By Laura J. Cummings
It’s not often a locally owned restaurant is able to open a second location in under one year. That’s how good Naples Coastal Kitchen is. About 11 months after Stuart Bell and his business partners opened the original restaurant, they celebrated the opening of an even larger location at Gulf Coast Town Center in November 2018.
Bell says he saw the need for a non-chain, upscale eatery there, and initial business has proved him right: “It’s opened up busier thank our Naples location did.”
Chef Hector Hidalgo — famous for his seafood tacos — remains plenty busy at the Naples location, so Bell has brought in another talented chef, Jeff Rizzo, to run the Gulf Coast kitchen. (Don’t worry, you can still get Chef Hector’s Famous Tacos and Homemade Key Lime Pie).
Chef Rizzo attended Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Miami, and worked in several kitchens in the Boca Raton area. His initial passion for food was cultivated as the son of a restaurant owner in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
Rizzo developed his seafood expertise while working for the now closed Fish Monger restaurant on Fort Myers Beach. He later opened his own catering business and served as a “seafood specialist.” Suffice it to say, he is a stickler for quality of seafood.
“We have local fishermen and serve locally caught grouper and snapper,” notes the chef. “The specials are all whatever is caught. It’s all local, Florida fish.”
Cold-water lobster tail comes from Canada or Maine, and all-natural sea scallops are procured from New Bedford, Mass., the “scallop capital of the world.”
“We’re trying to buy from respectable companies that care about the ocean and about sustainability,” says Rizzo.
Steaks are all choice cuts of Black Angus beef, raised on an Iowa ranch.
And produce? You’d better believe it’s also fresh and locally grown, when possible.
“When it makes sense, we try to keep everything local — our vegetables, herbs — all Florida grown,” adds Rizzo.
He is a lifelong learner who enjoys experimenting and continually growing his culinary skills. If you book a dinner at his Chef’s Table, you will no doubt be fortunate enough to be a guinea pig for his newest culinary experiments as he explores cooking techniques like Sous Vide, molecular gastronomy and mirror glazing desserts.
“I have dreamt of food for many, many years,” says Chef Rizzo. “I keep a pad by the side of my bed. I use these ideas for the Chef’s Table.”
Whether you book a night at the Chef’s Table, or just stop in for a casual lunch or dinner, every dish will be artfully presented. A good chef knows we eat with our eyes first.
“He’s very artistic with the food,” says Bell. “The plates are beautiful.”
The restaurant’s oceanic vibe enhances the ambience. It’s clean, modern and relaxing. Brushed metal tables, blue lights at the bar and ample patio dining create an inviting atmosphere with several seating options. You can even reserve the fire pit table outside — sure to spark a good time!
The Bull Bites are a best selling appetizer, and after sampling them, we see why! Filet mignon tips are blackened and served with a remoulade sauce that’s simply, super tasty. Order some Tater Kegs (oversized, stuffed tater tots) as a perfect companion to your Bites.
Start the evening with one of the many specialty drinks. The Strawberry Chiller is a Naples Coastal Kitchen Favorite with Tito’s Vodka combined with champagne, fresh strawberries and a refreshing hint of mint.
A pound of Prince Edward Island mussels is simmered to perfection in a from-scratch, white-wine, garlic and butter sauce. It’s conveniently served with French bread for sopping up all the buttery goodness that remains after the mussels have been eaten.
This beautifully fresh salad incorporates mixed greens with blueberries, strawberries, candied pecans and fresh watermelon, served with raspberry vinaigrette. But the real show-stopper is the goat cheese “crouton” on the top, creating a sensational combo of flavors.
Shrimp, Scallop & Lobster Pasta
This complex pasta dish is simply delicious. Penne pasta is tossed with shrimp, scallops langostinos (baby lobster), squash, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic and white wine. Add asiago cheese and hint of basil, and it’s divine!
Are you ready for a seafood sensation? This tasty trio includes wild-caught shrimp, jumbo sea scallops and a five-ounce, Gulf grouper fillet — available grilled, fried or blackened. Try it over Caribbean Rice to add a little sweetness to this savory dish.
Naples Coastal Kitchen
9908 Gulf Coast Main Street, Fort Myers