Southwest Florida has no shortage of excellent cuisine! This year we were privileged to sample the menus of restaurants from a variety of unique cultures including Peruvian, Italian and Greek. While 2020 brought many changes to the dining experience, it also introduced us to some new favorite eateries – like the breathtaking Sails Restaurant and carefree Zino Ristorante. Enjoy this mouthwatering roundup featuring must try–dishes from some of the region’s finest restaurants.
A Taste of Peru
The Vibe: This homey eatery is where families can come to experience a variety of flavors straight from the valleys of Peru. An easygoing environment, authentic cuisine, and staff who genuinely care make this restaurant a standout in our region. Almost entirely staffed by the owner’s family, A Taste of Peru delivers just what the name says: an authentic Peruvian dining experience.
Must Try: Tallarines Verdes Con Lomo Saltado
A Peruvian classic, Tallarines Verdes will quickly become a family favorite. This creamy fettuccine is coated in a fresh pesto blend containing basil, crackers and pecans. Topped with sweet, red onions and delicious cuts of sautéed beef, this dish is savory and satisfying.
The Vibe: If you want to wine and dine like a king, Zino is your place! Owners Michael Franzino and Vinny Ricigliano will make you chuckle as they crack jokes and serve fresh Italian dishes with creative American twists. Their obvious passion for hospitality combined with the ristorante’s relaxed atmosphere and palate-pleasing cuisine make Zino the perfect dinner spot.
Must Try: Pan Seared Walleye
Zino’s “signature” Pan Seared Walleye may seem a surprising choice for an Italian restaurant – but boy is it tasty! This mild, flaky fish is seared to perfection with a hint of lemon and paired with fluffy mashed potatoes, green beans and red peppers. For a special after-dinner treat, enjoy a Double Espresso Martini crafted by “Martini Mark.” This distinctive cocktail features a blend of dark espresso, vodka and Kahlúa.
Olde Florida Chop House
The Vibe: With a refreshingly calm ambience, this steakhouse exemplifies class and elegance without the stuffiness that diners commonly associate with upscale establishments. The petite chop house demonstrates a spectacular commitment to quality that can be seen in each dish – whether you are being served fresh stone crab straight from the Everglades or a juicy hunk of wet- and-dry-aged beef.
Must Try: Surf & Turf and the Smoked Manhattan
Offered as a nightly special, the Surf & Turf at Olde Florida Chop House will not disappoint. Guests can expect to be served a generous portion of the freshest seafood and succulent steak. Our party enjoyed an aromatic plate featuring an Australian Wagyu New York strip paired with a vibrant, red South African lobster. To make your experience even more delightful, the chop house offers a unique take on the classic bourbon-and-vermouth with its Smoked Manhattan. This curious beverage comes to the table smoking, veiled by a glass dome.
The Vibe: Located in a lovely spot on Naples Fifth Avenue, Sails is a dreamy restaurant that is most certainly one-of-a-kind. Owner Velko Pavicevic and his staff swept us off our feet with Serbian hospitality, simple yet elegant décor, and a constant flow of gourmet dishes and wines. There is a story behind every aspect of the restaurant – from the bar countertop carved from a mountainside in Greece to the delicate crystal glasses that once belonged to Velko’s grandmother. Through small touches and genuine interactions, this exquisite establishment provides customers with the finest cuisine and dining experience available.
Must Try: Slow Cooked Pork Belly
This absolutely divine pork belly is brined for a staggering 36 hours to produce a dish bursting with flavor. The platter’s flawless presentation makes it look almost as good as it tastes! Strips of tender pork belly are glazed with a tangy burnt orange sauce coupled with carefully placed bites of slow-roasted pineapples, radishes and fennel. If you still have an appetite after partaking in this delicious plate, try the Montenegro – a simple but heavenly Greek yogurt representing the unique culture that inspired Sails.
The Vibe: By creating an environment that is both comfortable and chic, Burntwood Tavern attracts guests who seek a casual yet sophisticated experience. The stylish restaurant showcases a variety of classic American dishes expertly smoked, planked and wood-grilled in a space filled with artsy, rustic décor.
Must Try: Panko Crusted Grouper
This tasty lunch item features a large fillet of fresh, lightly sautéed grouper coated in Panko breadcrumbs and encased in a brioche bun. To complement the flavors, the sandwich is topped with a creamy, lemon aioli sauce, a peppery arugula, and spicy dill pickles. On the side is a generous portion of the tavern’s hand cut fries.
Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar
The Vibe: Being at Marlin Bar makes you feel as if you are on a Caribbean island vacation. Guests are invited to chat with servers at the bar, shop the latest fashions at Tommy Bahama, or sit down for a light but satisfying meal on the spacious patio. This relaxing, hang-out spot promotes healthy eating and protecting the environment with its use of nutritious ingredients (papaya, avocado and baby greens, to name a few) and biodegradable plates.
Must Try: Jerk Chicken Tacos
What’s not to love about jerk chicken tacos? This tropical-themed dish features two soft tacos filled with generous portions of perfectly spiced jerk chicken topped with mango salsa, island slaw, avocado and lime sour cream. Pair the delectable plate with a signature cocktail and enjoy!
The Vibe: Skillets is a breakfast and lunch spot designed to cater to the busy lives of residents of Southwest Florida. Owners Ross and Noreen Edlund invite you to indulge in a home-cooked meal without the hassle. By offering a relaxed atmosphere and fresh, healthy meals made from scratch, the duo makes guests feel at home.
Must Try: Avocado Grilled Tomato Benedict
If you want a hearty breakfast packed with nutrients, look no further than the Avocado Grilled Tomato Benedict. Skillets’ menu features several Eggs Benedict variants; the classic includes two poached eggs on a jumbo grilled English muffin, topped with a delicious, house-made, sun-dried tomato hollandaise sauce. The Avocado Grilled Tomato Benedict adds fresh slices of avocado and diced, sun-dried tomato for extra pops of flavor.
The Vibe: For a unique, local atmosphere and mouthwatering Tex-Mex cooking, visit Cantina 109. This colorful establishment has much to boast about: 109 different tequilas, high-quality ingredients that keep customers coming back, and passionate staff, many of whom are students at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Must Try: Chicken Chimichanga
The chicken chimichanga is a filling and palatable Mexican-American dish featuring a deep-fried flour tortilla stuffed with tender shredded chicken, seasoned grilled onions, lettuce and cheddar-jack cheese. This scrumptious plate is classically paired with sides of refried beans and rice. Ask a friendly staff member to recommend a tequila, or sample several!
The Vibe: At Mykonos Kuzina, customers are welcomed warmly with big smiles, personalized
service, bright décor and the pleasant smell of Mediterranean cuisine. The relaxed restaurant is extremely family-oriented, evidenced by its staff (almost entirely related!), amazing family recipes and down-to-earth vibe. Opa!
Must Try: Octopus
Before sampling the octopus at Mykonos Kuzina, Owner Dena Poulias let us know that it was the “Best in Naples!” This claim set the bar high — but after appreciating the tender and flavorful, charbroiled octopus set in front of us, we had to agree. This phenomenal starter dish set the tone for a bounty of excellent dishes at the restaurant, ending on a sweet note with the house-made Baklava, a classic Greek pastry featuring layers of walnuts, phyllo dough and syrup.
By Autumn Gates