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Once upon a time, the old Testa's restaurant in Palm Beach was famous amongst the resident teen population for its banana and strawberry daiquiris. Those drinks were dessert with a kick; they suited our untrained palates. And the see-no-evil policies of the managers and bartenders suited the desire of kids with fake IDs to get pleasantly high in safe surroundings. Now, we hear, after almost 100 years of business, Testa's, which opened in 1921, is in trouble: According to yesterday's article in the South Florida Business Journal, the Testa family is in default on a $2 millon second mortgage from Olympia Palm Beach - ratcheting up the bill, with accrued interest, to a cool $3.1 million. Olympia filed a foreclosure action against the Testa's Inc. on July 13. The Testa family took the mortgage to redevelop the property, but apparently city approval stalled.
The restaurant has been around long enough now to have generated a good deal of drama. But unlike many other Palm Beach boites, it's always had the feel of a down-home diner - maybe because of the ageless waitresses who've worked there forever, maybe because the Testa family, who control one of the town's prime pieces of real estate, couldn't care less about putting on airs. It's been my go-to spot for a hangover remedy for many years -- I can sit at the bar with my back to the room, nose buried in the Sunday Times, and there's nothing to come between me and my Bloody Mary save the odd celery stalk (Testa's starts serving liquor at 7 a.m. every day of the week).
Testa's bartenders have adjucated spousal feuds -- when my significant other and I almost came to blows there over the precise interpretation of a documentary about child molesters, the guy at the bar smoothed things over with a joke and a round of drinks on the house. Many years ago I had a boyfriend who drove his Bentley up the sidewalk in front of Testa's, scattering snowbirds picking at their late night pancakes on the front patio like a flock of disturbed pigeons.
And even in the midst of foreclosure, they make a hell of a she-crab soup.