Around these parts, there's a lot of trepidation when it comes to finding good Italian food. Even the tourists don't expect to find decent pizza this far south -- and without a neighborhood of trattorias called Little Italy.
Despite the misconceptions surrounding our state's ability to churn out good pies and pasta, restaurateurs and chefs are facing the challenge head-on. That includes Big Time Restaurant Group, which will open a new Italian restaurant off Las Olas Boulevard later this year.
The group will open its latest concept, Louie Bossi's Ristorante, Bar & Pizzeria, in the space previously occupied by Solita Italian Restaurant in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It's being hailed as a high-energy Italian eatery, and the group's corporate chef, Lisabet Summa, will craft the menu alongside Big City Tavern executive chef Louie Bossi, after whom the restaurant is named.
Bossi, who grew up in an Italian household in New York, said he has always been inspired by the traditions of the great Italian-American restaurants of New York and Chicago -- the neighborhood spots that turn out house-made pastas, Neapolitan pizzas from wood-burning ovens, and homestyle Sicilian comfort food. He started with Big Time 12 years ago, working his way from grill cook to executive chef of Big City Tavern thanks to his do-it-yourself, handmade approach to preparing food.
"Ever since I started cooking, I've had a passion for handmade Italian food, [especially] wood-fired pies from New York," said Bossi. "Opening a new concept on my favorite street in South Florida is a dream come true, and we look forward to becoming a cozy hangout for all our neighbors on Las Olas Boulevard."
At Big City Tavern, Bossi is most famous for his house-cured salumi. He's also trained and certified under Brian Polcyn, co-author of Charcuterie and Salumi, two celebrated cookbooks on the ancient craft of salting, smoking, and curing. Expect the work to continue at the new restaurant, where a separate salumi bar will offer several house-cured options.
The menu will focus on homemade Italian everything, said Bossi, from hearth-baked bread and artisan jams to handmade pastas and pizza dough and gelato. Keeping with standard procedure, the drink menu will showcase a wine list with a focus on Italian vintages, as well as handcrafted cocktails -- including a homemade limoncello -- and craft beer.
"Everything will be house-made, using the time-honored methods of Italian craftsmen," said Summa.
Like all Big Time restaurants, the 10,000-square-foot Louie Bossi's is primed to be a stunning space; styled after an Italian piazza, it will offer five indoor and outdoor dining themes, including a fire pit, salumi bar, and a large outdoor bar facing Las Olas Boulevard. A wood-burning pizza oven and open kitchen will be center stage.
Big Time Restaurant Group was founded in 1993 by Todd Herbst, Bill Watson, and Lisabet Summa. Today, the group operates five distinct concepts including City Oyster & Sushi Bar in Delray Beach, Big City Tavern in Fort Lauderdale, City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill and Grease Burger Bar in West Palm Beach, and the Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar family.
Louie Bossi's Ristorante, Bar & Pizzeria will be located at 1032 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.