Blades marina inspires new business venture

by Annette C. Silva

Frank Clemente got in on the ground floor in what he believes will be a burst of activity in Blades due to the soon-to-be Blades Marina.
To Clemente, the availability of the building in Blades was his chance to combine his background and skills with a providential time and place.
Now in its 4th week, Clemente's is receiving rave reviews from the community; they're already busy during lunch and dinnertime. "I've been here for lunch a couple of times with co-workers and it's great," said Bebe Moore.
Last Thurday night Bebe brought her husband Don with her to eat fresh seafood and pasta for dinner. The menu at Clemente's features Italian and Mediterranean dishes including seafood, veal and chicken, several kinds of salads, homemade bread, pasta and of course pizza.
A New Jersey native, Clemente has been in the restaurant business for nearly 20 years. He learned his trade in Rahway, New Jersey, where he began apprenticing in l981 with a Spaniard from Galicia.
"I learned everything I know about serving food, paying attention to detail and providing service from Manuel Vasquez at El Bodegon restaurant," said Clemente referring to the well known restaurant in Rahway.
Clemente's is co-owned by Frank and his fiance Salina Bajger. Salina, a CPA with a specialty in tax law, is Frank's anchor. "She's smart, and her skill, support and discipline help me to concentrate on running the restaurant," Clemente said.
The building is owned by Salina's relatives Wendy and Paul Apostolopous who own Pestos in Salisbury, MD.
"Wendy and Paul convinced us to come here," said Clemente. After the decision was made to plunge in and renovate, the restaurant became a family effort.

"Salina and her mother [who lives in Delmar] decorated and picked out the wall prints." Frank's parents came down from New Jersey and "scrubbed, painted and generally helped us get ready for opening."
Local business people have encouraged them, too. "Our first day, Seaford Florist sent us fresh flowers for the tables and we got hooked on them; now we order the flowers regularly," Clemente said.
The pink and pale-yellow Fresia in table vases complement the small candle-lanterns and general cafe-style ambiente of the restaurant where Clemente says their goal is "to be an attractive and comfortable neighborhood restaurant where people can count on good food and service."
On February 27, they have a hearing with the Town of Blades to seek a zoning variance that will allow them to apply for a wine and beer permit.
Many of his customers, he said, enjoy wine with their dinner and he tells them they will have it in another 30 days or so. "I have to convince the town that this will be a well-appointed neighborhood restaurant, not a bar. In fact, we will not have a bar; we will have wine and cocktails for our guests who enjoy them with dinner."
Clemente has two chefs: "Our main chef is Tim Chaney." Chaney is from Salisbury where he previously worked at Waterman's Cove and The Red Roost.
His Pizza chef is Brad Elliott. They each have their own terrain. Elliott works behind the granite counter in the main dining area and Chaney oversees kitchen operations.
Clemente and Bajger take care of everything else. They have polite, professional waiters including Bill Jackson, a New Castle native who learned his trade in Florida. A few of the entrees on the menu at Clemente's include: Shrimp Scampi wtih Angel Hair Pasta, Seafood Alfredo, Seafood Marinara with shrimp, scallops and clams in a red wine sauce and Shrimp Parmesan.
Appetizers include Clams Casino, Garlic Mussels in White Wine Sauce and Sausage Stuffed with Mushrooms. Last Thursday, the special was Fresh grilled Swordfish with Cheese Tortellini. Clemente buys his seafood from Harbor House and seafood vendors. Dinner entrees range from $7.95 to 12.95.
"The restaurant business can be brutal, unforgiving and rewarding, all at the same time," said Clemente. "Generally, we restaurant people spend our time loving it and hating it; we try to get out of it, then we miss it and come back to it." While he's talking, his eyes are darting from the kitchen to the waiter, to the food that's being served.
"Excuse me a minute, I'll be right back," says Frank and he's off to check something. Soon he's back. "It's non-stop, but I love it."