Elisabetta’s Ristorante Bar Pizzeria – New Restaurant for Delray Beach
A long-awaited Italian restaurant by the Big Time Restaurant Group finally will throw open its doors in May at the former 32 East restaurant space in downtown Delray Beach.
The restaurant at 32 E. Atlantic Ave. will be known as Elisabetta’s Ristorante Bar Pizzeria.
The name is a play on Big Time’s longtime partner and executive chef, Lisabet Summa, said Todd Herbst, partner in the West Palm Beach-based Big Time Restaurant Group. “She’s Italian and has been with Big Time for more than 20 years as a partner,” Herbst said. Elisabetta is Lisabet in Italian.
Big Time partners considered making the Delray Beach restaurant another Louie Bossi’s, which has locations in downtown Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale.
But Herbst said Big Time decided to call the restaurant Elisabetta’s to give Summa the recognition she deserves.
“It’s time she shared the spotlight with the likes of Rocco Mangel and Louie Bossi,” Herbst said. “Like Louie, Lisabet also has a deep connection to her Italian ancestral roots and it shows in her recipes and cooking.”
Elisabetta’s is a long time coming, a point noted when Herbst said he’s been working on getting the space ready to open for “100 years.”
In fact, it’s been only a year since 32 East restaurant served its last meal in 2018 on Mother’s Day, May 13. But it feels like 100 years because the deal was inked back in 2017, and then renovations on the old building turned out to be more than Big Time partners expected.
They ended up taking the space down to the studs. “We went in there and removed every pipe, wire, wall, and nail,” Herbst said. “We rebuilt the entire restaurant.” The expense was so high Herbst wouldn’t give an exact dollar figure. He said only that the redo will hit close to eight figures, making it the most pricey endeavor the company has launched in South Florida.
Herbst said the finished product will be worth the expense and the wait.
In addition to the food, which will be similar to Louie Bossi but have a more “tavernesque” approach, with a greater emphasis on classic Italian dishes, the decor will be special, Herbst said.
One of the reasons why it took over a year to build is because Big Time “curated a lot of things from Italy,” Herbst said. The designer took staff and management to Italy, and Tuscany turned out to be a goldmine. There, they found a 300-year-old fireplace mantel, which will be the centerpiece of a private dining room for 18 on the second floor. And yes, it’s a working fireplace, under construction now. “We don’t mess around,” Herbst said.
The first and second floors will feature regular dining and bars on both levels. But the upstairs bar will be indoor-outdoor bar, taking advantage of the patio that overlooks Atlantic Avenue.
Turn-of-the-century fixtures, including chandeliers, also are part of the restaurant’s decor, which will feature a great deal of wood.
As a result, Elisabetta’s will feel vintage when it opens mid-May, Herbt said.
While Herbst said there are no plans to start a large chain of Elisabetta’s, he predicted the restaurant will be so popular there will be demand for additional locations, much the same way Louie Bossi’s success in downtown Fort Lauderdale prompted the opening of a downtown location in Boca Raton.
That’s not to say Big Time doesn’t know how to do chain restaurants. The company just opened its 9th Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar at the Mercato shopping center in Naples last month. “There were lines out the door, like it was Black Friday,” Herbst said.
Lisabet Summa is the most influential local chef you’ve never heard of.
In the kitchen, they call Lisabet Summa “L.B,” a nickname her 86-year-old Italian father ridicules whenever he hears it. El Bee? That’s a long way from the lilting name he wanted for her at birth. Pragmatic minds settled on Lisabet, but to her father, Summa will always be Elisabetta, never a pair of convenient consonants.
As Summa is poised to enter what she calls the “third act” of her career, she does so by honoring her father’s name preference. The veteran chef is the force behind Elisabetta’s, an upscale trattoria slated to open in May in the former 32 East building in Delray Beach’s dining district.
Summa is perhaps the most influential local chef you’ve never heard of. She’s a partner and the corporate culinary director at the Big Time Restaurant Group, overseeing 14 kitchens belonging to the group’s six restaurant concepts, which are City Cellar, Louie Bossi’s, Rocco’s Tacos, City Oyster and Sushi Bar, Grease and Big City Tavern. She launches new locations, writes new menus, finds sources for ingredients and keeps current kitchens in check. She has laser eyes for items and norms that don’t belong in a scratch kitchen. That box of ground pepper? Out. She expects only freshly ground.
“She has worked unsung for years and knows the work that goes into just opening places,” says Summa’s good friend Judith Olney, a respected culinary writer living in West Palm Beach.
Olney tells the story of Summa’s recent visit to Naples, where she opened Florida’s latest Rocco’s Tacos location: Summa washed dishes late into the evening to help out her staff.
“She’s very hands-on,” says Olney. “She has vast amounts of energy and wants to be working.”
This is work Summa has done behind the scenes for the past 21 years, during “Act II.” Now, with a concept that’s inspired by her love of simple, essential Italian cooking, Summa is ready to step into the spotlight. That’s not to say she wants to bask in it alone. Ask her about her upcoming restaurant and she’ll talk about her team, which includes executive chef Kevin Darr and her partner Louie Bossi, a chef with two branded Big Time restaurants.
GM 5 –
West Palm Beach Post
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