Ristorante d’Elisabetta embodies the Italian dolce-vita spirit in a setting that favors outdoor dining and with a menu that is both functional and fun. So it’s understandable that the month-old Big Time group restaurant, inspired by chef Lisabet Summa’s fascination with the Italy of her family roots, is the brightest star on the centre’s waterfront. -City of West Palm Beach.
A less showy sister of Elisabetta’s in downtown Delray, she’s popular at dinner, with her homemade pasta, daily specials, wood-fired dishes, and generously topped pizzas. It’s also a logical hot spot for weekend brunch, thanks to decadent dishes like eggs al forno on oven-roasted polenta and pandoro French toast and bottomless brunch cocktails.
But of all her charms, it’s Elisabetta’s late afternoon and early evening hours that I appreciate the most. It’s the golden hour, when daylight takes on ethereal hues that become more intense just before sunset. Italians celebrate these hours every day with their aperitif ritual. And while you might be tempted to call it happy hour, the aperitif is something more grandiose. It is meant to savor the light changes from golden to pink and coral with civilized drinks and small, flavorful bites.
Elisabetta’s, which opened in January, calls for nothing at this time of day, but it does offer the elements for a memorable aperitif.
The well-rounded cocktail menu includes Italian classics like negronis, Bellinis and Aperol spritz, the go-to sip of the aperitif set. There is also a large Italian wine list here, and it’s categorized by region. Recently I tasted a Gavi from the Piedmont region.
Wine lovers, come on a Wednesday and you’ll get half the price of all bottles under $ 100 when you order an entree. (Yes, pizza counts as a starter, as our server informed us on a recent Wednesday.)
Note to happy hour lovers: The restaurant offers a traditional happy hour every day from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the bar. Drinks are $ 2 and pizzas are discounted.
The dinner menu offers many appetizers to accompany your cocktail. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to take the big plate route – the chefs at Elisabetta prepare everything from bread and pasta to sausage from scratch. But in the golden hour, I’m happy to stick to entrees and plates to share. In fact, some of my favorite menu items are listed in the “appetizer” and “antipasto” sections of the menu.
I’m wowed by the coccoli fritti ($ 11), the puffy, fried, and Parmesan-sprinkled buns that are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. These large rolls are served three to one order with a mound of shaved prosciutto and a dish of fresh ricotta to stuff the rolls. If you are a crostini fan, you will find several options listed ($ 11 – $ 12). But while these are generously garnished, they’re not as easy to devour as coccoli, which lacks the hard edges of toasted bread wedges.
I find the arancini con tartufo ($ 13) to be the perfect little rice balls, stuffed with mozzarella fior di latte and served on a truffle-scented aioli. One of the secrets to their perfection is their golf ball size. Larger arancini are often too dense and too big for appetizers. These crispy orbs are just the right size for that balance of crispy and chewy.
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The Carpaccio Sharing Platter ($ 15) features the thinnest sails of raw, herb-crusted beef sprinkled with arugula, peppadew peppers, capers and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. This fixed my whim for the usual meat and cheese platter in a tasty bite.
But if you fancy a board of salumi e formaggi, here you will find a range of cold cuts and cheeses, just begging to be combined. The menu also offers suggested combinations like a $ 28 prosciutto sampler and a $ 26 mozzarella tasting plate.
The gelati. The restaurant makes their own flavors of ice cream and they vary. If you’re a cafe ice cream lover and they have it that day, the coffee ice cream ($ 6 a scoop, $ 10 a double) is a winner. Add a pinch of Marcona Chocolate with Crunchy Almonds ($ 2) and meet your newfound obsession. This topping will make the ice cream you order much better. Other toppings include 28 year aged balsamic and honeycomb ($ 3 each)
Gelato is not a great appetizer, I know. But who says we can’t create a new tradition on the downtown West Palm waterfront?
Of course, one can visit Elisabetta at any time if one has a reservation or the chance to walk when there are tables available. The menu allows the lightest of cocktail interludes to the heaviest of dinners. And the frame allows for a bit of magic. I’ll toast this with a spritz.
- Location: 185 Banyan Blvd. (at Flagler Drive), West Palm Beach, 561-342-6699, Elisabettas.com/wpb
- Hours: Open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Serves dinner daily from 4 p.m. (until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, midnight Friday and Saturday, with late-night pizza served until 1 a.m.). Weekend brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.