Talia's Tuscan Table can lay claim to a loyal crowd: Ask any fan about chef Andrew Bennardo's true hero sandwiches and prepare for lots of superlatives and an almost cult-like devotion to the stacks of deli meats and other fixings piled high on homemade bread. But after years in the business, Bennardo is looking to once again expand his horizons.
While he acknowledges that his colossal sandwiches put him on the map ("People get so hooked on those sandwiches"), Bennardo wants to "up" people's expectations for the underrated Boca Raton joint. Part of that mission includes adding signage to the exterior of the restaurant -- located in an unremarkable strip mall at the corner of Spanish River Boulevard and Dixie Highway -- that advertises the restaurant's pizza.
"A lot of people think it's a Mexican restaurant," Bennardo said, explaining that the color scheme and original motif didn't clearly convey the Italian concept to passersby.
It also means dismantling the Baba's Shrimp Shack façade that he installed in 2010, when he expanded his restaurant space into an adjacent storefront and remodeled it to look like a Northeastern crab shack. Although he'll keep the Baba's menu items available, he'll use the six-table space formerly dedicated to the ultracasual seafood restaurant to incorporate table service for Talia's.
Anyone who's frequented Talia's knows that chef Andy doesn't "do" table service, so the addition -- expected to go into effect September 1 -- is significant for the restaurant. Counter service -- and the popular self-serve keg -- will remain intact on the other side of the space. Bennardo also intends to start capitalizing more on delivery and plans to extend evening hours to appeal to nearby Florida Atlantic University students.
Also on deck for Bennardo is the opening of Juiceteria, an organic fruit and vegetable juice/smoothie concept from California. The spot is expected to open in downtown Boca Raton later this month. Clean Plate Charlie will post more details when they become available.
Follow @ CleanPlateBPB