in West Palm Beach. Maria and her husband, Rafaelle, who live in Point Manalapan, came out
of retirement in 2014 to open the eatery with Angelo. Maria shuns canned tomatoes
or tomato paste in her sauces, and Rafaelle makes fresh pasta every day.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
If you run restaurants, as Maria Abbenante has for three decades, you know it takes more than a good chef to make the business successful.
Every single person who works in the kitchen — and the restaurant — plays an important role and deserves to be treated that way, the chef/owner of Lynora’s in West Palm Beach said.
“In the kitchen, I treat the dishwasher like the chef,” Abbenante said.
Her restaurant is an extension of her home.
“I want everyone who comes here to feel like they’re at my home, treated like family,” she said.
She and her husband, co-owner Rafaelle, came out of retirement in 2014 to open Lynora’s in West Palm Beach to help her son, Angelo Abbenante, get started in the business.
Maria grew up in Ponza, Italy, a small island a few hours from Rome.
“One of my favorite memories and first experiences working in a restaurant was helping my grandmother, Lynora, make pasta at our family restaurant when I was 5,” she said. “I worked with my mother and grandmother at the restaurant until I was 18 and then left Italy with my husband to come to America.”
The former high school sweethearts opened their first restaurant in White Plains, outside New York City. But the big city was too big for their liking, so they moved to Lake Worth and opened a small pizza and sandwich shop.
“Two years later, we found a larger space a couple of blocks away and we opened Lynora’s, which is named after my grandmother,” Maria Abbenante, 59, said. They closed that restaurant in 2004.
“We came out of retirement in 2014 when we were presented with an opportunity to open a new Lynora’s on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach,” she said.
This month, Lynora’s will open a second location, in Jupiter at 1548 N. U.S. 1.
The Abbenantes, who have a home in Point Manalapan, take great pride in the food they serve and don’t take shortcuts.
There are no canned tomatoes or tomato paste in Maria’s homemade sauces. Only fresh ingredients are used, most organic and local. Rafaelle makes fresh pasta every day and butchers the meat used for their famous meatballs. Their son Angelo makes the wood oven pizzas.
“I am from an island so I really like fresh fish, which can be prepared so many ways, from simply grilling it to preparing with a little olive oil and garlic, fresh pomodoro or a variety of sauces I make myself,” Maria said. “I love the versatility of homemade pasta, which can complement so many different foods, and we make many different kinds of pasta at Lynora’s.”
When not working, the mother of two grown sons enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren, ranging in age from 6 to 15.
She and her husband return to Italy every year and have plans to take the grandchildren there.
“I will never lose my accent,” she said, “and my sons (Angelo and Roberto) both speak Italian (and English).”
— Mary Thurwachter
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that influenced you?
A. I grew up in Italy on a small island called Ponza. I attended school there and I remember how much I loved it. I was always the first one to raise my hand when the teacher asked a question. School gave me a thirst for learning new things.
Q. What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A. I have worked in the restaurant business all my life. My grandmother, Lynora, had a restaurant in Ponza. When I was about 5, she taught me to make pasta and that’s where it all began. I’m proud of my restaurants and am looking forward to adding another one in Jupiter this month.
Q. What advice do you have for a young person selecting a career today?
A. Whatever you do, you need to love what you do.
Q. How did you choose to make your home in Point Manalapan?
A. About 30 years ago, we bought waterfront land there and built the house we wanted — with a good kitchen, of course!
Q. What is your favorite part of living in Point Manalapan?
A. I love living by the water. I love the surroundings.
Q. What music do you listen to when you need inspiration or when you want to relax?
A. We play all kinds of music at the restaurant, but when I am alone, I like it quiet. When I’m driving the car, I pray.
Q. Do you have a quote that guides your decisions?
A. “It’s more important to give than receive.”
Q. Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A. My grandmother and my mother. Both were good cooks.
Q. If your life story were made into a movie, who would you want to play you?
A. I never thought about that, but I guess it would have to be an Italian actress. Maybe Sophia Loren.
Q. What is your favorite thing to cook?
A. Sauces. They are very important to the food. Without sauce, food would be bland.