Goodbye, pastrami. Hello, pasta.
Rappy’s Deli closed in May after just five months at the new Park Place shopping center in Boca Raton. The space subsequently reopened as a lower-priced deli,Park Place Deli.
Now the prime location at 5560 N. Military Trail will be turned into a different concept: An Italian restaurant, according to restaurateur Burt Rapoport.
The Italian theme is one the veteran restaurant operator knows well.
Back in 1989, Rapoport and another venerable restaurateur, Dennis Max, opened Prezzo on Glades Road.
The casual Italian joint that was a smash hit among area diners.
Rapoport said Prezzo, which operated for 10 years, was the first place in South Florida to have a wood-burning pizza oven.
And soon the Park Place space will have a wood-burning pizza oven, too, as well as other casual, “approachable” Italian dishes, Rapoport said.
An Italian restaurant is a concept Rapoport is confident will have greater success than Rappy’s did.
Rapoport said delis with an upscale tilt are springing up around the country, and that’s what his goal was with Rappy’s: Classic deli items with a modern twist.
“But it turns out this is the worse place in the country to do that,” he said.
Diners have a fairly set concept of what they expect in a deli, and creativity isn’t on the menu, Rapoport said.
“I knew the first week when we were serving this good-quality French mustard, and everyone said, ‘Where’s your deli mustard? How can you have a deli without deli mustard?’ ” he said.
“When people hear deli, the old-school deli comes to mind and that’s what everybody wanted, in terms of price and quality.
“I just totally misread the demand for the marketplace,” Rapoport said.
In addition, people tend to think of delis as breakfast and lunch places, he said. So dinner at Rappy’s wasn’t robust.
Now Rapoport is turning to everyone’s favorite food, Italian, which also tends to do well at dinner.
Of course, there are plenty of Italian restaurants in downtown Delray Beach, and several in east Boca Raton, including the newest one, Louie Bossi.
But Rapoport said there are few Italian eateries west of Interstate 95 in Boca Raton, with the exception of some chain eateries.
So he thinks there’s demand for a casual Italian eatery in the area.
Plans are to open the as-yet unnamed Italian restaurant at Park Place in October or November.