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The story of prodigal pasta- After first attempt, Boxer returned with powerful Palazzio
November 16, 2007

In an age when dining out risks leaving you hungry, a place with big portions is a welcome relief. Proudly displaying its motto "People generally don't leave here hungry," at the front entrance, Palazzio endeavors to make sure that every meal is not only pleasant, but also filling.

Kenneth Boxer, longtime Santa Barbara resident, took to the restaurant business to pay the bills. His real passion was journalism which he pursued via his local news reports and through his public access television show, which he hosted for more than 18 years. However, neither of these jobs quite made ends meet. Ultimately, Boxer had to take a job as a waiter.

"When I started in the restaurant industry my father gave me some incredibly valuable advice," says Boxer, "he said to learn every position possible because I would never know when I would need it."

Deferring to his father's wisdom, Boxer diligently learned the idiosyncrasies of running a restaurant. This was a great experience for him and allowed him, as he puts it, to "make mistakes on someone else's payroll."

In 1992, Boxer co-founded the Village Grill in Montecito. He describes the restaurant as a Florida-inspired Caribbean restaurant and something that simply never caught on in Montecito. Within four months, they decided to change their approach. They closed the doors and reopened two days later as Palazzio.

"That opening night was the busiest I had ever seen," Boxer says, "it was really full."

Palazzio took off and Boxer decided to open a second location in downtown Santa Barbara. That opened in 1998 (but in 2002, Boxer consolidated the two, closing the Montecito location).

Starting with a fresh location, Boxer paid serious attention to the details. He hired famed Texan muralist Irene Roderick to paint the ceiling of the restaurant like the Sistine Chapel. This painting became such a work of art that CNN actually filmed the mural in 1999. Now, almost a decade later, Boxer is bringing Roderick back to continue her masterpiece along the walls.

Another unique element of Palazzio is their honor-system wine service. Guests are invited to serve themselves glasses of either white or red wine and mark how many they have had on their table.

"It's a way for us to tell our guests we trust them, " says Boxer " and it's a bit like the water cooler at work; there's always a chance that you'll meet someone new while filling your wine glass."

This sense of community is a focus of the Palazzio philosophy. They encourage family-style dining through their portions, half orders serve one or two people and full orders can feed four or five people. Boxer has developed this style of service because of his respect for "perceived value."

"People like the fact that by eating family-style, they are getting quality food for less money per person," Boxer explained.

More than a million pounds of pasta and garlic rolls have been served at Palazzio in the last 15 years, and the pasta pots show no sign of cooling.

Ken Boxer is once again considering opening a second location, but in the meantime, he is focusing on keeping his patrons happy, several fresh garlic rolls at a time.


Kenneth Boxer took to learning the ropes of the restaurant business before opening Palazzio, where good portions are served at a good value and the wine keeps flowing.

No attention to detail is overlooked by Boxer, who upon the opening of Palazzio, hired painter Irene Roderick to paint the restaurant's ceiling to look like the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City. That was in 1999, and Boxer is preparing to bring Roderick back to touch up her work, which once was featured on a CNN broadcast.