What the heck happened to that formerly quiet block of U.S. Highway 1, the one that would segue sleepily from Jupiter to Tequesta?
The new Italian restaurant is the north county outpost of a lively Clematis Street spot. And it seems the owners have brought some of that downtown West Palm Beach verve to northern Jupiter.
Just try to walk in and find a table on any given night, even on a weeknight. More than likely, you’ll find there’s a wait. It’s a smallish restaurant that can accommodate 89 diners scattered throughout its main dining room, indoor bar and al fresco patio.
What’s the draw? Certainly not the location. There’s no water view or people-watching potential on the patio. The restaurant sits in a commercial plaza that faces U.S. Highway 1. Sure, it’s a spiffy-new, Bermudian-style plaza, but the view it offers is parking lot and passing cars.
And yet, Lynora’s possesses that “it” factor restaurateurs crave: vibe. It’s an animated spot. You pick up the chatter as you squeeze past the bar and in between tables, feeling like the dinner party guest of a large, merry family. On Sundays, the restaurant hosts a Clematis Street-style brunch replete with red-sneakered servers in “Legalize Marinara” t-shirts and bottomless Bellinis, mimosas, bloodies and Peroni (for $18).
All this in a neo-Brooklyn setting of warm woods, subway tile and simple furnishings.
The food stands in striking contrast to the hip décor. It’s old-school home cooking, red-sauce specials, comfort grub.
That’s because Lynora’s roots are in a bygone Italian restaurant owned and operated by Ralph and Maria Abbenante, the parents of current owner Angelo Abbenante. That now-closed family restaurant, also named Lynora’s, stood for years on Lake Worth Road. (Lynora’s is named after Maria’s mother.)
Angelo Abbenante wanted to bring back the spirit of that restaurant. He and a partner opened a modernized version of the restaurant, Lynora’s Osteria, in 2014. But that collaboration ended in a lawsuit and the owners went their separate ways. Abbenante and his family remained at Lynora’s, dropping the “Osteria” from the name.
Legal matters aside, the food endured. This is not food that rises to astonishing levels, but it is food that would draw me back again and again. It is simple and well prepared by Lynora’s Italian chef, Mario Mette. The sauces are on-point, the servings abundant. It hits the spot.
On a recent visit, our party of three skipped the varied, classic antipasti offerings (bruschetta crostini, $6, cheese/meat plate, $22, fried rice balls, $8, fried calamari, $14, among other dishes), and started our meal with a shared “piccante” pizza ($14).
Topped with pepperoni, salami, mozzarella and cherry peppers (hence the spicy name), this wood-oven-baked pie popped with flavor. The crust, of medium thickness, puffed up on the edges, sending the toppings toward the middle. Even so, the deliciously chewy dough did not go to waste.
For main course, we sampled Lynora’s homemade pappardelle, wide noodles tossed with duck ragu (pappardelle all’anatra, $26). It’s an earthy dish that’s particularly appetizing on a crisp or chilly night. The pasta is bathed in a brandy-spiked sauce of roasted duck and porcini mushrooms and presents just a hint of truffle essence.
The Pollo Francese (chicken in lemon sauce, $24) did not disappoint. A lightly battered chicken breast was served on a bed of linguine in the bright Francese sauce. Mounded beneath two pounded chicken fillets on a flat plate, the pasta seemed incidental on this dish. The shape of the plate made it difficult to twirl and scoop up the linguine, so much of that delicious sauce remained on the plate.
We also sampled the Braciole con Gnocchi ($24), which is listed as one of Lynora’s classic dishes. This rolled-up meat favorite is made with pork that’s folded with prosciutto, garlic and Parmesan, braised in a light tomato sauce and served with small gnocchi dumplings. This is a homey, rib-sticking dish, but the monotone flavors of the meat and pasta could have used some contrast, perhaps from a pop of bitter greens.
Dessert time brought us a couple of memorable bites: a classic tiramisu stacked high with ladyfingers and mascarpone layers ($10), and a warm and sinful Nutella lava cake ($10) that was served with a tumbler of vanilla ice cream on the side.
Our dishes were delivered promptly, as, despite the bustle, service is brisk and professional. However, I did feel rushed. And our server did that “I’ll take this when you’re ready” thing, dropping off the check before we could request it.
Sometimes, I take the check nudge as an opportunity to ask for something else, say, a cappuccino. But, truth be told, I didn’t want a cappuccino, and I didn’t want a perfectly nice dinner to end on a sour note.
The service slip will not keep me from returning to the restaurant. Untimely check aside, Lynora’s is a fetching spot that brings a little buzz where it’s needed.
ADDRESS: 1548 U.S. Highway 1 (Inlet Plaza), Jupiter
PRICE RANGE: Moderate
HOURS: Open for dinner daily at 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
CREDIT CARDS: All major credit cards
RESERVATIONS: Taken only for parties of 8 or more; can reserve at 561-203-2702
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes, including restrooms
NOISE LEVEL: Lively, more manageable on the patio.
FULL BAR: Yes, and there’s a separate bar area. A happy-hour menu is served daily from 4 to 7 p.m. at the bar, with a late night happy hour offered from 10 to 11:30 p.m.
WHAT THE GRADES MEAN:
A — Excellent
B — Good
C — Average
D — Poor
F — Don’t bother