’s too good not to.’ So, we started doing events a few years ago like the African American Festival and Wine Festival.”

After getting a better handle on the food service business, they started laying the groundwork to open a restaurant. The process was given a sudden jumpstart when Mrs. Ali was laid off from her job in March.

“It was a surprise — one day in March, Bed Bath and Beyond called me and said I no longer have a job — there was no notice,” she said. “They must have thought I was crazy though because I just smiled. I had been planning on resigning in April anyway to start Trini Quizeen.”

They ramped up their event and catering efforts over the spring and summer and settled on their location in the fall.

“We saw that this place come available and it was meant to be,” said Mrs. Ali. “The dining room has seating for about 40 to 50 people. We painted it, cleaned it and added a buffet — but really it was perfect for what we needed.”

What’s on the menu?

Connected to the food through their culture, the Alis say Trinidad and Tobago cuisine has always been a part of their lives.

“Darryl learned to cook ‘by the river’ as they say back home,” said Mrs. Ali. “That’s a big thing — you put rocks together and cook right there by a river with fresh water, the food tastes even better that way. For me, my mother would always have me and my four sisters in the kitchen all day on Sundays helping her cook.”

The menu includes various curried meats like chicken, goat, shrimp and oxtail with peas, rice, plantains and channa (chick peas). A characteristic side dish Mrs. Ali is particularly proud of is a flatbread called roti.

“Roti is something we make by hand, it goes on a tawa and we fry it,” she said. “It’s very much from Trinidad and Tobago. People come in wanting rice on the side, but once they have roti, they don’t go back.”

Comparable to other Caribbean food, Mr. Ali says Trinidad and Tobago cuisine has a taste all its own.

“It’s similar but each type of cooking uses their own seasoning and curries,” he said. “You can notice it right away, the tastes, colors and smells of our curry is very different.”

The Alis look forward to the challenge of introducing Delawareans to “authentic” Trini dishes.

“I love watching people try our food for the first time,” said Mrs. Ali. “We have some Caribbean friends who know this type of food and there are a few places around here that cook it, but most people in Delaware still have never tried anything like this. You might want to turn away from goat, but you’ll love it once you try ours.”

For more information, call the restaurant at 302-608-5320 or follow Trini Quizeen on Facebook.