By Autumn Gates
Intentionally designed with ingenious touches of “crazy,” Pazzo! Cucina Italiana draws diners seeking to experience the best Italian cuisine Southwest Florida has to offer.
“Pazzo means crazy in Italian,” explains public relations specialist Kathy Prutos. “The menu features traditional Italian specialties, but there’s always a bit of a twist – each dish has a little bit of crazy.”
From Pazzo’s trademark, complimentary welcome plate – a wonderous array of artisan cured meats, Sicilian olives, and homemade eggplant caponata – to pasta dishes like the Lobster Fettucine, showcasing an entire Maine lobster at your table, each course brings delightful surprises.
Located on historic Naples Fifth Avenue, Pazzo has been serving Southwest Florida for the past 26 years. Characterized by its wooden floors, velvet-covered chairs and antique mirrors, the spectacular eatery gives off an Italian farmhouse vibe. The magic behind this place is inspired by owner Skip Quillen, a serial entrepreneur who also owns four other restaurants in the area including Yabba Island Grill, The Saloon at Coconut Point and two locations of Chops City Grill.
“Pazzo is Skip’s baby,” says Prutos. “It was his first restaurant; since its opening in 1995, his goal has always been to create the best Italian restaurant.”
With a welcoming environment, mouthwatering, homemade recipes and a staff that is well-versed in the art of providing guests with a luxurious experience, the beautifully designed restaurant certainly lives up to Quillen’s vision. However, on Fifth Avenue, luxurious restaurants with excellent cuisine, beautiful glassware and attentive servers are expected. Pazzo takes luxury a step further – adding an element of classy-meets-crazy!
The restaurant is continually reinventing itself. Whether that means introducing new menu items like the recently added Veal Chop Marsala and delectable Lasagnetto, or launching a full-scale renovation of the building, Pazzo does whatever it takes to ensure all of its guests have an experience that is nothing short of divine.
Every summer, the chefs take a trip to New York City to get fresh ideas for new dishes and inspiration to put creative twists on old favorites. While the menu regularly features new items, Pazzo also celebrates its beloved classics, including Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli, Cozze Nero and Calamari Miso, which the restaurant has been serving for the past 25 years.
“I’ve never seen a restaurant that put more work into their food,” says server Billy DeArmond. “This is the kind of place you just close your eyes and point (at the menu), and you know it’s going to be good.”
The cutting-edge Italian cuisine is complemented by Pazzo’s dazzling interior and friendly staff. At Pazzo, beauty is found in thoughtfully chosen details – vintage posters line the walls, grand chandeliers with colorful glass pears and grapes dangle from the ceiling, and chairs are covered with crushed velvet in a variety of quirky patterns.
The staff adds a sense of home to the experience with light-hearted stories and helpful menu recommendations. General Manager Nick LeGuyader, Executive Chef Abel Tirado and their industrious team work together seamlessly to make sure guests walk away proclaiming that Pazzo is the best Italian place around.
Complementing the crazy good cuisine, Pazzo’s drink menu is equally innovative with a 150–bottle wine list and a wide variety of delicious craft cocktails created by Bar Manager Peggy Feldon. The nationally acclaimed “Joey Lollipop” is made with jalapeno-infused silver tequila, Sicilian orange liqueur, prickly pear and agave syrup, and a classic Dum Dum lollipop. Admittedly an interesting choice, the lollipop is a symbol of what the restaurant strives to be – a place where intentionality and craziness coexist.
From the glamorous Italian decor to the attentive servers and the unique flavor profiles found in the dishes and drinks, everything at Pazzo is a little crazy – and that’s what keeps guests coming back.
Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli – Three homemade raviolis come stuffed with butternut squash, served with a dollop of basil-mascarpone cheese and sauteed spinach, amid a citrus sugo (prosciutto, lemon, tomato-butter sauce) sprinkled with toasted walnuts, grated walnut biscotti and a fried basil leaf.
Tiny Tomatoes – This fresh salad features a seasoned mix of heirloom tomatoes with warm buffalo-mozzarella-stracciatella cheese, blackberries, prosciutto, fresh stone fruit and sweet basil.
Cozze Nero – The finest Prince Edward Island black mussels are served with roma pomodoro, garlic, hearts of artichoke, colatura (Italian fish sauce) and with a huge chunk of ciabatta bread, fresh chives and parsley.
Branzino – Sautéed Mediterranean sea bass sits atop olive oil-whipped potatoes, served with fresh Maine lobster and shrimp, topped with sambucca scampi sauce and sautéed fava beans, garnished with fresh basil oil, fennel top and fresh oregano.
Berkshire Pork Chop Artigano: Berkshire is a heritage breed of pork dating back 300 years renowned for its depth of flavor; Artigano means craftsman or 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 red, yellow and green peppers, tossed in a marsala wine sauce.
Carnevale Cheesecake – Named for the many colors of the Carnevale (Italy’s Mardi Gras), this homemade, traditional Italian ricotta cheesecake is served in Tuaca – a royal Italian liqueur blend of brandy, Mediterranean citrus and vanilla with hints of butterscotch, cola and dried fig – amid a golden raisin sauce with fresh seasonal blackberries, strawberries and raspberries.
Pazzo! Cucina Italiana
853 Naples Fifth Avenue South