“When you’re here, you’re family,” famously read the former slogan of a certain mass-market chain of Italian restaurants. It’s a statement more accurately applied, however, to Palm Beach’s Pizza al Fresco, whose patio is a constant scene of cheerful greetings and air-kisses and heartfelt hugs, as diners arise from wicker chairs to greet friends who just walked in clutching shopping bags from stores up and down Worth Avenue.
As at its nearby and slightly more formal sibling restaurant, Renato’s, the main scene here takes place—as its name correctly implies—al fresco, on the sizable courtyard, under the Palm Beach sunshine and towering palm trees (and, fun fact, adjoined by the former residence of famed architect Addison Mizner). That courtyard is where the stylish and well-coiffed crowd nibbles on pizza or salad, sipping a glass of Whispering Angel rosé or something sparkling. The food may sometimes be thought of as secondary to the social scene, but it’s still excellent—the namesake pie, with its thin crust topped with mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula, tomato, and shaved Parmagiano, is comparable to anything you’d find in New York or Naples.
Other popular options include lobster salad (on its own or in sandwich form), with sizable chunks of crustacean, or the lasagna Bolognese, fresh pasta indulgently layered with beef and a mixture of cheeses, or the dentice con carciofi, snapper fillet cooked in white wine and served with caper sauce and julienned vegetables.
This season, the menu remains largely the same (why mess with greatness?), but returning guests will find the bar has moved. Formerly near the kitchen, it’s now tucked away in a corner of the courtyard—a far cozier place to enjoy a cocktail.
At lunchtime, models circulate among tables, showing off their fabulous frocks—like lunching in the department stores of yore—handing out cards indicating where on Worth to find that flattering chartreuse top. At dinner, couples catch up over the glow of candles, as fairy light-enrobed palms shine upon them from the corners.
Even dogs sniff and yap at each other from their owners’ handbags, the canine version of the cheek-kiss ritual. Many days and most times, it seems as though every living being on the patio is part of an elite in-group: the Pizza al Fresco family. It’s one worth joining.