Chef Patrick Figini didn’t speak much English when he immigrated to America in 2005. He began working in the kitchen of a French restaurant, so he was comfortable speaking his native language. Then one night he met an attractive American woman. “He said, ‘I don’t speak English, but I like your face,’” recalls Margaret, now his wife of 10 years. “Two bottles of Sancerre and we were nearly married!” This duo now runs L’Auberge French restaurant in North Naples. It’s Chef Patrick’s first venture in America; however, he previously owned three restaurants in France, one outside of Paris and two in Brittany. His father was also a restauranteur, so Patrick grew up in the kitchen. Thankfully, the menu at L’Auberge isn’t as eccentric as that of his father, who served everything from snake to monkey!
Frog legs, escargot and foie gras are as exotic as it gets at L’Auberge, and these are all time-honored French classics. Chef Patrick keeps it traditional, offering patrons just what they would expect from a fine Parisian restaurant. The menu features house smoked salmon, French onion soup, beef bourguignon, roasted duck, lamb chops, red snapper and much more. Most items are gluten free, making L’Auberge an excellent choice for those with restricted diets. Early hours diners will appreciate the prix fixe menu, available from 5 p.m.-5:45 p.m., with three-course meal choices offered for $19.99 and $29.99. This includes some of Chef Patrick’s most popular desserts, like Crème Brûlée and Profiteroles, a trio of light puff pastries filled with vanilla ice cream and decadently topped with chocolate sauce. Dessert at L’Auberge is not to be missed.
Enjoy a cappuccino or the Chateau Petit Vedrines dessert wine while you await a delicate soufflé. Or, add some after-dinner excitement with the Crepes Suzette, which dazzles as flambéed Grand Marnier orange liqueur burns atop the French crepes. Linger as long as you like; you’re on Parisian time. L’Auberge isn’t notable in its decor, but the atmosphere is cozy and quiet, with just 14 tables seating parties of two to four. Of course, the chef and his wife are happy to accommodate larger parties, as well. As hostess, Margaret personally greets every guest as they arrive and thanks them as she holds the door after the meal is done. This French hospitality, along with Chef Patrick’s culinary skill, has endeared L’Auberge to many loyal patrons. Chef Patrick still doesn’t speak much English, but his authentic French cuisine speaks for itself. Bon appétit!
01. ESCARGOTS DE BOURGOGNE
There’s no better way to start a traditional French meal than with escargot. It’s estimated the French eat 20,000 tons of snails per year! Chef Patrick prepares these tiny delicacies in a classic garlic butter parsley sauce, so delicious you’ll want to sop it up with French bread after you’ve enjoyed your escargot!
02. FOIE GRAS FAIT MAISON
Foie gras, meaning “fatty liver,” has been a part of the gastronomical heritage of France for centuries. Chef Patrick makes his rich, buttery foie gras in house. This premium appetizer is served with caramelized onions and toast.
03. MARMITE DE MOULES
This steaming pot of Prince Edward Island mussels can be shared as an appetizer or savored as an entree. Deciding which sauce to order is even more difficult. Chef Patrick prepares his mussel pots with eight different flavor profiles, from Dijonnaise mustard sauce to classic Mariniere white wine sauce, and from Indienne curry sauce to the Chef’s special with spicy chorizo and bacon. A flavorful but not overpowering pick is the Provençale, with white wine, tomatoes, garlic, black olives and herbs.
04. ST. JACQUES AU CHOIX
These meaty Nantucket scallops are colossal in size as well as flavor. Again, Chef Patrick offers patrons choices: a light and fresh Provençale sauce or a rich saffron-flavored cream sauce (pictured here) with green peppercorns. This tender seafood dish is complemented by a cooked tomato and spinach with rice.
05. VEAU JOSEPHINE
Do not visit L’Auberge without ordering the Veau Josephine. Once you try it, you will know why this specialty is one of Chef Patrick’s most requested dishes. Fork-tender veal medallions are encrusted in parmesan and served in a creamy mushroom sauce over fettuccine. The resulting experience is French comfort food euphoria.
06. GRAND MARNIER SOUFFLE
A perfect soufflé is all about technique, and Chef Patrick has mastered it. This light, airy dessert is the ideal finish to a fine French meal. The Grand Marnier Soufflé is delicately flavored with orange liqueur. After rising from its ramekin, this impressive soufflé is presented in all its fluffy fullness before being filled with creamy vanilla custard.