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Editor’s note: The Beacon reached out to Ricardo Alvarado, the current owner of Bellini’s Restaurant & Deli, who said there is no update at this time about his plan to relocate and reopen the restaurant.

A local restaurant is filling a stromboli-sized hole in the hearts of many DeLandites.

Location: 803 W. New York Ave., DeLand.

Cuisine: Chicago-style Italian.

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Sunday.

Signature entree: Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.

Price: Meal options generally range from $10 to $15.

Outdoor seating: Yes, but limited.

Kid-friendly: Yes.

Pet-friendly: Service dogs only allowed inside.

Handicap-accessible: Yes.

Limited diets: Vegetarian and gluten-free options available.

Alcohol: Beer and wine available
Contact: 386-279-0003

Downtown DeLand boasts five Italian restaurants. Plenty more are scattered in and around the city. Nevertheless, when Bellini’s Deli & Restaurant vanished from 111 E. Rich Ave., locals mourned its loss.

Particularly, the loss of the Bellini’s stromboli.

Longtime Bellini’s owner Scott Groth had sold the restaurant in 2017; new owners kept the doors open on Rich Avenue until January 2021.

But what people really missed, apparently, was the Bellini’s Special Stromboli the way Groth had made it: a warm, doughy pinwheel of Italian meat and cheese served with a cup of the restaurant’s signature marinara sauce.

But word circulated recently on social media that another DeLand restaurant was quietly bringing back the local favorite.

Enter: DoBro’s Chicago Style Pizza.

JUST TRY IT — Call DoBros’ Chicago Style Pizza, at 803 W. New York Ave.m and order a “Bellini’s Stromboli.” See what happens.

“Today I found out that Dobro’s makes the Old Bellinis Stromboli!!!!” read a DeLand woman’s post on Facebook. That post (and its four exclamation points) received nearly 400 likes and more than 100 comments. 

Indeed, DoBro’s Chicago Style Pizza, at 803 W. New York Ave., is taking up the torch and making stromboli just the way Groth made it years ago.

DoBro’s opened in 2011 when Thomas Knott and Philip Knott — the “dough brothers,” get it? — decided to open an Italian restaurant. 

It was a bit of an uphill battle, Thomas Knott told The Beacon, but nearly all of DeLand’s other Italian restaurants, Bellini’s included, offered New York-style pizza, while the Knotts do things Chicago-style. 

The two had wanted to open a restaurant for some time, plus, they didn’t just have restaurant experience — they had Bellini’s Deli restaurant experience.

Stromboli wasn’t even on the menu when DoBro’s opened, but the Knotts would make it for friends who knew they had made a stromboli or two in their Bellini’s days.

DoBro’s added stromboli to the menu around 2015. The standard stromboli, filled with mozzarella cheese, costs $7.99 before taxes. A Bellini’s Stromboli, with its additional fillings, comes to $12.77 after taxes.

Over the years, Thomas Knott said, the restaurant has sold a steady amount of stromboli any given week.

KEEPING THE STROMBOLI DREAM ALIVE — DoBro’s employees Crystal Clark and Roger Rolle pause from their work for a photo. Clark is a driver for DoBro’s Chicago Style Pizza, and Rolle works behind the counter. The restaurant’s dining room, its walls adorned with Chicago Cubs memorabilia, sports a bar and beer on tap.

That changed recently. 

In the week following the exclamation-point-laden post about stromboli, the Knotts made more than 100 in the old-Bellini’s-style.

“We sell tons of those normally, but the particular Bellini’s Stromboli really started taking off when that post went up,” Thomas Knott said. 

Hillary Loftin Miller made the Facebook post that revealed the DoBro’s’ secret menu item. When she and her husband first moved to DeLand in 2010, the first time they went out with friends was to Bellini’s to enjoy a Special Stromboli.

“I know there were so many others missing out,” Miller said. “It’s the little things like this that make everything OK!”

THE POWER OF THE INTERNET — DeLandite Hillary Loftin Miller uses the DeLand Community Facebook page the way it was truly intended — to share information about a local restaurant making good food. When Miller realized DoBro’s Chicago Style Pizza could make stromboli that lived up to the ones she remembered from Bellini’s Deli & Restaurant, she was ecstatic and had to share. Miller said she and her husband were regulars at Bellini’s before former owner Scott Groth retired and sold the restaurant. 

DoBro’s sold so many orders that Thomas Knott is thinking about adding the specific Groth-style dish to the menu, and he had Groth’s blessing. Now Knott is trying to decide just what to call it. 

“Should it stay the Bellinis Special Stromboli? Scott’s favorite?” he mused. “The way I think about it, it’s Scott’s recipe, and even if he sold the restaurant, that’s his gig, in my eyes.”

FAMILY TRADITION — The Miller’s daughter, Scarlett Rose, now 5, enjoys a Bellini’s Special Stromboli from DoBro’s. When the Millers moved to DeLand from Texas in 2010, the two enjoyed their first Downtown outing at Bellini’s with friends. Among more than 100 people who commented on Hillary Loftin Miller’s post, many expressed excitement about a restaurant carrying on the Bellini’s legacy. 

Groth, now retired, said the community’s desire for his old recipes is a huge compliment. 

“It’s flattering to see the recipe’s still being used,” he said. “I miss the community. More than anything, I miss the customers.”

Groth still lives in DeLand, and nowadays is taking care of his grandkids and his mom and enjoying some fishing and boating. 

He said he misses the restaurant business, but is happy to see the Knotts carrying on his legacy in some small part.

“They’re a good family, they’re a hardworking family,” he said. “I knew Thomas’ father for years. If I could hand-pick somebody, it would be Thomas and his brother Philip.”

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