10 Boca Restaurants We’ll Miss The Most
Restaurants come, and restaurants go. And (as you know) they come & go a lot quicker in South Florida. 2013 has brought a slew of new entries to Boca -- but sadly many restaurants, from promising newcomers to long-standing institutions, fell victim to the Obama economy again this year. And amongst the fallen, certain restaurants will be particularly missed. So here are the Top 10 Bummer Closings (so far), who we really hate to see go. They are, in order of Bummerness:
1. Rosso Italia (N. Military Trail). This cool Italian eatery just opened last year on Military Trail, bringing its stunning design, inviting atmosphere, and luscious cuisine to the newly renovated Wyndham Hotel. Memorable dishes included spinach ricotta gnocchi, 24-hour braised short ribs, Salumi e Formagi (Italian charcuterie), and some damn good brick oven Pizza. But alas, Rosso was too dependent upon a captive hotel audience, and never developed a local following, or even awareness. Those who tried Rosso loved it -- but not many locals even knew it existed, much less got to try it. Awareness Bummer. But at least its sexy adjacent sister, Red The Steakhouse is still alive and kicking!
2. Legal Sea Foods (Town Center Mall). A veritable institution in Boston, where it’s still owned and operated by the same family for over 60 years. Legal Sea Foods is renowned for its high standards of quality, freshness, and uncompromising safety -- including testing all seafood in its own state-of-the-art facility. The Boca location stood strong in Town Center Mall for over 14 years – long before The Capital Grille, Grand Lux Café, CPK, and other national players ever set foot. Unfortunately the costs and logistics of maintaining such demanding standards, and then flying product down to Boca daily, while still maintain affordable prices ultimately proved impractical. Guess we’ll have to head up to Boston to get some more Legal…
3. The Spaniard (Palmetto Place). In a market saturated with the same-old-same-old, The Spaniard stood apart like a bold matador. It was the best (and basically only) authentic Spanish restaurant in town. Chef Owner Jorge Luis Fernandez brought us a true Spanish tapas adventure each night. Far beyond mere snacks, tapas take you on culinary tour of Spain – a meant-for-sharing experience that encourages experimentation and friendly conversation. As the vivacious Chef Jorge explained, “Tapas aren’t just something you eat – they’re something you do.” And with over 100 choices, you could do a lot of tapas! Of course no taste of Spain is complete without Paella, the quintessential “national dish of Spain.” And The Spaniard offered at least six versions, from traditional Valenciana Mixta (chicken & seafood), to the memorable ‘Black’ Paella, with assorted seafood in¬cluding fresh calamari cooked in its own ink (“en su tinta”), thus infusing its intriguing flavor and haunting midnight color. Adios, Spaniard, you’ll be mucho missed! Read The Review!: http://www.examiner.com/restaurant-in-west-palm-beach/the-spaniard-tapas-bar-cafe-boca-raton-review
4. Ovenella (Royal Palm Place). I was truly saddened to see Ovenella close, especially after its owners spent bookoo bucks and time building out the beautiful new interior, and tapped Chef Mennan Tekeli (of Max’s Grill and Prezzo fame) to helm the kitchen. Chef Mennan produced some truly exceptional cuisine, like his Angry Prawns, Oven Roasted Beet Salad, Forever-braised Short Ribs (with wild mushroom truffle risotto!), and fire-roasted Pizza. In fact, Ovenella was the ONLY authentic wood-burning Italian brick oven in town. The Roman Artichoke pie, with fresh spinach, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, and house-made mozzarella totally rocked! Chef Mennan was an admirable babysitter, but unfortunately, the out-of-town owners didn’t pay enough attention to their Boca child. That location (on N. Federal Hwy, across from Royal Palm Place) is apparently cursed, with a long list of former inhabitants suffering the same fate. Remember Saba? How about Chin Chin? And Tanzabar, Zara’s, Oceans 11, Campagnola, Cavalino’s, Catch 22, and a few more before then?
Read the Review!: http://www.examiner.com/restaurant-in-west-palm-beach/ovenella-a-bold-new-take-on-classic-italian-review?CID=examiner_alerts_article
5. Nestor’s at Bageland (Gardens Plaza, Palmetto & Powerline). Nestor’s was once the area’s best known (and perennially busy) NY-style bagel-deli restaurant. It cranked out breakfast, lunch, and dinner for decades from its central Boca locale, along with a great deli counter with ready-to-eat meals, bakery goods, and of course bagels. We took visiting friends and family to Nestor’s many a’ time -- and no matter how many people in the party, or how divergent their tastes and preferences, everyone found something they liked on Nestor’s expansive menu. And everyone left satisfied. We all enjoyed our meal, left full (often with a doggie-bag), and most importantly, felt that we got our money’s worth. But Nestor’s started slipping over the past few years, especially with the service. The last time I ate there, the service was SO bad, I vowed to never return. Apparently other folks reached that same decision. Too bad the owners just stopped paying attention to what really matters – customer satisfaction. Bagel Bummer.
6. Gary Woo’s Asian Bistro (N. Federal Highway). Another long-timer, Gary Woo’s was about the only “upscale” Chinese restaurant in town, and certainly the only one in the area. It was also one of the few decent, full serve restaurants in that north-of-downtown area, and proved the go-to site for many business lunches from nearby offices. Philippe Chow gave it a brief scare last year, but that high-falutin’ New Yorker came & went in the blink of an eye, thus breathing new hope to Gary Woo’s. But Woo’s eventually also fell to the Obama economy. Boo-Hoo for Woo!
7. Jake’s Stone Crab (Royal Palm Place). A long-standing bastion of Royal Palm Place, Jake’s brought the famed Joe’s Stone Crab experience to town, without the schlep to Miami Beach. Jake’s stood the test of time for many years, and served up some serious crustaceans (among other specialties), but sadly closed its crab traps for the final time this year.
8. Caruso Ristorante (Royal Palm Place). Amongst the plethora of generic Italian eateries, Caruso was the real deal. Chef Lillo Teodosi and his lovely wife Gina transformed the former Café Jole (remember them?) into a serene beauty, and welcomed their guests with genuine Italian hospitality. Chef Lillo’s authentic cuisine spanned all 20 regions of Italy. The opening complimentary Antipasto platter – which could easily pass as a “tapas” meal at other places -- was worth the visit alone. Housemade pastas, like the signature Lobster Ravioli or Farroto (faro risotto) were the stuff of legends, along with the milk-fed loin of veal, nightly seafood specials, and that ridiculously delicious Lime Cheesecake Pie. And Chef Lillo’s Bucatini all’Amatriciana was about the best (and the most authentic) version I’ve ever tasted, anywhere. Ciao, Caruso!
Read the Review!: http://www.examiner.com/review/caruso-ristorante-a-chef-s-tour-of-italy
9. Gelato Shop Petrini (Glades Road). One of the few authentic gelato shops around. Chef/Owner Mauro Petrini is a true “gelato chef,” having trained formally in Italy before venturing to the States. Petrini sourced the finest, all-natural ingredients possible, from Michigan berries and California almonds, to Madagascar vanilla and Swiss chocolate, and then hand-made small batches of gelato in true artisan style. The result: Intensely flavorful, silky-textured, ecstasy-inducing pure gelato that chain stores or mass producers just can’t duplicate. I witnessed in awe as Chef Mauro transformed fresh Italian pistachios into a rich ‘paste’ (a la peanut butter) to make his pistachio gelato. Not only was the Gelato Shop Petrini fantastic, it was also kosher (so you know it was clean!). Unfortunately, its Glades Road location in the Office Depot center proved a tough spot. But good news, fellow gelato-heads: Chef Mauro’s gelato is still available wholesale, at www.GelatoPetrini.com.
10. The Mexican (Royal Palm Place). A promising newcomer which opened to much acclaim. The Mexican seemed to be a sure bet, especially under the guidance of legendary restaurateur Dennis Max, who got back to his California roots. The Mexican saw an immediate rush when it first opened (giving Rocco’s Tacos and Uncle Julio’s a brief run for their dinero), and seemed destined for success. But management issues arose, Dennis Max said adios, and the restaurant folded like a burrito within just a few short months. El Bummero. But fear not, Tex-Mex lovers, 101 Cantina is now up and running in its place!
(UnBummered!) -- On a related note, this year also saw the demise of long-standing fried chicken king Fran’s Chicken Haven on N. Federal, along with Greek go-to Estia Greek Taverna in Royal Palm Place, and its newcomer neighbor Segretto. But fortunately, all three have been reincarnated under new ownership – and get a big “Un-Bummer” hurrah.
So there you have it folks, 10 Boca restaurants who sadly closed shop this year, and who will be particularly missed. We bid them a fond adieu. But on upbeat note, check out the Top 9 Cool New Restaurants that opened this year! http://www.examiner.com/review/top-nine-cool-new-boca-delray-restaurants