September 15, 2011 | 2:33pm
Dennis Max is at it again. The high profile restaurateur behind Max's Grille and Max's Harvest has joined forces with Fred Stampone and a silent investor to create two new restaurants that will open this fall.
The first, Frank and Dino's
-an Italian-American restaurant that pays homage to the Rat Pack- will debut in Deerfield Beach on Federal Highway on October 31st. The second, Assaggio del Forno
- an eatery positioned to "take diners on a food journey" around Italy- is scheduled for an early December opening in Regency Court in west Boca Raton.
Located in the former Marcello's at 718 S. Federal Highway, Frank and Dino's is named after Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Stampone, a Philadelphia native, says
an inheritance of Rat Pack memorabilia sparked the idea for a restaurant that "would be a sport coat and tie kind of place if it were the '50's," said Max. He describes the restaurant as "a celebration of the Italian American community," noting that he and Stampone grew up in the 50's and '60's- the peak of Rat Pack popularity- the era that has "inspired a love affair with Italian-American culture and cuisine," said Max.
Think spaghetti and meatballs and chicken scarpariello on the menu, cooked by a chef with "a big personality," said Max, who has kept the chef's name under wraps until he resigns from his current position. Wine is a centerpiece of the experience, with a list that nods to Italy and Europe, with smattering of New World wines. Brick, dark wood, and leather banquets shape the decor-think Italian speakeasy-with fixtures from Milan and Florence. Max's go-to designer, Adolfo Galvez, orchestrated the design for the 120 seat restaurant with a patio.
The more polished Frank and Dino's is a dinner-only eatery, while Assaggio del Forno -translated as Taste of the Oven-offers lunch and dinner options that represent several regions of Italy. A more casual concept, the west Boca restaurant will showcase Neapolitan pizzas with artisanal ingredients as well as "our interpretation" of dishes indigenous to various regions of Italy. Max asserts Assaggio as "more of a gathering place" than Frank and Dino's, with an open kitchen and an old-school, train station (clack,clack,clack) flapper board above the cook's line to display specials. The restaurant will seat 170 inside as well as extensive patio seating. Galvez is the architect for Assaggio as well.
Max and Stampone traveled extensively in New York, Philly, Chicago, and Italy to cull ideas for the restaurants. Each kitchen will adhere to local and sustainable produce and meats where it's economically feasible, especially during the winter South Florida growing season. (San Marzano tomatoes, olive oils, meats, and cheeses: obviously not local.) Max's Harvest is the only restaurant in the group that's 100% local and sustainable, confirms Max.
At peak, Dennis Max had holdings in 17 South Florida restaurants-including Cafe Maxx, which opened in 1984. He calls the present a "rebuilding phase," during which his group is identifying real estate, raising capital, opening, and managing restaurants. Under the name Max's Restaurant Group, the trio will also consult.
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