Downtown Delray Beach is gaining a new Italian restaurant, Louie Bossi, but losing a venerable establishment: Word is that 32 East will close to make way for the Italian eatery.
32 East will stay open until building permits are submitted and approved for a major renovation of the space, a process that could take six months.
If all goes to plan, the Louie Bossi restaurant will open roughly this time next year.
32 East general manager John Bates on Tuesday said he’s aware of “rumors” but said the deal hasn’t yet happened: “I believe what they’ve been doing is talking the details. Nothing’s been inked,” Bates said.
However, sources said the Italian concept from West Palm Beach’s Big Time Restaurant Group is a done deal and set to go into the 32 East space at 32 E. Atlantic Ave.
32 East owner Butch Johnson did not return a phone call seeking comment. Big Time’s Todd Herbst declined to comment.
But longtimers know what a mark 32 East has made on the downtown Delray Beach dining market when it opened in 1996, and what a loss it will be for the local dining scene.
32 East was among the first upscale restaurants to open on Atlantic Avenue back when the city’s downtown was just getting going in the 1990s.
What a difference 20 years makes. Now downtown Delray Beach is crowded with a range of eateries, and more restaurants clamor for prime space every day.
But the stylish New American-themed 32 East has continued to maintain its place in the downtown dining scene, offered innovative items for years in a casual yet elegant setting.
In a 2000 restaurant review, former Palm Beach Post food critic Paul Reid had this to say about 32 East: “32 East is simply one of the best places within 50 miles, so why don’t we just leave it at that, and I’ll take the rest of the week off, and our readers can call 32 East, make reservations, go and enjoy.”
Louie Bossi originally was slated to go into 44 E. Atlantic Ave., the former Masonic Temple building at Atlantic Avenue and SE First Avenue in downtown Delray. But the deal to retrofit the historic 1924 building, and find adequate parking, became complicated.
So Big Time looked elsewhere.
In an interview last year, Herbst said Big Time has been thrilled, and a little surprised, by the success of Louie Bossi on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. The restaurant opened in 2015, and it has exceeded expectations, he said.
Earlier this year, Louie Bossi opened in Boca Raton, attached to the new Hyatt Place hotel. The Hyatt is in the heart of downtown on the southeast corner of Federal Highway and Palmetto Park Road.
Last year, Herbst said Big Time was eager to open in Delray Beach even though Boca Raton’s Louie Bossi is in the next city south.
“We love the Delray market,” Herbst said.
Big Time knows it well. The company has operated City Oyster on Atlantic Avenue for 17 years, and it opened Rocco’s Tacos, its Mexican food concept, in 2015.
Louie Bossi is popular because the food is fresh and the wood-and-brick interior is inviting, Herbst said last year. Everything is made in-house, too, including the breads, numerous types of pasta and desserts.
Delray Beach already overflows with Italian restaurants, including Tramonti, Sazio, Vic & Angelo’s and Caffe Luna Rosa, to name a few.
Many are good, Herbst said.
“But we’re going to build a great Italian restaurant,” Herbst said last year. “It’s a natural for downtown Delray Beach.”