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Bidens dine at Rocco in Wilmington

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Rocco Italian Grill & Sports Bar Wilmington Little Italy Pala's Susan Rocco

President Joe Biden recently visited Rocco Italian Grill & Sports Bar in Wilmington’s Little Italy neighborhood, a rare public visit while at home. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – Marking a tragic family anniversary, President Joe Biden ventured out Monday to dine at a longtime family favorite along with his son, Hunter, on Monday.

After attending a private church service to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the car crash that killed Biden’s first wife, Neilia, and their 1-year-old daughter, Naomi, the Bidens visited Rocco Italian Grill & Sports Bar in Wilmington’s Little Italy neighborhood.

For decades, Biden had patronized Pala’s, the mainstay restaurant at the corner of North Union and West 7th streets. Today, the spot is run by restaurateur Susan Rocco.

She told Delaware Business Times that she got a call from Biden’s team about an hour before he and Hunter arrived at about 1:30 p.m. Monday.

“Knowing that [President Biden] was going to be there wasn’t so intimidating, but just see all the commotion and the activity outside that follows him was a bit overwhelming,” she said of the security detail and press pool that monitor the president’s whereabouts.

Rocco is no stranger to the Bidens, having been a student of first lady Jill Biden – then-Jill Jacobs – at St. Mark’s High School. About six years ago between his stint in the vice president’s office and the White House, the Bidens also visited Rocco’s restaurant to mark the same tragic anniversary, she recalled.

“We had a bit of a chat back then which was really special, but I didn’t want to bother them this time,” Rocco said.

Biden, his son and some friends dined on a variety of Rocco’s specialties, including the caprese salad, Porketta and Raabe sandwiches and Margherita pizzas in a private dining area, she said.

Despite making dozens of trips home over the past three years, the hourlong visit to Rocco Italian Grill is only the fifth visit to a Delaware restaurant by Biden while he has occupied the White House, according to Delaware Business Times records. Biden has also dined at Egg in Rehoboth Beach, Matt’s Fish Camp in Lewes, and Banks’ Seafood Kitchen and The Quoin in Wilmington.

Rocco said the presidential visit came after her busiest lunch hour, so only a handful of regulars spotted the president. It has been the talk of the restaurant this week though.

“I’m honored to know that there was a world leader walking into our little establishment … We’re a small, family-owned business, so I was very flattered,” she said. “It was very surreal in the moment.”

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