Grilled Veal Chop, Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Pan Seared Scallops, 16 oz Bone-in Ribeye, Yellow Tail Snapper, Veal Scallopini, Linguine Frutti di Mare, Risotto a Gamberetti, Linguine e Vongole, Shrimp Cocktail; Amazing Dining

Restaurants across the planet forever seek that “it” factor, the thing that lifts an establishment above the status quo. Well, North Palm Beach’s Cucina Cabana has found the “it” in Ray Chang.

How else does one explain how a place, hidden in a quiet plaza, was sold out before its December debut? There’s no celebrity chef here, no sweeping water views, no hipster buzz. But there’s Ray (“Ray! Ray! Ray! Start the show already!”) Chang and all that he brings to the party.

Cucina Cabana owner Aldo Conigliaro pretty much built the Ray Chang factor into the restaurant’s design. Conigliaro knows a thing or two about restaurant design – he owns a company that creates custom furnishings for high-end restaurants and resorts, like Miami Beach’s Faena House. So before he opened the upscale Italian restaurant in the former Barolo space, he called upon Chang for input on the sound system and lighting for the bar. Hence the supper club glow.

“It’s all part of the whole hospitality experience. It’s not just about coming to a restaurant, but having a total experience with the atmosphere and entertainment,” says Conigliaro, an unmistakable presence at the restaurant, meeting and greeting guests in his sharp three-piece suits and fedora. “You don’t have to walk in, eat and leave. We encourage people to stay.”

The extensive renovation project involved expanding into the adjacent storefront, a former flower shop. But when the dust cleared, the Crystal Cove Commons plaza not only had a new restaurant, complete with two dining rooms, a wraparound bar, two pianos, a salumi bar, an outdoor cabana terrace and an outdoor, cigar-smoking lounge, it also had the Ray Chang Room. Conigliaro opened. By then, the restaurant’s New Year’s Eve reservations were sold out.

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