What is the hottest new restaurant in West Palm Beach?

The fab new pizzeria on South Dixie Highway has been packed every night since its debut last month. At primetime on most nights, the bar is three rows deep.

Evenings at Grato, opened by the powerhouse team behind Palm Beach’s wildly popular Buccan bistro, is marked by the glow of a wood-burning pizza oven.

“I’m mesmerized by the fire, the scurrying cooks, the bar crowd buzzing,” says cookbook author Judith Olney, who lives within walking distance of the West Palm Beach eatery she describes as a “Brooklyn-style, coolest place in the area.”

Word of the opening has spread far and wide, even earning a mention in the Wall Street Journal last week.

“It’s been insane. It’s been busier than we thought it was going to be,” says Grato executive chef and co-owner Clay Conley.

Why the buzz? The reason can seem contradictory, for it’s as simple as it is complex.

The simple: The chef is a rock star. It’s not every day that a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist opens a pizza joint in a former lighting store on a drab stretch of Dixie Highway.

The food is accessible, too. Grato’s non-fussy menu lists crostini, pizza, pasta, salad and roasted meats.

But the food is elevated. That crostini (four hefty pieces cost $16) is not simply a vessel for the obligatory chopped tomatoes-garlic-basil. It’s a crisp canvas for a burst of flavors, from velvety chicken liver mousse that contrasts with bright pickles and radish shavings, to indulgent beef tartare that’s lifted by horseradish and balsamic onion, to grilled asparagus bits served atop a smash of Parmesan and a kind of béchamel paste.

Look and taste a little more closely and you may notice Grato’s pizza is no ordinary pie, but one made with top-grade organic flour in a brick oven. And the pasta does not tumble out of a box. It’s crafted in-house using a brass-die pasta extruder, which helps ensure the kind of matte texture on the pasta’s surface that helps sauce adhere.

Grato greets you with a big-city hello and sets out to charm you in a Peter Niemitz-designed setting of soaring ceilings, stained concrete floors and dark wood touches.

The Dixie corridor already boasts fine dining spots like Table 26, Kitchen and Jereve at EmKo, but Grato is something different.

“I think Chef Conley has hit a sort of untapped sweet spot in the West Palm Beach market,” says Grato customer Charlie Byrne, a local gastronaut who chronicles his food adventures on Instagram and Twitter as @CharlieDelray. “He sources top quality ingredients, yet you needn’t be a Palm Beach millionaire to dine there. In fact, it doesn’t cost much more than mediocre national chains.”

He predicts local restaurateurs “soon will take note of the crowds, night after night – and could be wise to emulate it.”

Grato, which means “grateful” in Italian, stands to be a game-changer for the area, much like Buccan was for the island.

“The place is uniquely interactive and it will, especially when the Carefree Theater is reborn, anchor and revive South Dixie and Flamingo Park,” says customer Judith Olney. “Yes it’s an instant hit, but it is also a longtime stay.”

Byrne agrees: “It’s trendy, hip and loud, and the open pizza bar is ideal for foodies, but families, seniors, and kids still fit right in.”

For his part, Conley can look out from the open pizza kitchen and observe the bustle.

“Off the bat, I see a lot of familiar faces out there. But then, I see a lot of new people are coming in.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Community

Lennon, McCartney back together? Well sort of
Lennon, McCartney back together? Well sort of

Lennon and McCartney have teamed up again. But it wasn’t some long-lost recording of John Lennon fronted by Paul McCartney years later.  It was actually the sons of the two music legends. Sean Ono Lennon and James McCartney recently spent time together and took a selfie that could, at a quick glance, be taken for an image of their two fathers...
Here’s how to make sure your pooch is ready for the new baby 
Here’s how to make sure your pooch is ready for the new baby 

Your dog is a member of the family, right? So when that family expands to include a new little human member, your pup is one of the many "loved ones" you'll need to prepare for the arrival of a baby. Expectant parents can take heart from the multitudes of social media compilations featuring gentle dogs playing with their angelic baby...
’No Erasin’: Steve Perry releases first new song in 20 years, album to be released in October
’No Erasin’: Steve Perry releases first new song in 20 years, album to be released in October

Steve Perry fans have waited decades for new material from the former Journey lead singer. They’ve finally gotten their wish as he released the video for “No Erasin” on YouTube late Tuesday night. The song begins with the lyric, “I know it’s been a long time coming.” >> Read more trending news ...
5 things every parent should know about immunization
5 things every parent should know about immunization

Within the first few months of your child's life, your pediatrician will likely start talking to you about immunizations. Even if your house is stocked with hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap, it's important to know what options are out there to keep your kid safe from diseases that could have harmful consequences. TheWorld Health Organization defines...
Viva Las Aerosmith! Steven Tyler announces band’s Vegas residency
Viva Las Aerosmith! Steven Tyler announces band’s Vegas residency

Aerosmith is setting up shop in Sin City. Steven Tyler and the rest of the legendary band announced that they’re setting up residency on the Las Vegas Strip next year. Shows begin at the Park Theater at Park MGM on April 6, 2019, Variety reported. Sales for “Deuces Are Wild” concerts will open to the Aerosmith fan club ...
More Stories