Chef and restaurateur Clay Conley is far from Italian—he’s Irish and Czechoslovakian—but you’d never guess it if you looked at the menu he created for his West Palm Beach restaurant, Grato, which means grateful in Italian. The new trattoria on Dixie Highway mixes casual, contemporary decor with rustic Italian dishes.
The space is filled with earthy tones of rich browns and splashes of blue. Cool light fixtures dangle from the high ceilings, which run alongside massive windows that illuminate the space. And with a full view of the kitchen, it’s hard to not anticipate your meal with a wood-burning brick oven, grill and rotisserie in plain sight. Turn the other way and find a fully stocked bar, complete with a frozen drinks machine.
Conley loved the energy of a restaurant kitchen at a young age. He started as a dishwasher at 13 and yearned to help prepare food. He’s been cooking in a restaurant ever since—first under chef Todd English in Boston, where he honed in on his Italian cooking skills, then after many years of traveling, he settled in Miami. It wasn’t until another opportunity to expand came to fruition that Conley, his partners and his wife decided to take on West Palm Beach. He’s helped build four restaurants since—Buccan, Imoto, The Sandwich Shop and now, Grato—each created with a different flair.
Start off with one of Conley’s favorites: a cauliflower head, roasted and coated with black pepper and pecorino cheese. It’s a spin on a classic dish made with pasta. But, hold the additional carbs, and you have herb-roasted cauliflower cacio e pepe. Or, try the tomato salad made with locally grown heirloom tomatoes, mixed with herbed ricotta cheese and fresh basil.
The homemade pasta is a specialty here, as it should be. Try the paccheri prepared with a “Sunday gravy” meat sauce and ricotta, or the bucatini carbonara (bacon, ham and egg). And there’s no going wrong with the mushroom pizza, made fresh with mushroom puree, roasted mushrooms, fontina cheese, roasted tomatoes and asparagus.
If you stop by on a Sunday, expect one of two things: an amazingly decadent brunch with options that include ham and fontina crespelle, freshly baked apricot scones with honey butter and frozen bellini cocktails, to a dinner with the porchetta special—rolled up pork belly that is cooked overnight until tender.
Grato recently opened for lunch, so Palm Beachers can enjoy a taste of Italy during most hours of the day.
Grato, 1901 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach/ 561.404.1334, gratowpb.com