By Cheryl Mandell
Photos by Autumn Gates
The blue lights surrounding the exterior of Aqua beckon from the road. Outside and inside, the blue ambiance gives off a cool, oceanic vibe. An eye-catching chandelier of crystal shells and spirals hangs from the vaulted ceilings, along with a “floating” Aqua logo illuminated on the foyer floor, which adds to the unique visual sensation of being under the sea.
Throughout the restaurant, the walls are adorned with beautiful framed black-and-white photos of area beaches and other nearby locales from days past.
Aqua restaurant’s newest location in Bonita Springs officially opened its doors on November 11, 2022. It is similar in menu and ambiance to the original location in Naples, which opened in 2010 and has since earned its reputation among the prominent restaurants of downtown Fifth Avenue. In addition to Aqua in Naples, owner Gordon Stojkoski formerly owned Liki Tiki BBQ on Fort Myers Beach, which no longer exists. Prior to moving to Florida full time 12 years ago, Stojkoski owned restaurants in Ohio and New Jersey. He’s been in the restaurant business for many years, starting his first restaurant in Bergen County, NJ, at the ripe old age of 19.
Discovering Stojkoski’s latest endeavor was no accident. After driving by the spot of the former Perkins at the northeast corner of U.S. 41 and Bonita Beach Road many times, he saw the potential for another hit restaurant.
“When I finally came in here, I said, ‘Man this building has a lot of potential — it could really make it.’ This corner is such a busy, popular corner,” said Stojkoski. “We spent three days with two bulldozers just to clean up the property. It didn’t need a roof, but we put on a copper roof to make it bright and the lights at night — it really stands out.”
Stojkoski credits the City of Bonita Springs with permitting assistance to expedite the opening, especially so soon after Hurricane Ian.
“Personally, seven of our employees lost everything. They were homeless, and my other employees in Naples took them in, sharing their shifts. We needed to get this new Aqua open fast so that we could employ everybody who lost everything,” said Stojkoski.
Aqua’s extensive menu is a blend of superbly marbled steaks and Mediterranean seafood consisting mainly of fresh, wild-caught fish. The menu is full of locally sourced meats, fish, vegetables, pasta and an impressive raw bar. Tried and true customer favorites include tuna steak on seaweed or seafood salad.
Our lovely waitress, Tanja, who hails from Montenegro, told us her favorite dish is the fresh-caught whole fish branzino, which is meticulously deboned at the table while you wait. It is served with grilled asparagus, vegetable risotto and lemon garlic caper butter sauce. Consider us hooked!
Chef Sandro Durante, originally from Peru but reared in White Plains, NY, is proud to include some Peruvian dishes on the menu. His favorite dish to cook is the whole fried yellowtail snapper, but his personal favorite to eat is any of the high quality steaks.
Aqua in Bonita Springs offers several things its Naples original location does not, including a breezy, accessible indoor-outdoor bar and a 4,000-bottle wine cellar, which affords an expanded wine list and more space to experience Aqua at its finest.
The drink menu is impressive. A wide array of distinctive cocktails and a large selection of domestic and imported beers make for a truly happy hour with food and drink specials from 3-6 p.m. daily, including steaks and a raw oyster bar. Aqua also offers a selection of Rocky Patel cigars to complement a fine evening of spirits, seafood, steak and celebration.
Did someone say celebration? The party never stops at Aqua, with live music performances daily, showcasing local musical talents from an array of genres including jazz, blues, country and classical. For those seeking a more intimate celebration, there is a small, elegant private party room that seats 12, lined wall-to-wall with every liquor and wine imaginable.
Aqua is open every day of the week, from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., offering a late-night menu from 9 p.m. to midnight. The inviting atmosphere beckons you to join the party and indulge in the finest local seafood and steaks, along with live music and specialty drinks until the wee hours.
Come accept the open invitation for a good time under the sea this weekend!
Beef Tenderloin — These melt-in-your-mouth beef tenderloins, offered on the happy hour menu, are something to be tried to be believed. Tender and savory, they are a home run for any discerning fan.
Beet Salad — Beets are a superfood, no doubt about it. Don’t believe us? Google it. But if you’re here for flavor above health benefits, you’ve still come to the right place. This roasted beet salad with goat cheese, blood orange, arugula and vincotto vinaigrette is sure to satisfy.
Seafood Salad – Calling all seafood lovers with this bountiful portion of shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari, arugula, vegetables, lemon, capers and olive oil. Call it a starter, but it can easily be considered an entree — it’s that satisfying.
Whole Fried Snapper — Chef Sandro’s favorite, this whole fried snapper is drizzled with Thai chili salsa, served with chow slaw and vegetable risotto for an entree you won’t soon forget.
Prime New York Strip — This Prime New York strip is an elevated version of a classic steakhouse steak. Each New York strip is prime grain and grass-fed beef from A Cut Above Butcher in Fort Lauderdale and has the rich marbling that is indicative of a stellar cut of beef. It is served with roasted garlic bulb, Yukon gold puree and roasted broccolini.
Molten Lava Cake — Believed to be invented in 1987 by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a great American-based chef, there are also claims that the original recipe came from Jacques Torres, a French chef and chocolatier. Either way, the end result at Aqua is an unforgettable, decadent chocolate cake with a smooth, warm chocolate center.
27940 Crown Lake Blvd