Two-time James Beard Award semifinalist Clay Conley has confirmed he will open a new concept in the Flamingo Park district of West Palm Beach next spring. Conley will work with the same team that operates his Palm Beach restaurant Buccan to bring the city a casual, trattoria-like Italian eatery.
Conley and partners Sam Slattery and Piper Quinn purchased the old Reward Lighting building at 1901 S. Dixie Highway early this week. As of yet, there is no name.
One thing is certain, however: Conley said the concept will offer family-friendly, casual fare including homemade pastas, pizzas, and salads. He spent months researching the art of pizza- and pasta-making, traveling to New York to sample a variety of pies.
"We do a good amount of Italian food at Buccan, but I really wanted something that was for everyone, and with a more family-friendly theme and location," said Conley, who frequents nearby restaurants Table 26, Kitchen, Ambrosia, and Maison Carlos. "That's the kind of food we like to eat in our family. It's fun, unpretentious cuisine."
The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner and will serve a combination of Italian and Mediterranean-style fare, from wood-fired pizza to extruded pasta, as well as ravioli and stuffed pastas. The restaurant will also feature a wood-fired rotisserie imported straight from Italy.
When asked about the pizza, Conley said he would be crafting his own style with a wood-burning oven.
"I did a lot of pizza research over the summer," said Conley. "I like thin crust -- but not too thin -- and crispy. Even though we had a lot of good pizza, I still think Pizzeria Oceano has the best thing going."
He also visited friend and fellow chef Ken Vedrinski at Trattoria Lucca in Charleston, South Carolina, to study pasta-making techniques in preparation for the new restaurant.
"One thing I took away from that experience: the rigatoni he made using burnt flour. In Italy, they used to burn the wheat fields after harvest, and peasants would take what was left and mill it to make pasta dough," said Conley. "It has a unique, nutty flavor, and Ken prepared it with a simple goat butter and mushroom sauce. I'll be looking to do stuff like that. It's going to be something different, of course, but fun."
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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