Withstood the Testa Time
You've got to love Testa's (221 Royal Poinciana Way, Palm Beach, 561-832-0992) the way you love some doddering aunt: The lady was born in 1921 and deserves a break. You've grown fond of her foibles. And like many old-school Palm Beach ladies, Testa's is almost deliberately un-chic; that dowdiness is a badge of old-money and good breeding. Testa's food snubs any hint of razzmatazz, and it won't even make eye contact with current culinary trends. But the menu and the atmosphere are as comfortable as a well-worn Gucci loafer. Palm Beach kids today order the same crab cakes and sirloin steaks that their parents and grandparents did.
The original Testa's was just a soda fountain and seven seats when Michele and Anna Testa set the place up in the old Garden Theater on Main Street (now Royal Poinciana Way). These days, the kitchen might serve 1400 people on a good day in season. Michele Testa's descendants are still running the place; keeping it all in the family seems to be the one single common indicator of longevity in the restaurant biz.
Testa's guest list over the years reads like a trip to the wax museum; imagine Alexander Haig, Sandra Bernhard, Jimmy Buffett, Martha Stewart, Tommy Chong, Ruth Westheimer, and Tommy Lasorda rubbing shoulders over 30-ounce sirloins. We stopped by recently (it's been many decades since we last downed too many of Testa's frozen banana daiquiris and drove a friend's Bentley up the sidewalk); the wooden booths, the breezy front patio, the stone crabs, the key lime pie, the cute bartenders, and the old waitresses -- the place looks just like it did 30 years ago, which is more than you can say for us.
If you can't get a table, there are usually a couple of free seats at the bar; except for the steaks, the prices are pretty reasonable. Pancakes, waffles, eggs Benedict for breakfast; Testa's chicken salad for lunch; penne a la vodka and mozzarella garlic bread for dinner: Testa's isn't going to set the culinary world on its ear, but who's asking it to? We used to mark the end of the season when Testa's closed its doors for the summer and packed up to go north to their location in Maine, taking the entire staff with them. Now they're open year round, which may be the only significant change they've made in 84 years of business.
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