By Thom Smith
Call it the tale of two bridges. But the climax, thrilling or depressing, won’t be written for months … or even years.
Delray’s Atlantic Avenue Bridge will be closed until Nov. 23 for a face lift. Crews will work from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., so only late-night revelers will be inconvenienced, if anyone. Those who want to leave Blue Anchor or Deck 84 and breathe in that salt air at the newly renovated Boston’s need only drive north to George Bush Boulevard.
The new bridge over the Intracoastal in Lantana won’t open until late 2013, at the soonest. That’s the word, as of Oct. 17, from the town of Lantana and from Palm Beach County. Construction is slated to begin March 18.
Meanwhile businesses twist in the wind, as lots of moms and pops — you won’t find many big boxes and chains on Ocean Avenue — wait and wonder: How many more delays lie ahead? How many customers will make the drive north to the Lake Worth Bridge or south to Boynton to hit their favorite eatery? Will Ocean Avenue become a haven for the homeless? (Or has it already: Sources on the avenue report that they find nightly shelter in one vacant restaurant.)
At the east end, John G’s, recently moved to Plaza del Mar, reports good crowds, aided by a much larger dining room than the old home on Lake Worth Beach and by free parking. And the Ritz-Carlton finally has reopened its signature restaurant, Angle, with a popular new angle: local and fresh. Most fixin’s come from local farms and local waters.
At the west end, a block from Federal, Tuscan-flavored Bar Italia claims “easy access via the Ocean Avenue Bridge” in its advertising. It also boasts a cigar lounge and a fire pit, which some locals joke is where management tosses disgruntled customers.
Until late spring, it was Apicius, but owner Leo Balestrieri abandoned that high-end concept, because, as he told New Times, “I’m not in this for the money — it’s the passion, and that wasn’t appreciated.” Balestrieri sold to a New York group, agreed to stay on as a consultant while he looked for a new restaurant site in Palm Beach that never materialized and brought in “Mango Gang” original Mark Militello as a partner to create “the ambiance of Piazza Michelangelo” with “the finest authentic Tuscan cuisine this side of Florence.”
Picture Vesuvius and Etna merging to form one volcano. Spectacular or disaster? We’ll never know.
“I left after four hours,” said the peripatetic Militello, who’s exploring other possibilities and will reveal when the time and the mango are ripe.
Latest arrival: Another Tuscan offering, D’Angelo Trattoria, with a gelateria and pastry shop on one side and a trattoria on the other, welcomed its first diners on Oct. 26. The latest project from Angelo Elia, who has restaurants in Boca, Lauderdale and Nassau, is nestled in the old house a block east of Federal in Delray Beach that previously housed Carolina’s Coal Fired Pizza.
Farewell: To Margy’s Restaurant, which tried to make a go of it on the ground floor of Boynton’s new Promenade condo. The popular American-Greek café had been a lunch and breakfast favorite on Federal Highway for years before it gave way to the Promenade. The Community Redevelopment Agency offered low rent in the new building, but parking was a problem and it wasn’t easily seen from the street.
Looking good: Five years ago, Chrissy Benoit turned Lake Worth’s aptly named Lizard Den into Havana Hideout, a fresh take on Caribbean street food. It was so rad, it even caught the eye of Food Channel’s punk chef Guy Fieri. She also opened a couple of production kitchens where aspiring chefs, bakers and artisans can hone their skills and produce their goods without having to spend a fortune. That kind of chutzpah is just what Boynton’s CRA believes is perfect for the Ruth Jones Cottage, and she plans to create a rustic café offering locally farmed foods and craft-brews at 480 E. Ocean. The cottage, built in 1940, is one of the few remaining structures built with now extinct Dade County pine and Benoit wants to keep as much of the original atmosphere as possible.
“We want to keep the big stone fireplace and preserve the Dade County pine,” Benoit said. “I really want to preserve that look and feel. The financing is in place, we’re working on the lease and we could be ready by March. I’m so excited.”
More maybe: Construction continues on the new casino at Lake Worth Beach with an opening target of next fall. But the new anchor tenant has dropped a wrench into the concrete. Johnny Longboats, which will occupy two-thirds of the rental area (the former John G’s space), wants five months free rent to help offset its estimated $1 million build-out costs, and it wants to stay open until 2 a.m. Since Longboats plans to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, why not just stay open 24 hours!
Back in Boynton, Boat Club Park, on Oct. 11, was officially renamed Harvey Oyer Jr. Park in honor of one of the town’s pioneers and its unofficial historian. Oyer died last December at age 84. Speaking at the dedication was Harvey III, who vigorously assumed his father’s mantel, serving as chairman of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, leading the fight to preserve the county courthouse and writing children’s Florida history books. His efforts were recognized nationally last spring with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Speaking of awards, send a shout-out to Jim Ponce, who knows more about this county than any living being. Known as the walking landmark, Ponce, 94, is the 2011 winner of the Providencia Award, presented annually by the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau to the person or organization that helps make Palm Beach County desirable to tourists.
The pop music scene in Palm Beach County isn’t what it used to be, not that it’s that great anywhere in South Florida these days. Simply put, most acts and promoters follow the money, and unless they’re strong enough to draw big crowds in Jacksonville, Tampa or Orlando, they don’t want to spend the money to come this far south.
That said, let’s not forget that good things often happen in small places, such as the Bamboo Room. John Oates, without Hall, played Oct. 26. Guitarist Les Dudek drops in Nov. 5, Steve Forbert Dec. 1, The Lee Boys Dec. 2 and Devon Allman and Honeytribe Dec. 8.
And who would have thought a year ago that the new parking garage next to Old School Square in Delray would be a hot musical showcase, but when the Creative City Collaborative is involved, anything is possible. Executive Director Alyona Ushe and Programming Director Matthew Farmer have devised a multidisciplinary program that embraces music, visual arts, film, photography, even puppetry.
Yes, Puppet Rampage, a not-for-kiddies “blitzkrieg of hell bent bunnies and cuddly chainsaws,” will create mayhem Nov. 4, but the remainder of the weekend will be dedicated to music — Ian Maksin’s 21st Century Cello on Saturday and hip — and pop— hoppers Eric Biddines and Chloe Dolandis opening the Garage’s Urban Underground series Sunday.
Prefer classic jazz? Jeffrey Chappell will perform Rhapsody in Blue Nov. 11, and, among others, four-time Grammy-winning jazz violinist Federico Britos visits Nov. 26.
Chris Evert always tries to have a rocking good time at her annual Evert/Raymond James Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic, both on the court and at her Gala Dinner Dance and Auction the weekend of Nov. 11. This year is no exception. On the court, look for Oscar-winner Elisabeth Shue, Today show host Hoda Kotb, comedian Jon Lovitz, newsman Stone Phillips, Breaking In’s Christian Slater, Burn Notice’s Jeffrey Donovan, Grey’s Anatomy’s Scott Foley, actress and former pro tennis player Maeve Quinlan, “Real Housewife” Jill Zarin, Alan Thicke and a few tennis players including Monica Seles, Murphy Jensen and Vince Spadea. At the Saturday night gala, The Spinners will perform.
“Chrissy always likes for the crowd to dance,” an associate said. “She wants people to have a good time.” (www.chrisevert.org)
On the fund-raising calendar: After the anticipated madness at Sundy House Nov. 7, Delray Beachers may do anything for a Twinkie. “Real Men Bake for the Rescues” will feature 30 upstanding citizens competing for the title of “best celebrity baker” (definitely a loose term). It’s a benefit for Dezzy’s Second Chance Animal Rescue. Unlimited desserts and pastries, live performance by “Elvis,” silent auctions, raffles, giveaways and cocktails. Admission is $15 in advance, $20 at the door. (www.dezzyssecondchance.com)
For those who’ve been striking out lately and for those who just want to have a good time, head to the Back Room at 6 p.m. on Nov. 10 on West Atlantic in Delray, for the second annual Sexy Sensational Singles charity bachelor and bachelorette auction. It’s a benefit for Prep and Sports, which provides academic guidance and performance training to at-risk youth. A $20 ticket ($15 in advance) includes food and one drink. At least one celebrity will go on the block and the rumor mill keeps spitting out “Miami Heat, Miami Heat.” (www.prepandsports.org)
Thom Smith is a freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com