Culinary innovation with classic roots
1290 Third Street South, Naples
By Laura J. Cummings
What is Barbatella? This Third Street South dining concept is as unique as its name. In Italian, a barbatella is a shoot of a vine. This vineyard imagery represents something new, fresh and alive, yet springing from the heritage of the vine. This is exactly what we found our dining experience at Barbatella to be.
Like Chef Fabrizio Aielli’s other two Naples restaurants (Sea Salt and Dorona), Barbatella delivers dining innovation, combing classic elements with modern touches. Its tagline is: “Something New. Something Classic.” This rings true for the cuisine as well as the decor and ambience.
Barbatella offers several distinct choices for seating: a multi-level courtyard, an eclectic dining room, semi-private tables by the wood-fired pizza oven and a gelato counter. Our table combined the best of indoor and outdoor dining — a cozy table in a small corridor with a window-walled view of the courtyard and its iconic fountain of dancing hippocampus (horses with fish tails).
The main dining room is equally iconic with its Italianate architecture featuring ceiling roses (on both the ceiling and walls), painted in bold green. Birdcage-enclosed chandeliers light a long community table for dining with friends — or making new ones! The 20-seat bar features 100 wines available by the glass, many from venerated wineries worldwide.
Our culinary adventure began with a tasty, and somewhat beguiling, appetizer trio. When the chef started us with cappuccino, I’ll admit we were a bit confused. What appeared to be an after-dinner espresso drink turned out to be a savory starter of fortini, a delicate soup made with portabella and shiitake mushrooms, along with truffle essence, steamed and foamed into “cappuccino.” The other items on the appetizer platter were also pleasantly peculiar: Roman artichokes with anchovy butter and parmesan-encrusted olives, stuffed with sausage and burrata cheese.
For those who enjoy tradition, Barbatella offers plenty of classic Italian cooking (although perhaps with modern twists). For starters, there’s a fresh mozzarella bar and aged salami. Favorite pasta dishes include homemade linguine, ravioli and fettuccine. Fresh snapper, sea scallops and swordfish come alongside meat selections. Pizzas and paninis are among the restaurant’s casual dining options.
Barbatella employs many different methods of cooking: rotisserie, grill, wood-burning oven, deep-fryer and smoker (think roasted duck and baby back ribs). For dessert, there’s homemade gelato and sorbets.
Chef Justin Carlisi was a corporate chef in New Jersey before bringing his culinary talents to Barbatella. As his name suggests, his lineage traces back to Italy (Milan). He worked closely with Chef-Owner Aielli to develop Barbatella’s new fall menu.
“He’s a blast,” says Chef Justin. “He’s got a young spirit. I’ve worked for a lot of chefs. Chef Fabrizio is cut from a cloth they don’t make anymore. He fuels our creativity.”
Visitors to any of Aielli’s three Naples restaurants will appreciate Chef Fabrizio’s attention to detail. Not only does he handpick design elements, but he also knows the details of each ingredient and how it enhances the flavor profile of a dish.
“We spare no expense and energy to source the best products,” adds Chef Justin. “Everything is locally sourced as much as possible unless it needs to be imported.”
One thing Chef Justin has observed about Southwest Florida’s food scene is its educated consumers.
“There are few places left where people actually care about food and eat as part of a social experience,” he notes. “I feel this is one of those places.”
Barbatella truly inspires the senses, from its stunning decor to its savory dishes.
Arugula & Prosciutto Pizza
Cooked in a 1,000-degree, wood-fired oven, Barbatella’s specialty pizzas bake in just 50 seconds. There are many tasty varieties, including the house special, Capricciosa, with tomato, mozzarella, artichoke, mushrooms, ham and olives. The Arugula & Prosciutto Pizza is simply yet satisfying.
Barbatella’s artisan pastas are all made in-house. This classic fettuccine dish combines shrimp, pancetta and fresh ingredients, including heirloom tomatoes and asparagus. It’s finished with a light, garlic-white wine sauce.
This hearty, lasagne-like dish is meaty and satisfying. Its flavor comes from a medley of meats: ground beef, pork, prosciutto and charcuterie. A must-try for traditional Italian food aficionados!
Seafood dishes at Barbatella are sensational. Scallops and snapper both can be ordered pan-seared or grilled. The Seared Snapper is surprisingly served with heirloom tomato sauce. It sits atop a bed of wild rice with green beans and jumbo lump crab meat, adding flavor.
New York Strip
Barbatella offers many savory options from the grill. The 12-ounce Prime New York Strip steak is tender and juicy with a touch of rosemary and garlic seasoning. This flavorful dish is perfectly complemented by truffle olive oil whipped potatoes and roasted shiitake mushrooms.
Dessert options include many flavors of homemade Gelati and sorbets, Italian sundaes, classic Italian treats and the Barbatella Signature: Nutella Pizza. We tried the Sicilian Cannoli, a traditional fried pastry filled with sweet, creamy ricotta, topped with fresh raspberries — enjoyed with a real cappuccino!