WILMINGTON – Domaine Hudson, one of Delaware’s most prestigious and well-known restaurants, has been purchased by brothers who work at the nearby Washington Street Ale House along with an investor.
Tony and Michael Bomba and John Ratliff, a longtime owner of a middle-market, merger-and-acquisition advisory firm in West Chester, Pennsylvania, completed the purchase of the restaurant at 1314 Washington St. on Monday, Dec. 2, said Tony Bomba, who’s been a bartender at the Washington Street Ale House for 20 years. He said the restaurant will stay open through the holidays as Domaine Hudson, but will close for around 30 days after New Year’s and reopen in early February as Dorcea with about $50,000 in renovations.
“We’ll reopen as a high-end gastropub” with a menu that features seafood, soups, and salads, Tony Bomba said. “We’ll be updating the décor by introducing TVs and making seismic changes to the bar, including the addition of draft beer. We’ll still have an extensive collection of wine, but it won’t be the main feature of the restaurant.”
Michael Bomba has been the chef at the Washington Street Ale House for the past six years and as a part owner will likely bring stability to the chef position that has been lacking over the past few years. Dwain Kalup, who was a 2017 semifinalist James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic Region, departed in January 2018 after four years as executive chef. He was followed by Patrick D’Amico, another James Beard semifinalist for the same award, who stayed for six months before giving way to his sous chef Brian Cooper, who then gave way to Andrew Cini.
Ratliff, whose “day job” is managing director of align5 in West Chester which specializes in middle-market ($25 million to $500 million) mergers and acquisitions and exit strategies, said he’s been good friends with Tony Bomba for 25 years and has always wanted to be in the hospitality business. He said the Bomba brothers are the ones with the extensive restaurant background and he’s a “business strategy guy.”
“We looked at buying vs. building in a lot of different places,” Ratliff said. “This is a great existing location that checks a lot of boxes for us. And the hospitality scene in Wilmington has exploded over the past two or three years so we’re joining an intriguing dining scene.”
None of the new owners would disclose the purchase price beyond Ratliff saying they bought the assets and not the building. Tony Bomba said they approached the owners – Mike and Beth Ross – about six weeks ago after hearing from employees who were visiting Washington Street Ale House that they might be open to selling.
The Rosses could not be reached by Delaware Business Times for comment.
Delaware Restaurant Association President and CEO Carrie Leishman said the former owners built a “terrific restaurant with a great reputation, but I’m not sure they were as involved in the local restaurant community as others and that they may have been looking to do other things.”
Ratliff declined to explain the meaning of the new name, Dorcea, saying it would be a part of “the discovery process – the mystique – for guests.”
Mike Rochleau contributed to this story.
By Peter Osborne