Open Palm Kitchen 2023: Mambo Italiano

Razza's Dan Richer at Palm Heights? That's amore!

“Don’t miss the opportunity to become a local legend, an icon, and make a memory for a lifetime,” beckons Bambi Grimotes, de facto social chair of Palm Heights, to the sun-kissed and wine-flushed dining room of Paradise Pizza. An eclectic crew of invited guests and Cayman locals have flocked to the open-air pizzeria for a special edition of Mambo Italiano, an family-style feast that effortlessly transitions into a night of karaoke and dancing. To close out the inaugural Open Palm Kitchen, James Beard nominated chef Dan Richer brought his pizza prowess to Seven Mile Beach, slinging a selection of Razza’s Garden State pies alongside abundant antipasti and cacio e pepe tossed tableside in a giant wheel of parmesan.

Not quite what you’d encounter in the old country, nor an exact replica of a northeast red sauce Italian joint, the recurring Saturday night party offers an authentic taste of Palm Heights’ unwavering hospitality - put simply, it’s a slice of paradise, much as the name suggests. As the night wore on, the playlist transitioned from old school crooners like Dean Martin and Perry Como to a more uptempo run of Italian and American disco hits, with Bambi periodically checking in on the crowd over the mic. The consummate host was aided by sommelier Thomas Pastuszak, who swiftly attended to guests’ glasses, while the bar whipped up negronis both classic and locally inspired. A tequila and mezcal version scented with pandan was a crowd favorite, but I stuck to the Caffe Shakerato Italiano, essentially an espresso martini discreetly served in a highball glass (What can I say? The heart wants what it wants).

Where love is life and life is mambo

As servers paraded out plates of tiramisu, diners twirled their napkins above their heads at Bambi’s beck and call, enthusiastically singing along to the chorus of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” Marquise Miller set the bar high for the karaoke portion of the evening, bringing the house down with a riveting version of the Tevin Campbell’s “Can We Talk,” but the party thundered on with impromptu performances of all genres, interspersed with dancehall and dembow dance interludes. A few minutes shy of the local sound ordinance, chef Jake Brodsky closed out the festivities, leading the crowd in a heartfelt rendition of Frank Sinatra’s "New York, New York" - needless to say, everyone in the room wanted to be a part of it.

Presented by Palm Heights

Special Thanks to Davide Spadia, Sam Wessner, and Gabriella Khalil

Host: Bambi Grimotes

Food: Dan Richer and Jake Brodsky

Wine: Thomas Pastuszak

Photography: Ava von Osdol and Wami Aluko