New chef takes over at Grato restaurant in West Palm Beach

Buccan Group cooks: Chef/partner Clay Conley (center), with Buccan's executive chef Jeremy Shelton (left) and Grato's new executive chef Jimmy Strine. (Contributed by LibbyVision.com)
Buccan Group: Chef/partner Clay Conley (center) is shown here with Buccan’s executive chef Jeremy Shelton (left) and Grato’s new executive chef Jimmy Strine. (Contributed by LibbyVision.com)

Café Boulud’s loss is Grato’s gain. Former Boulud executive sous chef Jimmy Strine is the new executive chef of Clay Conley’s Grato, the hot trattoria that’s taking West Palm Beach’s Flamingo Park neighborhood by storm.

“We are thrilled to have Jimmy join our team,” says Conley, Grato’s chef and co-owner. “He is not only a very talented cook, but a mature leader as well. We are lucky to have him.”

Strine and Conley worked three minutes away from one another for years. Conley is also chef/partner at Grato’s big sister restaurant, Buccan, which is located a block east of Café Boulud in Palm Beach.

“I’m feeling great about being a part of the team,” says Strine. “Clay has always been a staple in the community and I am most excited about making this the best restaurant in the county.”

A respected chef who competed against top local chefs to win last year’s Chef vs. Chef summer throwdown series in Delray Beach, Strine has also competed in Cochon 555, the national, invitation-only, snout-to-tail pork competition.

Before coming to work at Café Boulud, Strine was chef at his own restaurant, Mick’s New American Bistro in Frederick, Md.

Strine comes to Grato from a strong, creative kitchen. Most recently at Boulud, Strine worked under the direction of executive chef Rick Mace, who takes a storyteller’s approach to food. Mace’s sense of adventure earned him “Best Chef” status in The Post’s 2015 Critic’s Choice Awards.

Strine joins Grato just days after the restaurant launched daily lunch service.

Click to peek Food on Facebook!
Click to peek Food on Facebook!

Buzzy Grato soon will open for lunch in West Palm Beach

On the menu: paccheri with herb ricotta and "Sunday gravy." (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
On the menu: paccheri with herb ricotta and “Sunday gravy.” Photo: LibbyVision.com

Lunch on South Dixie Highway is about to get serious. Serious as in reservations just may be recommended serious, as in major chef serious, as in Sunday gravy served on Tuesday serious.

Grato, the hottest spot on Palm Beach County’s restaurant heat map, will open for lunch starting Monday, Aug. 8. Lunch service at the 7-month-old West Palm Beach trattoria, which is co-owned by the team behind Palm Beach’s popular Buccan bistro, will be offered from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The flavor mind behind Grato, chef/partner Clay Conley, calls the move “a natural evolution.”

“As a neighborhood restaurant, it makes sense to expand our service to include lunch,” says Conley.

The Italian-inspired spot is located in his own neighborhood, Flamingo Park. It is where the nationally acclaimed chef presents brick oven-fired pizza and handmade pastas and a decadent Sunday a la carte brunch (starting at 11 a.m.).

Chef at work: Clay Conley plates pasta at Grato. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
Clay Conley plates pasta at Grato. Photo: LibbyVision.com

“We will run some dinner items on the lunch menu, including all of the pizzas,” says Conley.

The lunch menu also will include “ample salads, sandwiches and additional variations of pasta,” he says. Soon, a catering menu will be added to offer off-site groups pan-sized renditions of pastas and salads.

On the lunch menu: entrée salads like Confit Tuna ($16) with shaved fennel and Romano beans, and Summer Panzanella ($14) with rotisserie chicken, porchetta sandwiches ($13) and meatball sandwiches ($12). Add to those some varying pasta options, such as gemelli with rock shrimp, prosciutto, artichoke and tomato ($15.50). Plus dinner menu items like Grato’s Paccheri ($13.50) with that Sunday-gravy meat sauce and Bucatini Carbonara ($14).

Grato: 1901 S. Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach; 561-404-1334; www.gratowpb.com.

New West Palm Beach restaurant Grato adds Sunday brunch to its offerings

Ham and fontina crespelle at Grato. (Photo: Liz Balmaseda)
Ham and fontina crespelle at Grato. (Photo: Liz Balmaseda)

Grato, the hottest new restaurant in the county, has added brunch to its buzzy dining experiences. Chef Clay Conley and his Buccan Group partners quietly debuted brunch at the months-old West Palm Beach trattoria on Valentine’s Day and have been serving decadent daytime fare since.

And by decadent, I mean a ham and fontina cheese “crespelle,” a neat stack of ultrathin crepes layered with ham, cheese and béchamel and topped with a poached egg and a charred scallion vinaigrette. Turns out, the dish is also Conley’s personal favorite, according to the eatery’s news release announcing brunch service.

“It’s got all the classic brunch style ingredients but comes together in a different way,” Conley says.

Grato's orange-apricot scones. (Photo: Liz Balmaseda)
Grato’s orange-apricot scones. 

For a nice starter dish, try the fresh-baked orange-apricot scones ($6), served with strawberry jam and whipped honey butter. (Or buy an order of them to go – they’re still delicious the next day at breakfast.)

Also on the menu: lobster Benedict ($22), brick-oven breakfast pizza topped with ham, asparagus, fontina cheese and eggs ($16), potato and fontina frittata ($11) and bourbon French toast with vanilla poached nectarines ($13).

For those who love a boozy brunch, there are blood orange mimosas, Italian sangria, frozen Bellinis and a concoction called “Bloody Caesar” – he’s Bloody Mary’s perfectly briny brother. (Brunch cocktails cost $8 each.)

All the above is served in a warm, wood-accented setting that welcomes families, couples and solo diners.

Grato chef and co-owner Clay Conley. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
Grato chef and co-owner Clay Conley. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)

Hours and info: Brunch is served Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended, but walk-ins are welcome.

Grato: 1901 S. Dixie Hway, West Palm Beach; 561-404-1334; www.gratowpb.com.

The buzz about Grato: Pizzeria heats up Flamingo Park

Killer carbonara: Chef Clay Conley at work on plates of buccatini. (LibbyVision.com)
Killer carbonara: Chef Clay Conley at work on plates of buccatini. (LibbyVision.com)

The fab new pizzeria on South Dixie Highway has been packed every night since its debut Jan. 8. At primetime on most nights, the bar three rows deep at Grato, the eatery opened by the powerhouse team behind Palm Beach’s wildly popular Buccan bistro.

“I’m mesmerized by the fire, the scurrying cooks, the bar crowd buzzing,” says cookbook author Judith Olney, who lives within walking distance of the West Palm Beach eatery she describes as “Brooklyn-style, coolest place in the area.”

Word of the opening has spread far and wide, even earning a mention in the Wall Street Journal last week.

Clay Conley, Grato's executive chef and co-owner. (LibbyVision.com)
Clay Conley, Grato’s executive chef and co-owner. (LibbyVision.com)

“It’s been insane. It’s been busier than we thought it was going to be,” says Grato executive chef and co-owner Clay Conley.

Why the buzz? Read the full story on Grato.