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The hot new player in Delray Beach’s downtown dining scene

Looking in from the Atlantic Avenue sidewalk

Elisabetta’s, the long-awaited eatery that replaced 32 East in Downtown Delray Beach, leans on pasta dishes and Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzas in a noisy destination dining scene

Elisabetta’s Ristorante is hot.

There’s no doubt about that as patrons filled the Downtown Delray Beach eatery’s two floors of dining rooms early on a recent Saturday evening.

The restaurant, which opened in July in the space that once housed the venerable 32 East, is a product of Big Time Restaurants, the group behind the popular Louis Bossi restaurants in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton, Rocco’s Tacos, City Cellar in West Palm Beach, and Big City Tavern in Fort Lauderdale. Many of comments I’ve read on social media suggest Elisabetta’s is exactly like Louis Bossi, in terms of its menu, which leans heavily on homemade pastas and wood-fired pizzas. There also are selections of mozzarella and charcuterie. Having never been in a Louis Bossi establishment, that’s not for me to judge.

Downstairs dining room

Upstairs dining room

Named for Big Time’s long-time culinary director, Lizabet Sunna, Elisabetta’s décor is that of a modern trattoria with an open layout. Bars running the length of the dining room are found on each floor. Together the rooms seat 200 guests at red-leather banquettes against the brick  and wood-paneled walls and grey chairs at the tables. Lights shaped a la hot air balloons hang from the ceiling above the stairs that take patrons to the second floor and vintage celebrity photos line the walls.

For sure, Elisabetta’s is more scene than sedate. This is a place meant for fun eating and drinking.  It’s loud, outside and in. Outside, speakers suspended from an overhang shower music on those dining on the sidewalk. Inside, the music, particularly the bass notes, bounce off the brick walls and wood beams, at least on the second floor where my group dined. My NIOSH decibel meter app registered the noise level at 90, the equivalent of a lawn mower. I can’t imagine how loud it might be when there’s a DJ spinning music later in the evening.

We were a large group, but that was not an issue, even when I called to change the number in the party. We were easily accommodated. Arriving on time for our reservation, we were led upstairs to a large table in an alcove. Fresh, crusty warm bread, wrapped in paper, arrived with red-pepper-flecked olive oil, along with bottles of tap water (frequently refilled). Our server waited patiently to take our orders as we attempted to decode the menu, printed in agate type (the size of newspaper classified ads) with the aid of the flashlight apps on our phones.

Service, considering the size of our party, was friendly and efficient though our servers did auction our dishes as they arrived.

Calamari fritti

Tricolore & Pear salad

A Calamari Fritti starter ($14) was tender under its crisp batter. Tri-colore & Pear Salad arrived with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and candied walnuts, all tossed with a tangy blood orange vinaigrette.

With few exceptions, members of my group ordered pizzas, each enough for two, so a lot went home.  The pizzas – there are 16 choices (half price during happy hour) — were definitely Instagrammable with their charred, spotted crusts and colorful toppings.

San Gennaro pizza

Margherita Pizza

Frutti di mare pasta

A Margherita pie ($16.50) was serviceable, but not much better than I’ve had elsewhere, including other establishments in Downtown Delray Beach, and at a lower price. I opted for one of the more inventive choices, the San Gennaro ($22), which was decked out with cotto ham (cooked ham), stracciatella (a stringy Italian cheese), fior di latte (cow’s milk mozzarella), pistachios and basil. The toppings were tasty, but the crust, while well-spotted on the top edge, was soft and soggy in the center.

Chocolate gelato

Poletto

Poletto ($25), one of the few non-pasta dishes on the menu and the only chicken option on the menu (except , was a garlicky, but dry, serving of grilled, frenched  chicken. Ferrazzol pasta with frutti di mare, mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari in a san marzano sauce ($30), satisfied my wife’s cousin.

The wine list, dominated by Italian producers, required study. There are numerous wine-by-the-glass options, all 6-oz. pours . The selections include 25 whites (including the house tap wines), 30 reds (two on tap), five bubblies and four roses with prices that ranged from $7 to $26 each will please most palates. Some of the more interesting wines, say a Barolo or Super Tuscan, might never make a list elsewhere. I happily sipped a glass of fruity Altesino Rosso di Montalcino. A bottle of the highly popular Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, which sells for $18 at nearby Total Wine shops, will set you back $62, a 3.5 times markup over retail; a glass is $16. The drinks menu abounds with inventive cocktails, though none were sampled. Alas, the wine carte listed no vintages.

Too full, most of us skipped desserts, but my chocoholic spouse opted for a dish of rich, creamy chocolate gelato flanked by fresh berries.

A group of cousins who hadn’t seen each other in a while left happy, even the less-discerning diners who were unimpressed by Elisabetta’s.  I left, knowing that my leftover pizza would lose its soggy quality upon reheating the next day..

There are other places in Delray Beach and its environs where you can dine on high-quality Italian dishes for less — and in a quieter environment, but few offer the dazzling scene or the late hours (it’s open until 2 a.m., though pizzas are the only late-night offering) that makes Elisabetta’s a destination for diners on Atlantic Avenue.

Elisabetta’s Ristorante

32 E Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach, FL 33444

(561) 560-6699

www.elisababettas.com

 

 

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