Though SoLita Delray's lounge-like atmosphere hosts live music and DJs on the weekend, nightlife isn't even its main draw. In addition to a bustling lounge and courtyard, SoLita—or "south of Little Italy"— houses a hopping kitchen where chefs cook Italian meals using generations-old family recipes. Local and imported ingredients give zings of flavor to all dishes. Fresh pastas come draped in sauces from light, spicy tomato broth to rich mascarpone cream. For heartier fare, chefs grill rib-eye steaks, veal chops, and filet mignon or roast whole fish with lemon, olive oil, and jokes about diminutive fin size.
The airiness of pale exposed brick and blond wood contrast with the heartiness of the traditional Italian fare at Vic & Angelo’s, helping explain why Zagat rated the Delray Beach and Palm Beach Gardens locations highly for both food and décor. In the kitchen, chefs douse pastas with rich toppings such as crab meat and white-wine sauce or slow-cooked beef ragu. The coal oven blasts pizzas with 900 degrees of heat, and all-natural steaks arrive from Chicago after being dry-aged for 21 days. To accompany meals, diners can choose from a long list of mostly Italian wines, or venture onto an outdoor patio to fill glasses with complimentary moonbeams.
Mootz's Italian Ice scoops homemade, health-conscious frozen treats in a spectrum of classic and inventive flavors. Bright-colored scoops of water-based and cream-based italian ices ($2.49 for a small / $4.49 for a large) fill dainty white cups with robust flavors such as pink lemonade, java crunch, birthday cake, and Red Bull. Ice cream and frozen yogurt ($2.49 for a small / $4.49 for a large) await a mosaic of cookies, candies, cheesecake pieces, and other toppings arranged in American Gothic replicas. Hot philly pretzels ($1.99) warm ice-numbed tongues with a salty embrace within their twisted bread arms.
An extensive wine selection washes down elegant Italian meals at Saltimbocca Italian Bistro. Chefs slow-braise veal shank to craft the eatery’s signature osso buco entree, and fresh herbs such as basil and tarragon sprinkle plates of shrimp, scallops, and snapper. Steaks and chops don dapper dressings, including sautéed crimini mushrooms and a 25-year-old balsamic reduction still unsure of what to do with its liberal-arts degree.
Chef Andrew Bennardo—affectionately known as chef Baba around the kitchen—supervises his house-made mozzarella as it completes its majestic metamorphosis from curd to brick, eventually melting the fully formed cheese atop pastas, pizzas, and other Italian dishes. He and his staff also nestle cured meats, gourmet cheeses, and crisp vegetables into an array of hero sandwiches named for Italian luminaries, such as Verdi, da Vinci, and Galileo. The eatery regales guests with eye-grabbing dinning environs, boasting a ceiling-mounted faux grape arbor and festive red, white, and green walls.
In addition to a robust Italian menu, chef Andrew has recently become well-versed in the ways of organic, whole-food, plant-based diets. After his daughter was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure and needed a double transplant, Andrew witnessed the power of a vegan, plant-based diet during his daughter's recovery. This inspired him to return to school to become certified in raw and vegan cuisine, as well as help open a juicing cafe, Juiceateria. Every Sunday afternoon, chef Andrew reveals his expert techniques in cooking classes, including juicing and organic vegetable and fruit with raw-cooking demonstrations. Assorted juice and smoothie samples are available throughout the class. Juice classes teach their benefits like boosting energy and the immune system, while giving the body a break from hard-to-digest fibers.