For his 30th birthday in June, Josh Dalton is going to party like it's 1919.

For his 30th birthday in June, Josh Dalton is going to party like it's 1919.

The executive chef at 1808 American Bistro received unanimous Delaware City Council approval to acquire a liquor license for his new restaurant, Vino Veritas Tavern, 15 Winter St.

"One of my customers at 1808, David Yost, told me about a Latin phrase, in vino veritas, which means 'in wine is truth,' " Dalton told council Monday, April 23. "I really liked the sentiment."

The Vino Veritas Tavern will feature Prohibition-era cocktails designed by bartender Nicole Hollerman and unusual small plates made by a kitchen team led by Avishar Barua, Dalton said.

"I hope to have the restaurant opened by my birthday on June 14," Dalton said, "but I've never opened a restaurant on time in my life, so I guess I won't be heartbroken if we don't make that date exactly."

Dalton said an example of the unusual fare – the menu will be changed several times a week depending on the availability of local meat and produce – would be his "60-second sponge cake."

"We will aerate the sponge cake with nitrogen at the table and then put it into a to-go cup and microwave it for 60 seconds," Dalton said. "The drinks will be unique, too. We'll make our own recipes, use homemade extracts, that sort of thing."

The sponge cake serves as a perfect example of Dalton's aesthetic: a combination of tradition and modernity.

"We want to express ourselves as chefs, to really make each dish more personalized than we're able to do at 1808," he said.
1808 has 164 seats and is a scene of controlled chaos on busy Friday and Saturday nights, Dalton said.

"We'll only have 38 seats at Veritas, so the pace will be a little slower, the atmosphere a little more intimate," he said, "and we'll be able make our mark a little more on each individual dish."

The small-dish approach will allow the Veritas kitchen staff to create a wider variety of dishes – but there's another reason behind the decision to go small.

"The portion sizes in this country are just a little crazy," he said. "A half a chicken? A 16-ounce steak? All our protein portions will be four ounces, and no one of our plates will fill you up. That will allow us to focus on flavors."

Dalton said he hopes Veritas "is a place where people can come to slow down, to relax, to mingle. It won't be inexpensive, but it will be a place where you know you're going to see something you haven't seen before, and you'll be able to trust us to execute well."

Flavor will be just as important for the drinks as it is for the food, he said.

"We've been drinking martinis flavored with fruit syrups for years now," Dalton said. "People forget just how good Prohibition-era cocktails tasted.

There's a reason they've been around for 100 years. There's even an art to how long each drink is shaken or stirred. These will be drinks to savor."

Dalton has worked at several restaurants in Columbus, including the Burgundy Room, the Elevator Brewery and Basi Italia. 1808 was his first foray into Delaware.

"Some people have the idea that just because you're in Delaware, you're in the backwoods or something," he said. "People said I was crazy to have 48 craft beers on draft, but we've grown a huge following of craft-beer drinkers.

"You really can pull off an upscale restaurant in Delaware."