ABOVE: Suzanne Perrotto envisions her new restaurant as a gathering place with communal seating and food sharing. Photo provided by LibbyVision
By Jan Norris
Chef Suzanne Perrotto has tapped into her mother, Linda Rose, throughout the new restaurant she’s creating just down the block from her signature Brulé.
“She was my inspiration. I can’t imagine cooking with anyone more than my mother,” she said.
Hence the name, Rose’s Daughter, American Trattoria, set to open sometime in June in Pineapple Grove.
The new restaurant will be Italian, based largely on her family’s recipes. It takes the space of the former Max’s Harvest.
Unlike Brulé, which was started with a partner, this one is all on Perrotto, 55. She first said no to the idea when the landlord approached her.
“I’m all about an open kitchen. But this had walls, and the kitchen was tiny and kind of cut up,” she said. “The layout was something I couldn’t see being happy in.
“I walked away and said ‘no thanks.’
“But I kept thinking about it. I couldn’t sleep for a day. I pictured an open kitchen, and people sitting at the wrap-around bar, with chefs, smiling, giving out food, communal tables, everyone sharing food and laughing. I saw the back patio with music, and a bar and people just sort of hanging out and enjoying themselves.
“Seriously: I saw all this as though it were real. It was like I was looking at ghosts.
“So, I went back to the owner and told him, ‘I changed my mind. I want to do it.’”
She sold both of them by describing her vision that day, she said.
“I really did. I told him how amazing it would be. We were going to open up some of the walls, but we found some problems and decided to blow all the walls out. So, it’s all open to the kitchen. It’s a total build-out.”
Perrotto envisions the communal experience starting with a happy hour.
“On the south wall, there’s a drink bar, and there will be a food bar on the north wall, which will have more seats and wrap around to the kitchen. I want the chefs giving away foods between 5 and 6, handing out amuse-bouche to everyone and giving everyone a fun moment.”
Mismatched chairs in the main dining area are reminiscent of the Sunday dinners at the New York homes she grew up in.
“We went to whoever’s house made the sauce on Sunday. Sometimes you had to bring a chair. So, none of the chairs are going to match,” she said.
White subway tiles and herb boxes that separate parts of the dining room will be part of the design by Michelle Mendez, of Delray Beach’s Rustic Rooster.
The center of the room will be a semi-private area that can be reserved for up to 28 people, Perrotto said. “It’s like a wine-tasting room in a winery. More antiquey than the rest of the space.”
The open back patio will include her herb garden — “anything that I can grow, I will grow” — citrus trees and a fence decorated by a local tattoo artist. A separate bar that will serve Negronis on tap from Delray Beach’s SaltWater Brewery will be here; other local breweries also will be involved in the beers offered.
Don’t expect infused spirits, however. “We’ll add flavor through our infused mixes,” she said; no fake flavors.
Rose’s Daughter will not be open for lunch; that will be left to Brulé, while the new restaurant will be the after-hours spot.
Perrotto said that “we’ll have a breakfast grab-and-go at Rose’s. When I go to Italy, it’s just wonderful. The Arancia with an espresso, a roll or pastry. And some fresh-squeezed orange juice.”
She wants to re-create that fresh continental style in Delray Beach and lays out the vision.
“The day starts with an egg sandwich: a fresh baked brioche, with some meat — we’ll smoke the pig jowl. It will be a farm-fresh egg on a buttered roll. Healthy, if slightly decadent.”
Illy coffee, her favorite, and fresh-squeezed orange juice are must haves.
“Then the restaurant closes, and after 11:30, you’ll see nothing but chefs in the restaurant from 11:30 to 5. It will be all-day prep.
“We’ll open the doors at 5 p.m. for an hour. We’ll have amazing foods for happy hour. You’ll see people sitting, talking to the chefs with their wine and a bite or charcuterie plate. Then we open the doors for dinner.”
Perrotto is putting in a special charcoal oven made by Mibrasa for the pizza. She got her Neopolitan pizza certification in New York from master pizza maker Roberto Caporuscio — the U.S. ambassador for the 300-year-old art of the specialty pizza.
“It will have a 48-hour-fermented dough,” she said. It’s might not be to everyone’s liking, she said. “It’s a little crispy, but it’s a little chewy, too.”
Gluten-free pizzas also will be offered, and a dedicated oven will separate them from all other pizzas.
“Everything will be made from scratch,” Perrotto said.
That includes cheeses, as much as possible, all the pastas and charcuterie when she can do it herself. Gelatos and ice creams, too. A ricotta cheesecake is going to be a seasonal dessert.
“We’ll have our own burrata and ricotta — my mother taught me to make that when I was 14 years old.”
The limited menu will not be static except for a few items — and when they’re sold out, there’s no more until the next day, she said. “We’re going to try to keep the pizza on the menu, but I won’t serve it without the 48-ferment for the dough. Some people will understand it. When it’s over, it’s over.”
Another example of this is the porchetta — a pork loin wrapped in pork belly. It must be brined properly for two days.
“Then you slow cook it, and the skin is crispy almost like chicharrones, and the meat is juicy,” Perrotto said. “When it’s done, we’re out. A few people may be disappointed, but we’ll have other items to steer them to.”
Dinner goes to 11, then afterward on certain nights, the back patio will open to become a casual eatery, Bastardo’s, with its own identity. It’s envisioned as a gathering place for the after-dinner or late movie crowd with a DJ and bar, she said.
“It will be open after Brulé closes, so we’ll send people here for a drink and a pizza or a bite. They can just hang out and listen to the music, talk.”
A neon sign in the front window will indicate when Bastardo’s is open.
Sundays, expect an Italian family-style service with traditional Sunday dinner recipes, including her mother’s meatballs.
“They’re not a traditional meatball. They’re lamb meatballs with a good amount of fat. A little veal, and lamb fat, and herbaceous. Served with house-made mozzarella and San Marzano sauce,” Perrotto said.
She’s hoping there’s something that everyone will find approachable here.
“I want it to be inclusive — not exclusive to anyone. Blue-collar, white-collar — we have such a diverse demographic here. Delray Beach is a mecca — a condensed mecca of people.
“When we came to Pineapple Grove 12 years ago, no one else was up here. We saw 32 East, and we love him. Butch is brilliant. We were like, ‘Yeah! If people are eating that type of food, and making it, we can try to live up to that.’ We said let’s do this.”
She wanted to create a place that served tourists, snowbirds and residents — an all-season restaurant.
Brulé first opened as a market and bistro during the recession, she said. Growth was slow; few other restaurants ventured onto Second Avenue.
But it eventually evolved into the restaurant she first planned. The market space with bread baskets and bottles of oils were gone, replaced with tables and chairs. A bar and second bathroom were added. It drew more diners, and gradually earned the solid reputation it has now.
“The menu was interesting and people really liked it,” Perrotto said.
She and her partner split, however, and she was left to choose: Close, or run it on her own.
Perrotto has been guiding it alone, with a steady staff helping out ever since. Now, she mentors others; chefs have gone on to bigger kitchens in New York, Chicago or out west.
Perrotto began cooking as a teen in her family’s restaurant in New York, Sonny’s Trattoria near the Hudson River. Her mother was a self-taught cook who was inspired by her Italian-Jewish husband’s recipes.
Perrotto remembers “incredible farms” nearby in New York that provided the produce, cheeses and other fresh foods for the restaurant. Only the finest ingredients went into the foods; this standard was passed along to the daughter from the start.
Perrotto moved around early in her career, to country clubs, hotels and restaurants, picking up culinary skills all along from top names at the time.
She eventually made her way to Florida to help her father, and began at the Ibis country club.
During her career, she said she has faced the largely unspoken bias against female executive chefs, though she has held that job seven times.
“There was always the guy there that was supposed to get the job,” Perrotto said. “I always had to prove myself. But it’s made me a better chef throughout the years. I’ve definitely had some interesting moments.”
She recalled a first day at the Jupiter Beach Resort some years ago: “I was thrown into a 1,200-seat Easter brunch.”
She had created a number of house-made sauces for the foods the night before. The day of service, she was given a new cook to help out.
When he was told to reheat the sauces, he promptly dumped all of them into one soup vat.
A chef friend from a nearby restaurant showed up to help her out; the two hastily made “mocks” — sauces from soup bases and other shortcut ingredients. “We did what we had to do,” she said; guests were served on time.
Unbeknownst to her, the regional director for resorts showed up to check out the new chef and taste the foods that afternoon.
Perrotto said she passed with high praise. “He said it was the best l’orange sauce he’d ever had.” It was made simply with orange marmalade.
“We adapt — that’s what chefs do,” she said. “There are so many situations that would make us so strong.”
Her staff at Brulé now is solidly behind her, and many say they’re glad to come to work. She has nothing but admiration for them as well.
“If the chef and staff are happy, the servers are going to get that vibe and it’s passed down to the diner. I’ve seen my servers turn people’s frowns into smiles over and over. It’s a happy environment. We have a sign on the kitchen, ‘Leave it outside.’”
Several will join her at Rose’s Daughter, including James O’Neill, her sous chef.
Her restaurants’ close proximity is something she wanted. They will share some products. “Brulé will be doing brioche. Rose’s Daughter will be doing the ciabatta. Some of the stocks will be made at the new restaurant,” she said.
She bought a golf cart to go back and forth, she said, and she’s planning on getting an apartment with a bed next door to Rose’s to have a break spot in between prep and dinner service. “It’s what my mother did. She had an apartment over the restaurant and would take her breaks there.”
Dishes will follow the seasons and availability of products. She’ll shop locally whenever possible, but realizes South Florida’s summer food production is limited.
“Let’s face it: If you are limiting yourself to South Florida in summer, you’re going to be eating coconuts, avocados and mangoes,” Perrotto said.
Right now, she’s focused on the physical aspect; she gets to make her vision a reality in an area where every American restaurant has Italian foods on the menu.
But there’s a difference, she said, given all the experience she has gained.
“The experience for the chef is on the plate. The bone broths — the knowing how to make them. The season of the vegetable: How much sugar is in that vegetable this time of year? Should the meat be age-dried? Is it a potato gnocchi that’s from a russet potato, and will it be more starchy?
“My experience behind the food is 30 years, 40 if you count my mother’s restaurant. It’s really understanding a recipe, not just throwing it out.”
She knows she has big shoes to fill in this location, but is up for it.
“When Dennis Max came in, he created a lot of recognition for this area. Allen Susser, before him, had a vision for Taste.
“Now I get to put my vision in there.”
Rose’s Daughter, American Trattoria will be at 162 NE Second Ave. Brulé Bistro is at 200 NE Second Ave.; phone 274-2046; brulebistro.com.
Craft beer fest
The eighth annual Delray Beach Craft Beer Fest gets the party going at The Pavilion at Old School Square on May 10.
More than 100 craft brews and ciders will be poured along with a select group of wines.
A DJ and live band provide entertainment for this signature fundraiser for Old School Square Center for the Arts programs.
Tickets are $55 for VIP access, which allows a one-hour early entry and a commemorative glass. General admission is $40. You must be 21 for entry.
The festival general admission is from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Information and tickets are at oldschoolsquare.org. Click on events.
The Delray Beach Historical Society plans a fundraiser 6-10 p.m. May 11, “Twilight in the Garden.” It’s a party with food and drink to raise money for a campus-wide Educational Heritage Garden. A number of area restaurants and mixologists are participating in the dine-around on the grounds at 3 NE First St. Tickets are $125; visit delraybeachhistory.org for more info.
Thirty of Boynton’s best restaurants will showcase their cuisines at the annual Boynton Beach Food, Wine and Brew Fest on May 16. Local breweries will pour their beers as well, and wines paired to the foods will be served. The event is at Benvenuto Restaurant, 1730 N. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach, 6-9:30 p.m. Tickets are $35. Visit bocaratonchamber.com/events/ for more information and tickets. The Boca Chamber is a partner to Boynton Beach.
Rack’s Downtown Eatery +Tavern closed abruptly last month after nine-plus years in Mizner Park. Rack’s Farmhouse Kitchen in nearby Royal Palm Place, and Rack’s Fishhouse & Oyster Bar on Atlantic Avenue in Delray remain open. The focus for Gary Rack’s Restaurant Group is to expand the Farmhouse Kitchen concept, though restaurant turnover at Mizner Park might be a tell that the location/landlord had a hand in this one.
All Meats Brazilian Steak House opened out west at 21065 Powerline Road, Boca Raton. It’s a rodizio-style churrascaria. Ribs, steaks, seafood are cooked open-flame over mesquite charcoal. A certified Angus beef prime tomahawk ribeye is their signature dish. 617-1815; allmeats.com.
Jan Norris is a food writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.