NEW: Leopold Balestrieri Closes Apicius in Lantana; Now Open as Bar Italia

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Nicole Danna
Apicius Ristorante e Enoteca in Lantana to become Bar Italia
​As the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end." And the same holds true for Apicius Ristorante e Enoteca, which -- after openings its doors just over a year ago -- will be reopening as Bar Italia.

According to the owner, Chef Leopold Balestrieri, the sale of his upscale Italian-French fusion restaurant and wine bar was a decision he made out of love, not necessity.

"I'm not in this for the money -- it's the passion, and that wasn't appreciated," Balestrieri told New Times Wednesday. 


Known for his highly visible precense at Apicius, where he oversaw day-to-day management and worked in the kitchen alongside his staff, Balestrieri's reputation for confronting patrons -- even asking diners to leave his establishment -- became a deterrent for many would-be customers.

Offering boutique-style fare -- and available for chef's table service featuring pricey, imported ingredients with made-on-the-minute preparation -- gave Balestrieri's cuisine a price tag to match, a point often disputed with patrons surprised by large tabs come the end of the night. 

With such unmatched quality -- the likes you'd find in high-end establishments that grace the streets of Manhattan and Los Angeles -- Apicius' lofty ambitions were lost on the quiet streets of the small-town Lantana dining scene.

"When the menu says market price, and I'm using ingredients like shaved white truffles, caviar, and U3 Madagascar prawns, don't complain when the bill comes out more than you expected," said Balestrieri. "So, I'm done. I'm an artist. If the attention to detail is not appreciated, or understood, I'm going to just give them what they want."

And what they want has translated to Apicius' transformation into Bar Italia, a still-upscale Italian restaurant with prices that won't break the bank. 

"You'll still get the 'wow' factor -- just not in your pocket." -- Leopold Balestrieri, chef and creative genius behind the new Bar Italia in Lantana

Although he won't give details, Balestrieri says he sold Apicius to a Manhattan-based restaurant group that owns several high-profile NYC establishments specializing in Italian and French cuisine. Despite new management and ownership, Balestrieri still has a hand in the new venture having been asked to give his creative input on the Bar Italia menu, a move that has allowed many of his signature dishes from Apicius to remain mainstay highlights. 

The only difference: no more super premium ingredients to burn a whole in your pocket. But there will still be high-quality ingredients, including forest mushrooms and imported cheese. That means popular dishes, like the Branzino del Giorno ($39), will no longer feature a caviar sauce -- as it did a la Apicius -- but will continue to be cleaned at the table for an unforgettable presentation. And pastas, like the Tagliolini del Bosco ($26), will replace pricey porcini with specialty forest mushrooms.

"It will have the feel and price of say, a Vic and Angelo's," said Balestrieri. "But there will still be quality. Like a grandmother's kitchen -- well-priced soul food."

Bar Italia's menu includes a large appetizer selection followed by main plates featuring pasta, fish and meats, all ranging from $12 to $45 per plate. There will also be a pizza menu giving patrons a true Neopolitan-style experience with an imported Italian oven (able to cook a pie in less than three minutes), imported sheep's milk cheese, and Balestrieri's own 40-year-old, Naples-originated yeast for the dough. 

Say you're in the mood for some simpler fare. Bar Italia has a few straightforward dishes, including a truly amazing burger. Get the specialty short-rib beef cooked any way you like, but kick it up a notch the way its found on the menu with caramelized onions, pan-seared forest mushrooms, gorgonzola dolce and crispy specks (smoked Italian meat the equivalent to bacon), all stacked between two slices of fresh brioche ($18).

Pair it with a glass of wine from a still-impressive menu that draws from Apicius' extensive wine cellar, offering 26 wines by the glass ($10-$20), and over 200 bottles ($40-$195).

But perhaps the best part of Bar Italia will be its happy hour, which begins TOMORROW (Friday, June 10) starting at 5 p.m. What Balistrieri calls "one of the best happy hours" in the area, all drinks and food from the specialty bar menu will be 2-for-1. It's a special you can find Monday through Friday from open to close (5 p.m. to 1 a.m.). And with 2-ounce pours on liquor, and 8-ounce pours on wines, it's almost double the amount you'll find at other bars offering similar deals.

INSIDER'S TIP: Free happy hour apps! Get to Bar Italia early to sample a taste of their free spinelli skewers, skinny Italian-style kabobs of chicken, beef and lamb Balistrieri marinates the day before in a fragrant olive oil and herb concoction including rosemary, parsley and basil fresh from the on-site herb garden. They'll be served with a pureed lemon sauce, a complimentary hand-out (along with other select finger foods) for happy hour patrons only.


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Location Info

Apicius Ristorante E Enoteca - CLOSED

210 E. Ocean Ave., Lantana, FL

Category: Restaurant


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20 comments
Mrsept
Mrsept

Kiss my ass Leo, you fat liar, bs about everything, food overpriced, poor quality on meats he changed, screws girls in upstairs attic while taking advantage of dating a sweet ohio girl, that he just uses to run his errands. Get a life Leo, wake up and close , do us all a favor!!!!

Nicolebrent
Nicolebrent

This article was spot on. The food was enjoyable under both names, and our server was outstanding. As for the owner, far from accomodating and beyond nasty in manners and vulgar comments. I wont be suprised if they shut the doors a year from now, just like the last time he'll run it to the ground with a poor attitude.

Cl80524
Cl80524

The food was great and the service was great but the owner made me cry. I will never return. My husband and my guest are chefs and will agree with me

Mdcostarica
Mdcostarica

These guys actually threatened us with physical violence because we thought  the food and service were subpar and didn't leave a tip. The chef (a big  nasty guy with longish hair and a beard), manager ( a bodyduilder mobster type), and maitre d  actually followed me and my girlfriend out to the valet and threatened us!!! "Get the f#$k outa here you as #$hole!" I was stunned. We are refined, educated people and certainly did nothing to warrant this type of crude menacing behavior. This all happened on Friday Oct 14th, 2011. I'm still oin shock!  Mike

hahaha
hahaha

I worked at this place and it is dirty and has a rat problem..rat droppings all over the kitchen. This guy leo is not only a asshole to customers but treats his workers like assholes also.He is no chef either all bullshit...burn that place down with him in it..

Sweetart1964
Sweetart1964

Unprofessional staff. Aggressive handling of customer complaint (charging a sharing fee on an appetizer). Followed us to car, accused us of not ordering enough for the time spent & called me a "fat, ugly b****"

Chef
Chef

whatever this slob is connected to, will fail.

Maree
Maree

As a former owner of an upscale business /quality/high prices--when confronted by rude customers I often asked them to please not bring their business back -after all- we all take pride in our work. Understand - we are talking about an artist - Either enjoy the creation and complment the creator or keep your mouth shut--which means you never get to experience food as an art-act of love which is what he does.

freakerdude
freakerdude

" reputation for confronting patrons -- even asking diners to leave his establishment -- became a deterrent for many would-be customers."

I've read many negative comments from customers about this place on other sites. People want to be welcomed at their resto of choice...not berated. Reputation for confronting patrons??? WTF is that all about? Without the customer, a business is nothing!

SarahAnnMcCoy
SarahAnnMcCoy

This is absolutely ridiculous - who do they think they are fooling ??? who does Leo think he is fooling - Bar Italia is still run and owned by the same rude and obnoxious person and staff !!!!!!!!!

Nazz
Nazz

Maybe Leo should wear a mulett

Wrong
Wrong

Your husband is a fry cook at a place that makes a retirement home look chic. Maybe you didn't realize during one of your many chain-smoking breaks that your fro up had been moved from inside to outside and then back inside. You throw a temper tantrum bc you aren't allowed to smoke inside the restaurant. How dense are you? Then your "macho" "chef" husband waits until the car pulled up before he started screaming insults and jumped right in the car and drove off.

Nope
Nope

There is nothing refined about leaving 50 cents in nickels in a tip bc you did not articulate yourself. Educated people know what orecchiette is.

Samjones
Samjones

Sixteen of us were referred there by the consignere desk at the Ritz Carlton and it was the worst dining experience I have ever had. I have never had a propriator use the "F" word when we asked to divide the bill among families. Caution: stay away from this joint.

Claudiogelis
Claudiogelis

"as a former owner of an upscale business/quality prices?...Understand...we are talking about an artist?".....please, shove up your artistic overpriced art-dishes in your ass....

Cl80524
Cl80524

He made me cry today. Cry!

Claudiogelis
Claudiogelis

This guy leo is not just a rude and obnoxiuos guy, but a complete asshole, as well. period.

Leobal
Leobal

These people are neanderthalesque they come in to a upscale place and expect to think That there white trash chain style restaurant They are wrong ! They are rude to the staff Expect to split a bill of 18 into a detailed check In to 15 checks when they were told from the start That it was not possible then at the end the where rude to the waiter and called him stupid and etc ! Who is wrong ! Then a couple comes in for dinner and the menu stats sharing charge of $5 then they threaten the staff if they don't remove the sharing charge they will rite a bad blog about bc they are in charge Well not here

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