The Breakers HMF | Palm Beach Daily News | Meghan McCarthy | March,2014

"Breakers HMF lounge earns chamber award nods"


Arlene Desiderio will be lauded for her “quintessentially Palm Beach” restaurants in Via Mizner: Renato’s and Pizza al Fresco (above) at the April 10 Chamber of Commerce Awards breakfast.

Courtesy of The Breakers

The Breakers will receive the chamber’s Best Renovation Award for its recently debuted HMF cocktail lounge and dining spot, which is a transformation of The Florentine Room, dating from 1926.

By Robert Janjigian

Daily News Business Editor

Each year, the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce presents awards to businesses deemed to have contributed something special to the community.

“The intention is to put a spotlight on those who keep up traditions, as well as on those who bring a fresh twist to the Palm Beach scene,” said Laurel Baker, executive director of the chamber.

Earlier this year, the chamber sought suggestions from its members and island residents for candidates worthy of such recognition. The organization’s board went on to select two recipients who would receive awards for creating an enterprise that is “quintessentially Palm Beach” and for the best renovation of a commercial space.

At the chamber’s April 10 awards breakfast, Arlene Desiderio will be lauded for her “quintessentially Palm Beach” restaurants in Via Mizner: Renato’s and Pizza al Fresco. The Breakers will receive the Best Renovation Award for its recently debuted HMF cocktail lounge and dining spot.

A little romance

“I was thrilled to be chosen,” said Desiderio, acknowledging her employees for keeping the 26-year-old Renato’s and the 14-year-old Pizza al Fresco going strong.

“My late husband created Renato’s, and we have maintained the standards he established for food, service and atmosphere over the years.”

Pizza al Fresco, Renato’s more casual cousin, was Desiderio’s concept, and it has become one of Worth Avenue’s most popular destinations for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant also has expanded, from what was once basically a pizza parlor with outdoor seating, to a full-service indoor-outdoor establishment with a menu that includes pizzas (of course) but also pastas, sandwiches, salads and entrees.

Desiderio said the locations of her restaurants — along Worth Avenue but off the street, tucked into historic Via Mizner courtyards — have contributed to their success. “It’s more private, not so exposed,” she said. “I think people appreciate that.

“Plus, we have great food.”

“While Renato’s is one of Palm Beach’s most elegant and romantic dining spots, Pizza al Fresco is one of the liveliest additions to the Worth Avenue scene, and both are popular with locals as well as visitors,” said the chamber’s Baker.

Retro-modern redo

HMF, which made its debut in late November 2012, is named for Breakers founder and Palm Beach pioneer Henry Morrison Flagler. The cocktail lounge and contemporary-style dining venue is located in what was originally built as the Florentine Room in the mid-1920s. For several years, the space was divided into the Tapestry Bar and the resort’s gourmet restaurant.

The Breakers spent several million dollars in transforming the space, enlisting internationally renowned hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany to create a sophisticated interpretation of the traditional hotel lobby bar. Construction took about six months after about a year and a half of planning.

Tihany was acting as design consultant to Peacock + Lewis Architects.

The design is a blend of old and new, with original ceiling details and other architectural elements highlighted and sleek new furniture and fixtures introduced.

“HMF brings back the glories of the Florentine Room with a fresh point of view and a very current vibe,” Baker said. “It’s a game-changer.”

“This recognition really means a lot for our team,” said Paul Leone, president of The Breakers. “We are so thankful to the Kenan family, owners of the property, for their support of this very significant investment in the future of the resort.

“It’s all part of our strategy, which is to maintain traditions, but to continually update the experience. You can’t rest on your laurels in this business.”