Ralph Pagano
Ralph Pagano
Courtesy of South Beach Seafood Festival

Ralph Pagano's Naked Lunch to Close Friday

Naked Lunch, Ralph Pagano's old-school deli and diner inside the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park, will serve its last meal Friday, July 27.

The weekday-only spot, which opened in April 2015, was known for an eclectic all-day menu of falafel and chicken shawarma sandwiches, ceviche, lamb meatballs, mezze platters, and poke bowls.

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"The lease expired, and the owners are developing a new, technology-driven, interactive lobby," Pagano says. "We had a great time there. And if it wasn't for that building, I wouldn't have known about the Vivex, which supplied all of the tissue after my accident."

More than a year ago, Pagano pushed an employee out of harm's way when a violent explosion occurred during a training session at Resorts World in Bimini, Bahamas. Pagano was set to open an outpost of his popular South Beach restaurant, Naked Taco, at the hotel complex. He suffered second- and third-degree burns to about 40 percent of his body and was airlifted to Miami's Ryder Trauma Center for treatment, where he remained for 50 days. Vivex, a biomedical company on the second floor of the UM building, played a key role in Pagano's recovery by providing innovative tissue technology that helped the chef avoid major disfigurement.

"After I called my wife, I told her to call them and get tissue on the way to the hospital for me," he says. "I can't say enough positive things about those guys. It was really a luck of the draw that I met them through Naked Lunch."

Before the restaurant closes, Pagano will serve free lunch to all of his regulars this Friday.

"Who says there's no such thing as free lunch?" he laughs. "The people in this building have been nothing but kind. We might endeavor on a project together in the future, but for now, nothing is decided."

Naked Lunch — named partially after the William S. Burroughs book and partially to continue the chef's "naked" theme (his other restaurants are South Beach's Naked Taco and Fort Lauderdale's Naked Crab) — came from Pagano's longing for a proper New York-style sandwich at a reasonable price, he told New Times in April 2015. "I think we need more places where you can get a good lunch for under ten bucks."

Pagano's other restaurants — Naked Taco and Naked Crab — remain open.

Naked Lunch. 1951 NW Seventh Ave., Miami; 305-307-5889. The restaurant will close after lunch service Friday, July 27.

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