Family Behind Il Bacio and Prime Open New Restaurant in Boynton Beach Called Baciami
The Italian restaurant called Baciami—“kiss me” in Italian—opened recently in Boynton Beach, and it’s something of a culmination of a father and son.
Steven Pellegrino Sr. and his son, Steven Pellegrino Jr., are also the guys behind Il Bacio and Prime, both in Delray Beach. Their new spot opened about a month ago in the Las Ventanas apartment complex, hoping the trendy and upscale décor arrives right before the rebirth of Boynton’s downtown.
For father and son, however, the more important thing is that it’s everything they learned, over decades now between them, all wrapped up in four walls.
It started in 1989, when Pellegrino Sr. bought a restaurant in Rhode Island. He was just 26 years old when he began working as a bartender at Italian joints on Providence’s Federal Hill. Pellegrino Sr. renamed the place Nicole’s, for his daughter, and did a northern Italian menu that very soon led to the place getting swamped most nights.
“I just learned it all on my own. I didn’t have any formal training, but I knew the business, and I knew what people wanted,” Pellegrino Sr. said.
Not long after, he opened a second location, this one bigger, so he could throw parties – weddings and birthdays especially – for his regulars. Nine years ago, Pellegrino Sr. wanted warmer weather, so he sold both restaurants and moved to Florida.
He opened Il Bacio as a nightclub-slash-restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Delray. It was no doubt a risk, what with the housing market in a slump, but when the crowds began filling the place, he soon added a sister restaurant. Prime is a classic, swanky, old-school steakhouse, with huge chops, grilled whole fish and aged cowboy cuts.
Through all of those openings, Pellegrino Sr. had his son tagging along. Pellegrino Jr. bussed tables, washed dishes, bartended and worked his way up to front-of-the-house manager. But even before that, he’d just hang out in the kitchen and watch.
By 14, Pellegrino Jr. had the knife skills to work the line and learned the basics, the veal Sinatra and the chicken scarpiello, dishes he still considers his specialties.
“These are the dishes I grew up learning to cook,” Pellegrino Jr. said. “I always wanted to be like Dad, to do what Dad does.”
More than anything, more than the recipes, Pellegrino Jr. says he learned his father’s management style and watched how he ran his kitchen. “He always treated the kitchen staff with respect, the respect they deserved, so I wanted to be that way when I grew up.”
When father and son decided to open the Boynton location, they tapped into that shared past. Pellegrino Sr. had been working on Italian recipes since his days bartending on Federal Hill, and now his son was tinkering with them. They designed a menu – meatball parm, shrimp and clam pizza, Sunday gravy – and a concept around it that would seem familiar, but also emphasized healthy and fresh.
“I’m someone who works out everyday of my life, so I want food that’s going to be healthy to eat,” Pellegrino Sr. said. “I hear this all the time from my customers, that healthy is the way they want to eat now.”
More than just healthy, Pellegrino Jr. says the new place takes a bit of his family’s history. It's a menu built on the work of two generations.
Photos courtesy of Baciami
1415 S Federal Highway, Boynton Beach; 561.810.5662