Let’s get this straight: It’s not that I think the people at Bardea are intentionally evil, or that they mistreat puppies or steal change from donation jars in their spare time. It’s entirely possible that they may even be super-nice folks, when kept at a safe distance from stray blocks of butter.
Still, their deeds compel a certain journalistic responsibility: It is a critic’s duty to warn readers that Bardea poses a clear and present danger to the productive employment of everyone in the Great City of Wilmington.
The proof is clear: As evidence, I present this lunch menu, so rife with caloric mayhem that diet-bound individuals would be wise to avert their gaze. There are cream sauces and oozy cheeses, braised beef and chubby meatballs, and pile upon pile of carbo-licious pastas (topped with more cheese, naturally). Even the salads here seem to have heft.
This is not to say that any of this is a bad thing. I won’t even deny that I am entranced by Bardea’s edgy Italo-centric, forward-leaning menu. But the risk to the gross domestic product is real: Business diners are likely to be rendered semi-conscious by 1:16 p.m. unless they steer quickly toward the leaner, lighter edges of restaurateurs Scott Stein and Antimo DiMeo’s filling and fulfilling repertoire.
You might find some less-coma-inducing options the app section: How about a snappy shrimp cocktail with lemon-raspberry horseradish ($16), or these immaculate slices of raw tuna ceviche, simultaneously sweet and spicy, bursting with a sensuality ($15). Or, check out those salads, speckled with elevated ingredients and an able sense of balance.
As you try to resist temptations, it’s hard not to acknowledge how much upscale edge they’re offering: Bardea stands as a happy, buzzy, bistro-esque refuge along the sometimes dreary stretches of Midtown Market, adorned with a leafy patio, and infused inside with an intimate atmosphere.
The chef wants you to know that since plates are meant to be shared, the entire order is unlikely to arrive at once, meaning a longer meal than usual. Office bean-counters may it’s a tad pricey for a lunch menu, but brand-conscious execs will appreciate having a new option for those moments when a sophisticated touch is crucial.
Imagine the client’s enhanced estimation of your taste when they try this Emmer Tagliatelle: Ribbons of airy pasta, rolled with lobster cream sauce, studded with nuggets of shellfish and favas ($19). Consider the potential for negotiating leverage when they have been sedated by a lamb bolognese with pappardelle, so rich that the topping of minty goat cheese could only have been devised to induce lethargy ($18).
But, really, who are we kidding here? What Bardea really stands for is a full-bore, head-on dive into sensuous Italian culinary beauty, a surprising new journey into the upper reaches of a sometimes-downtrodden cuisine. It’s the Italian restaurant that Italian-loving Wilmington may not have even known it still needed — but should be surely happy to have.
So go ahead, dig in. Who ever gets anything done after 1 p.m. anyway?
620 N. Market St., Wilmington
(302) 426-2069 | www.bardeawilmington.com
Food and service: Roxxi the waitress will tend to your every need with professionalism and charm as you explore — with delight and growing sense of drowsiness — this menu of refined Italian goodness, ranging from impeccably executed pasta dishes to fire-charred pizza, all designed for table-wide sharing. (Lunch entrees $10-$19)
Ambiance/elegance factor: Modern-but-cozy design touches give this Market Street refuge a bistro-esque feel and a just-hip-enough edginess.
Takeout/delivery: Takeout available/Doordash deliveries.
Private tables: Not available.
Tech-readiness: Free Wi-Fi available.
Allergy-friendly? Menu descriptions are detailed, but beware of some Italian ingredients that may be less familiar. Servers here are very knowledgeable.
The Buzz: Abandon yourself to the irresistible charms of the Emmer Tagliatelle, lush with lobster cream
sauce and fava beans. Then, take a nap.