Owner hopes to ‘spice things up’ with Nicola move

REHOBOTH BEACH — Parking — or the lack of it — is the driving force for the owners of Nicola Pizza, a popular Rehoboth Beach attraction for nearly five decades, to leave town next year and head to Lewes.

“As everyone knows here in downtown Rehoboth, we have a lot of parking issues,” said Nicola Pizza co-owner Nick Caggiano Jr., son of business founder Nicholas Caggiano. “We have a severe parking problem here, and it just doesn’t go from June, July and August. It actually lingers into the weekends of April and May and the weekends of September and October.”

On Sunday, Nicola Pizza announced via Facebook its plans to close its two Rehoboth Beach locations in fall 2021 and relocate to Lewes’ Ocean One Plaza on Coastal Highway.

“I wanted to expand the brand, the Nicola Pizza brand. We sort of figured it out (that) in downtown Rehoboth, we might hit about 3½ million to 4 million people a year, the opportunity to come in and enjoy your food,” said Mr. Caggiano. “And (in Lewes), we think it’s about 25 million people that have the opportunity to see the brand expand.

“So, parking and the brand,” he said. “My employees were very excited for something new. You’ve got to realize, when you do something for 50 years, there is times it might get a little boring. And we just might be in the mood for a few new things around here, spicing things up a little bit.”

Plans for the Lewes location include 300 seats for inside dining, approximately 100 seats outside, a large takeout area, plus a second-floor banquet room that can accommodate 125-150 patrons.

The outdoor area will have a small bar, “which is different. We’ve never done that,” Mr. Caggiano said.

Nicola plans to continue operating its two current Rehoboth Beach locations — on First Street and on Rehoboth Avenue — until the grand reopening in Lewes.

The move to Lewes will include all employees, booths and memorabilia, including the train and wall pictures.

“We’re taking it all out there and going to open up a Nicola’s on Route 1,” said Mr. Caggiano.

Nicola’s menu will remain the same, including the famous Nic-o-boli.

Nicola Pizza opened in June 1971 at its first location, 8 N. First St. “We started with 17 seats. We expanded this restaurant three times,” Mr. Caggiano said.

Nicola purchased property on Rehoboth Avenue in 1983 and rented it. Then, in 2010, Nicola Pizza on the Avenue opened at the 71 Rehoboth Ave. location.

The new Nicola Pizza will be based in the current Wright’s Mini Storage property.

“We have bought Wright’s, which butts up against Ocean One Plaza, which we own. It’s the only reason I bought it,” Mr. Caggiano said.

Bidding farewell to Rehoboth Beach will be emotional.

“No question, a lot of good memories,” said Mr. Caggiano. “I am hearing a lot from the merchants, ‘Sorry to hear you go.’ I think a lot of them understand. I think everybody that is in business in Rehoboth realizes that the business is moving more out on the highway more than in town. The town is still doing really well, but it seems more year-round business is out on the highway.”

Nicola Pizza’s employment base ranges from 55 full time/part time in winter to upward of 94 in the summertime. “This summer is a little weird. We have about 62,” Mr. Caggiano said.

“What is going to be nice is Mondays in January are not going to feel like a Monday in January in the middle of Rehoboth. It gets a little slow around here,” said Mr. Caggiano. “I told my wife (that) I am tired of playing in the little boys’ playground. Now, I am ready for the big boys’ playground. So, we’re heading out on the highway. There’s a lot of traffic, which I would assume means more business. I think it is just going to be more a year-round business.”

Mr. Caggiano is hopeful the Lewes move will occur in 15 to 16 months, possibly sometime in November 2021.

“My two stores in downtown Rehoboth are up for sale, so it is just sort of how long they take to sell,” he said.