There’s no bad time of year for gelato, espresso, panini or pizza. But between the runaround of the holidays, the school break and the family and friends visiting, this could be the best time to find Tequesta’s newest entry on Restaurant Row. Eataliano bills itself as a panini bar, but turns out to be much more.
The setting is cool and classy, with silver and gray-toned wooden floors and walls and stone and marble counters. The seating at the nine tables fits the space well. The tables are large enough to hold dinner plates, intimately small, but not too close together to intrude on anyone’s conversation.
And speaking of fitting, the restaurant itself has become a fast fit in the neighborhood. It’s close enough to nearby homes and businesses to walk over, and anyone driving by can easily pull in from either Tequesta Drive or Bridge Road. The efficient, friendly staff already knows their regular customers, both by name and favorite menu item. And the latter is a challenge, given the length of the menu. For a small shop, the bill of fare shows ambition. Salads include Caprese and mixed greens with walnuts, apples and goat cheese; appetizers offer the addictive arrancini (deep-fried rice balls stuffed mozzarella cheese, beef and peas); the signature panini (with a variety of meats and cheeses, topped with tomatoes, olive mixes, roasted peppers, fresh herbs or artichokes), stromboli, pizza and soups. The bread for panini is the thick-crusted, hearty peasant ciabatta that goes from good to magnificent when toasted flat. No thin American-style slice can hold up to the power of that press. It takes a loaf with muscle, and Eataliano’s bread has it.
And there is dessert. Twenty-two riotously-colored gelatos are usually offered every day, from dark chocolate, pistachio and mango to lemon and strawberry. The gelato case is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the taste. You can order by the cone, cup, bowl or a family-size foam pack holding up to six flavors and 1,800 grams (or just under four pounds) of brain-freezing goodness. There is a light ricotta cheesecake, a dense chocolate cake, dainty one-bite cookies, sfogliatelle (the ethereally-layered, leaf-shaped pastry), fruit tarts and plenty of coffee, espresso and latte drinks to go with them.
Prices are on the slightly higher side for small plate items like these: salads and panini are $5.95-$9.50 (note that many come in two sizes, so the larger ones can be shared), stromboli and pizza $6.95, the antipasti board is $14.95 and gelato is $3.95 for a single scoop up to $7.95 for gelato affogato (gelato with espresso poured over the top). But Eataliano creates everything it sells, and does it in an atmosphere that says “we’re Italian, we’re happy about it and we want you to be happy, too.”
Eataliano, 100 Main Street, Suite 100, Tequesta, FL. Phone (561) 295-5096. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Outdoor seating and children’s menu available. The restaurant also offers catering services.