After all of the pandemic precautions, now more than ever, we appreciate gathering with friends and going out for a good meal. Whether youre seeking classy or cozy, you wont have to drive far to find outstanding cuisine at local restaurants.

This year, we enjoyed the flavors of Latin America, Italy and the Mediterranean, as well as classic American food and fresh-from-the-Gulf catches. As a toast to the final days of 2021, we present this mouthwatering roundup ofmusttrydishes fromsome of the regions finest restaurants.

 

Grappino Apricot Grappa

Grappino Apricot Grappa

Grappino

90 9th Street N., Naples

239.331.4325

grappinonaples.com

The Vibe: Grappinos beautiful design is clean and modern with liveedge tables made from trees indigenous to Southwest Florida. The main dining room features vibrant, hand-blown, Italianglass balloons that give off a fun, artistic flair. A comfortablebar and lounge iswhere youll find the impressive wall of grappas.Run by husband-wife team Fabrizio and Ingrid Aielli, Grappino manifests the heart of Italy in both itsentrees and its atmosphere.

Must Try: Grappa (Italian Pomace Brandy)

This high-potency, after-dinner drink originated with Italian farmers who created homemade batches with leftover grape seeds, stems and skins. Offering more than 100 varieties, Grappino is one of the largest grappa bars in the United States. Grappino has 10 house-infused grappas, including apricot, a perfect choice for novice grappa drinkersbalanced with a hint of sweetness.

 

 

Saloon Prime Rib

Saloon Prime Rib

 

The Saloon

23151 Village Shops Way, Suite 103

Coconut Point Mall, Estero

239.949.2583

thesaloon.net

The Vibe: The Saloon is a place to unwind with friends, enjoying the best in American cuisine and cocktails. Western era paintings from chef-owner Skip Quillen’s personal collection adorn the walls, complimenting rich wood decor and plush, velvet settees. With a 36-page drink menu and over 50 original Saloon cocktails, it may take a while to decide on libations. The Saloon’s barbecue offerings are cooked in small batches from scratch, “low and slow” for up to 15 hours a day — the old fashioned way!

 

Must Try: Smoked Prime Rib

Only at The Saloon will you find smoked prime rib with a flavor profile unlike any other prime rib in the region. This 14-ounce cut is lightly smoked in-house and served with au jus, creamy horseradish and a choice of side.

 

 

Snug Harbor Gulf Grouper

Snug Harbor Gulf Grouper

Snug Harbor Waterfront Restaurant

645 Old San Carlos Blvd., Fort Myers Beach

239.463.4343

www.snugharbor.restaurant

The Vibe: With a relaxing vibe, spectacular views and seafood so fresh it was swimming this morning, Snug Harbor Waterfront Restaurant is every anglersand eatersdream. The breezy, open-airrestaurant is located on Fort Myers Beachs picturesque Matanzas Harbor. Snug Harbor owns five fishing boats, which helps it maintain a constant supply of fresh seafood that keeps customers hooked.

Must Try: Gourmet Gulf Grouper

With fish so fresh it practically comes swimming to your plate, the grouper is a Gulf speciality! This tender, flaky fillet is served with a lemon beurre blanc sauce after being toasted and flat topped to perfection. The scrumptious dish is complemented by sides of redskin mashed potatoes and garlicbutter green beans.

 

 

Amfora Dorado

Amfora Dorado

Amfora Mediterranean Restaurant

8076 Mediterranean Dr., Suite 107

Coconut Point Mall, Estero

239.949.4038

AmforaRestaurant.com

The Vibe: This haven of hospitality and fine Mediterranean food is located near the main entrance to Coconut Point Mall. Nearly every dish at Amfora is finished in the wood-fired oven, fueled by red oak, releasing enticing aromas into the air. The food at Amfora is a delightful blend of Spanish, French, Italian, Adriatic and North African culinary influences.

Must Try: Dorado (Whole Fish)

At Amfora, both branzino and dorado (mahi-mahi) are presented whole and deboned right at the table. This is an experience not to be missed! Fresh dorado is displayed on ice until cooking. Its seared on both sides and finished in the wood oven with lemon slices placed inside the fish for extra flavor. Spanish escabeche sauce incorporates tomatoes, garlic, capers and sherry vinaigrette.

 

 

Charley's Sliders

Charley’s Sliders

Charleys Boat House Grill & Wine Bar

6241 Estero Boulevard

Fort Myers Beach

239.765.4800

www.boathousegrill.net

The Vibe: This restaurants roots go back to 1974, and in 2002, the authentic boathouse was converted into an Old Florida steakhouse. The dining room overlooks the water, where you might see a manatee or dolphin if youre lucky. Charleys new chef, Jared Liedel, is bringing culinary creativity and starting to dabble in molecular gastronomy.

Must Try: Scuttlebutt Sliders

Charleys famousprime rib has been the big draw for the last two decades. It takes on a new form in the Scuttlebutt Sliders. The primer rib is shaved thin and piled high with crispy fried onion tangles, melted blue cheese and bacon-tomato jam to create some super savory sliders.

 

 

Carinis Grandma Pie

Carinis Grandma Pie

Carini’s Pizzeria & Trattoria

24611 Production Circle, Bonita Springs

239.949.7770

carinisofbonita.com

The Vibe: Carini’s offers a glimmer of the Old World. Worries will dissipate as you’re swept into the atmosphere of this good, old-fashioned trattoria. Smooth jazz music, the smell of fresh baked pizza, and the jubilant smiles of staff and diners alike greet guests as they stroll inside the quaint, Italian eatery.

 

Must Try: Grandma Pie

Craving a pizza that’s light, airy and has the perfect crunch? Pizza dough is freshly prepared daily at Carini’s. The Grandma Pie is a thin-crust pizza topped with chunks of creamy mozzarella, dabs of homemade marinara sauce and basil ribbons—just like Nonna made it.

 

 

Pazzo Pork Chop Artigano

Pazzo Pork Chop Artigano

 

Pazzo! Cucina Italiana

853 Naples Fifth Avenue South

239.434.8494

Pazzoitaliancafe.com

The Vibe: Located on historic Naples Fifth Avenue, Pazzo’s menu features traditional Italian specialties—but with a bit of “crazy” (the meaning of “pazzo”). Characterized by its wooden floors, velvet-covered chairs and antique mirrors, the spectacular eatery gives off an Italian farmhouse vibe. Pazzo offers a welcoming environment, scrumptious entrees and a staff that is well-versed in the art of providing guests with a luxurious dining experience.

 

 

Must Try: Berkshire Pork Chop Artigano

Berkshire is a heritage breed of pork dating back 300 years renowned for its depth of flavor; Artigano means “artisan” in Italian. This meaty chop is grilled and served over crispy potatoes, cherry peppers, sundried tomatoes, fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley, basil and the house cheese blend. It’s served with sautéed spinach and roasted peppers, tossed in a marsala wine sauce.

 

 

El Gaucho Inca Ceviche Tiradito

El Gaucho Inca Ceviche Tiradito

El Gaucho Inca

22909 Lynden Dr., Estero

239.494.1564

elgauchoinca.com

The Vibe: El Gaucho Inca offers a unique fusion of Peruvian, Argentinian and Italian culture that cannot be found elsewhere. Visitors who linger at the beautifully crafted bar will likely be offered a Pisco Sour, the traditional drink of Peru.Craving a steak? El Gaucho Inca has an Argentinian Grill. For seafood enthusiasts, try a Peruvian delicacy. Want a bowl of creamy pasta? They offer that, too!

Must Try: Ceviche

El Gaucho Inca offers a wide variety of ceviches, flavored with Peruvian spices and peppers. Whether you are a ceviche lover or a newbie, ordering the Tiradito platter is the perfect way to sample a variety of ceviches. The trio features sliced white fish, cut sashimi style and flavored with jalapeño, rocoto and aji amarillo peppers. Its served with cancha (fried corn), choclo (steamed corn) and slices of sweet potato.

 

 
Seaside Jerk Chicken

Seaside Jerk Chicken

Seaside Bar & Grill

24850 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs

239.288.1470

theseasidebar.com

The Vibe: Seaside Bar & Grill is a new neighborhood hangout spot that offers locals a home away from home where they can enjoy socializing over live music and savory American cuisine. Daily themes include Taco Tuesday, Wine Down Wednesday and BBQ Thursday. On Monday evenings, locals enjoy 30 percent off their bill! In addition to a laid-back atmosphere, Seaside Bar & Grill has a great team and truly tasty cuisine.

Must Try: Jerk Chicken

Take a quick trip to the Caribbean with this sensational jerk chicken entrée. The dish includes a generous portion of juicy chicken breasts rubbed in Jerk seasoning and topped with diced mango, onion and fresh parsley. This crowd favorite is paired with Spanish rice and a tender vegetable medley. Theres also Jerk Shrimp for seafood enthusiasts!

 

 

T42 Di Manzo Carpaccio

T42 Di Manzo Carpaccio

T42

7991 Plaza Del Lago

Coconut Point Mall, Estero

239.323.4222

T42bonitasprings.com

The Vibe: Formed around the idea of sharing the best moments with family and friends, T42 is a unique restaurant concept featuring a relaxed atmosphere and small plates of seafood, American bistro and Italian cuisine. Opened at Coconut Point Mall in February 2021, T42 has sleek decor with classy art pieces. Everything on the T42 menu is meant to be shared. T42 offers premium customer service and an environment where guests are encouraged to share both food and special moments.

Must Try: Di Manzo Carpaccio

This scrumptious Italian classic features a smorgasbord of thinly sliced cured beef topped with fresh arugula, shaved Manchego cheese and a marinated sliver of portobello mushroom. For an extra zest of flavor, this dish is served with lemon and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

 

 

Lapas Arroz con Pollo

Lapas Arroz con Pollo

Lapa’s Costa Rican Bistro

26251 S. Tamiami Trail, Bonita Springs

239.221.7016

LapasCR.com

The Vibe: Guests may feel as if they have been swept away into Central America when they hear the jazzy boleros (Latin American love songs) and see the colorful lapas (macaws). Start with freshly made corn tortilla chips and guacamole, then wash it down with a refreshing glass of homemade juice or a Costa Rican beer served in a frosted glass. All dishes are made with locally sourced ingredients, and most include staples of Costan Rican cuisine—avocado, tomato, lime and cilantro—along with Costa Rica’s famous Lizano sauce.

Must Try: Arroz con Pollo

Arroz con Pollo (rice and chicken) is one of the restaurant’s best sellers. This hearty entrée consists of a generous helping of yellow rice mixed with shredded chicken, diced onion, red bell pepper, corn, peas and cilantro. It’s served with sweet plantains and a side of black beans topped with queso fresco and a cup of fresh chimichurri.

 

 

Bon Apetit!

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