By Autumn Gates
“We want every day to be like a first date,” says Rick Giannasi, general manager of the newly opened Mediterranean coastal restaurant, Del Mar.
Located in the heart of Naples Fifth Avenue, Del Mar certainly makes an impression. From afar, the establishment looks like a modern-day palace with arched walkways, perfectly illuminated banners, and a two-story terrace lined with exquisite blooms and greenery. The joyful chatter of happy diners on the patio hints at the atmosphere of Del Mar, which manages to flawlessly straddle the line between carefree and refined.
One step inside this Mediterranean masterpiece and guests are met with the upbeat rhythm of modern tunes and the aroma of delicious, made-from-scratch meals. The menu is eclectic—an assortment of dips and spreads layered on freshly baked Greek pita bread, tender duck from France, Moroccan Tagine—showcasing the best Mediterranean coastal cuisine has to offer, including dishes inspired by the flavors of Greece, Southern Spain, Morocco, France, Italy and Turkey.
Del Mar opened its doors in December 2021 with seating for 300 people and has since attracted a wide array of guests to fill its inviting interior. The impressive restaurant is a newly created concept from Cameron Mitchell, a restaurant group which operates 40 restaurants with 18 unique brands, including the famed Ocean Prime.
Executive Chef David Vilchez brings both flavorful Mediterranean cuisine and an impressive background of leadership to Del Mar. The Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef has been following his passion for creating mouthwatering recipes since his youth—he spent many days cooking with his grandmother. From serving as a culinary specialist for the U.S. Navy to working in high-class restaurants in Los Angeles, Vilchez draws from his experiences to bring guests a phenomenal selection of scratch-made coastal dishes.
“Whatever we don’t use, we throw out, and the next day we start all over again. It’s all very fresh,” says server Rae Deluca.
The freshness of the ingredients used to prepare each dish, paired with the restaurant’s glamorous interior and relaxing environment, unsurprisingly yield a thriving business. With two floors of spacious indoor dining, two bars featuring an impressive variety of handcrafted cocktails, a cozy private dining room, and a double-level terrace, each experience at Del Mar is distinct.
“The most unique thing about Del Mar is the great variety it offers—not just in the food, but also in the seating,” says Giannasi. “The different areas of the restaurant all have different personalities.”
Everything about Del Mar is grand—from the intriguing glass bulbs hanging above the bar downstairs to the wood-burning hearth oven visible from the clear panes lining the restaurant’s “peekaboo” kitchen. Fantastical trees tower amid the tables in the upstairs dining room. It is evident that Del Mar will not be upstaged.
With a background appearing on Broadway in New York City and acting in soap operas (while simultaneously working in the restaurant industry and nurturing his passion for creating specialty drinks), Giannasi can relate. The vivacious general manager brings a lively energy to the restaurant, ensuring a guest experience that is nothing short of superb through five-star service, a spirited environment and mouthwatering cuisine.
“Hospitality is how you want to make people feel in your house,” says Giannasi, who prides himself on providing his guests with a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere.
Each member of Del Mar’s team shares this mission—from the waitstaff to the servers, bartenders and chefs. They all work in tandem to bring smiles to the faces of each guest through small but meaningful gestures, such as taking time to explain the magnificent Mediterranean dishes they bring to the table and providing guests with warm towelettes after they have enjoyed a seafood feast complete with all the tools for cracking into lobster and crab shells to get at the delicate meat.
Since the team approaches each day like a first date, every visit to Del Mar feels like a momentous occasion. The lights must be perfectly dimmed, décor straightened, and the music just right to create a Mediterranean coastal dining experience that is unmatched. And when the date comes to its end, guests cheerfully wave goodbye to the bold, modern light fixtures, glossy wooden tables and attentive staff, knowing that a second date will soon come.
House-made Cocktails: With a history of crafting creative cocktails during his time as a mixologist at Ocean Prime, General Manager Rick Giannasi ensures that Del Mar has a drink for every palate. In the mood for something bold? The Greek Punch features Lightning from the mountains of Greece! Prefer a light citrusy flavor? The Passion Fruit Spritz has you covered. From sweet floral mixes to rich liquors, the drink menu includes 11 different cocktails each bringing a unique flavor profile.
Spicy Lamb Sausage Flatbread: For a light starter with tantalizing flavors, try one of the three Turkish flatbreads made from scratch in Del Mar’s kitchen. The Spicy Lamb Sausage features a freshly baked flatbread lightly coated in a sweet tomato sauce and topped with a three-cheese blend, feta cheese, and a zippy lamb sausage. The platter is finished with a house-made seasoning and a generous drizzle of Mediterranean olive oil.
Golden Beet Salad: The Golden Beet salad brings a bright, fresh flavor to the table, showcasing golden beets, avocado, gala apples, and radish slices over crisp frisée greens. This colorful bowl is drizzled with a creamy, herbed Greek yogurt dressing and sprinkled with crushed pistachio for a light and satisfying crunch.
Lamb Rack Tagine: Prepare to be amazed! This family-style main course comes in a beautiful pottery dish and features a tender lamb rack seasoned with ras el hanout and cooked to perfection in the restaurant’s wood burning hearth. The entrée is served over a delicious seasonal squash medley including Brussels sprouts, red onion, zucchini, yellow squash and sweet potatoes, and is garnished with pine nuts. On the side, the meal comes with a delightful citrus couscous and buttery, confit potatoes.
Open-Fire Roasted Shellfish Platter: Another showstopper from the restaurant’s hearth oven is the Open-Fire Roasted Shellfish. This smoky seafood blend is comprised of jumbo shrimp, jumbo scallops, mussels, clams and lobster tail. The scrumptious platter comes piping hot, covered in grape leaves and soaking in a tangy lemon tomato broth, surrounded by roasted garlic and lemons.
Turkish Coffee Mousse: Still have room for dessert? The Turkish Coffee Mousse will be your new favorite treat! This decadent dessert features a flavorful coffee mousse layered on an espresso brownie crust and topped with homemade whipped cream, caramel drizzle and espresso crumble. For a dynamic final course, pair with the Del Café, a rich cocktail featuring espresso and Belvedere vodka.
Del Mar Naples
494 Fifth Avenue S., Naples