Philly’s Finest, in the Lighthouse Cove shopping center (Route 54), offers north Delaware-south Pennsylvania cuisine, just west of the Route 1 hustle.
Experience belies owner Brian DeLuca’s age. Despite the fact that he opened Philly’s Finest on his 23rd birthday (May 24), he started his on-the-job training 10 years ago.
“We’ve had a family business, right in Delaware County, right outside Philadelphia, for 22 years,” DeLuca pointed out. “I was born into this business.”
DeLuca started out young, unloading boxes, sweeping and mopping and generally cleaning up, at Butch’s Deli in Havertown, Pa. (Butch being his father, less commonly known as Pasquale). At 13, an age when some kids are more likely to simply hit up their parents for an allowance, DeLuca was earning his weekend folding money the old-fashioned way, by putting in a few hours after school.
“Then I got into making the food — and then, when I was 18, I was able to slice,” DeLuca recalled. Ah yes, that magical time for young men and women, when they graduate from knives and cutting boards and are finally, legally permitted to use the slicer.
After high school, he went on to Arcadia University, remaining undecided for a while, then trying out computer science, before settling in for his English degree.
He graduated in 2004, with a year-long internship for the Philadelphia Eagles along the way. He said the fellow who ran the Eagles’ Web site put in a word for him, and he was able to come on board as a writer.
After that, it was time for another evolution, and DeLuca set forth into business management at Philly’s Finest. “A friend had told us this place was opening up, here in Fenwick Island, and we decided to take the opportunity to bring what we had at home, here,” DeLuca pointed out.
Apparently, DeLuca hasn’t left behind his affection for the hometown sports teams, and framed posters, signed T-shirts and footballs in glass cases complete the décor at Philly’s Finest.
His family helped set up for the opening, but then he was on his own — “but I have a bunch of my friends who have helped me tremendously,” DeLuca added. Some had prior experience, some he showed the ropes, but all had the right personalities, and were good with the customer service, he said.
DeLuca noted core crewmates Kevin Kelly (Springfield, Penn.), Stephanie Maloney (Philly), Jack Peyton (Newark, Del.) and Matt Waldron (Upper Darby, Penn.). “They wanted to take the opportunity to come live down at the shore,” he said. “A few of them just graduated from college, so afterwards, they’ll probably be going on to different things, but they figured, you know — why not do this for a summer.”
A month later, and people have already started asking if he’ll be around for the winter. “I guess I’m going to have to decide after the season,” he said. For now, he said they were just focusing on day-to-day operations, and that seemed to be working.
“We’ve had a lot of people in and already, there are familiar faces,” he said. “Already, it’s not just people who are trying us out — we’re hearing from people who’ve been very pleased with everything and are coming back.”
Aside from the cheesesteaks, they offer a solid selection of deli cuts on hoagies or as sandwiches, burgers, hot sandwiches (grilled cheese, chicken parm, meatball) and clubs.
He noted quite a few thank-yous already, for bringing Philly’s signature sandwiches (11 cheesesteak varieties on the menu) to the area. “We have specialty steaks, directly from Philadelphia — these are our own kind that we’ve been using, at home,” he said, hedging. “Not many people know about these steaks, and we like to keep it that way.”
So, locals will just have to settle for directions to Philly’s Finest (Lighthouse Cove, just west of Fenwick on Route 54).
They’re open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday, dine in (about a dozen seats) or take out, and call 537-6971 to order ahead.