Star Chef Brings Coastal Italian to Palm Beach Gardens

Every dish at Scusi Trattoria feels truly inspired, the service is wonderfully attentive, the atmosphere warm and comfortable. This is an extremely elevated dining experience, and very welcome addition to the North Palm Beach County scene.

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With a celebrated international chef, a fresh inviting décor and a knockout menu, Scusi Trattoria is a hit. Coastal Italian is the new eatery’s theme, recalling the Euro countryside and seaside Sunday meals Chef Laurent Tourondel was served by his Italian grandmother.

Taking over the former Vic and Angelo’s large 5,000 sq. foot corner space at PGA Commons, Scusi Trattoria has a warm and inviting vibe. Dining there on a recent cool weekday evening with two very picky friends, Lori and Joe from the Hamptons, we were welcomed by the large wraparound bar outside that was filled with people enticed by the glowing tall gas heaters that stood like a small forest. Inside, the bustling long open kitchen and two pizza ovens accented by Mediterranean blue-glazed tiles. The décor has nice natural materials of padded wood banquets, plush white and blue striped cushions, antique mirrors, while the walls showcase ceramic plates. A soft light baths the place.

It felt very fresh and contemporary European; I was half expecting to see the cliffs of Capri outside, waves lapping at the shore. Despite the large size of the restaurant, it is cleanly divided into several intimate dining spaces both inside and out.

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We chose a banquet to sit at and our attentive waiter Gabriel immediately brought over warm house-baked bread and a round of wine drinks followed. Perusing the menu of traditional entrees, pastas, pizzas, and small plates to share we ordered up the Frito Misto – a generous serving of crispy seafood with shrimp, calamari, and grouper served with a luscious lemon chili aioli. The waiter suggested the Zucchini salad, a real winner consisting of spiraled zucchini tossed with pecorino cheese, lemon, mint, basil, and the surprise crunch of toasted almonds. A very delicious innovative dish.

Scusi Trattoria: Coastal Italian to Palm Beach Gardens
Zucchini salad (Photo Sandra Schulman)

For the entree, I decided on the Spiced Swordfish Spiedini Alla Sicilian served cut into chunks on a skewer on a bed of cherry tomatoes, currants, capers, pine nuts, and a creamy rosemary-polenta. I’d never had swordfish served this way and it was delicious – the fish firm and well done inside with a spicy, lemony coating. Scooping it up with the polenta and olives and nuts made for a seriously satisfying fresh take on Italian ingredients.

Scusi Trattoria: Coastal Italian to Palm Beach Gardens
Spiced Swordfish alla Siciliana (Photo Sandra Schulman)

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Lori ordered the Wood Baked Branzino Al Limone stuffed with spinach and mushrooms. They mercifully cut the head off but left the tail. Served nestled in a pan of lemony butter sauce, the fish was moist and flaky; the stuffing rich and flavorful. Lori declared it the “best branzino I’ve ever had”. We all tasted it and agreed it was an unusually successful fish dish.

Joe ordered the Bucatini Alle Vongole with white wine, garlic and clams. The pasta is like a mini lasagna noodle, long but thin with ruffled edges. The clams were small and tasty, the generous sauce flecked with oregano and plenty left for sopping up the sauce with bread.

Something else happened at dinner that I haven’t experienced much, people at the tables were reaching out and striking up conversations with the people next to them. We experienced it on both sides of us; starting by commenting on the food then expanding to get to know themselves better. The couple to our right got so chatty we exchanged business cards and they even bought us a round of drinks! Perhaps the newness of the restaurant and the holiday lights and good cheer mood was infectious.

Leaving room for dessert, the chocolate and pistachio gelato and something they call the Scusitiramisu—a variation of tiramisu with bananas in the creamy vanilla pudding and generous shaved chocolate on top.

The menu includes very delectable items like the wood-fired pizzas with mushroom and truffle, fennel sausage, egg, and mushroom, or clam and guanciale. The veal and pork ricotta meatballs, octopus with mashed potatoes and Bigeye tuna Crudo also sound like winners.

All this deliciousness is due to the global experience of Chef Tourondel who has opened more than 40 restaurants around the globe, from London to Hong Kong to San Juan. A native of France, Chef Tourondel studied at Saint Vincent Ecole de Cuisine in Montlucon, France, he was chef to the Admiral in the French Navy. Travels to London led to stints at the famed Gentleman’s Club, Boodle’s, then to Restaurant Beau Geste in Manhattan; Jacques Maximin at Restaurant Ledoyen in France; and Chef de Partie at Restaurant Mercury at the Hotel InterContinental in Moscow and Caesar’s Palace Hotel & Casino.

In the US he opened BLT Steak, BLT Fish, BLT Prime, BLT Burger, BLT Market, LT Burger in the Harbor, LT Burger in Bryant Park, LT Signature, and most recently Arlington Club. Currently, he is also the Executive Chef at Brasserie Ruhlmann in Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. In October 2007, Bon Appétit magazine named Tourondel Restaurateur of the Year. Tourondel has published three cookbooks, Go Fish: Fresh Ideas for American Seafood; Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking; which earned him a 2008 James Beard Foundation Award nomination and Fresh from the Market: Seasonal Cooking with Laurent Tourondel.

“I hope that every guest that comes to dine at Scusi goes home satisfied with a taste of a time when life was simple and delicious,” says Chef Tourondel. “It’s the rustic wood-fired cooking I enjoyed growing up.”

Every dish felt truly inspired, the service was wonderfully attentive, the atmosphere warm and comfortable. This is an extremely elevated dining experience, and a very welcome addition to the North Palm Beach County scene.

Scusi features a specially-curated wine list of primarily European wines, domestic and imported beers, and original craft cocktails, including a rosé snowcone. A happy hour offered Monday through Friday from 5 pm to 7 pm includes specialty-priced drinks and half-priced pizzas.

If you visit, Scusi Trattoria is located at 4520 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. (561) 429-6938. scusirestaurants.com

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