As Estero and the surrounding areas continue to grow, so do the dining options. On our culinary adventures through Southwest Florida this year, we have explored a variety of top-tier establishments. From a contemporary steakhouse to good, old-fashioned New England seafood to an eclectic Italian gastropub and much more, we’re here to highlight those delectable dining experiences.
27940 Crown Lake Blvd., Bonita Springs
239.405.7188 / aquafifth.com/aqua-bonita-springs
Outside and inside, the blue ambiance of Aqua gives off a cool, oceanic vibe. 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 offers several things its original location in Naples does not – including a breezy, accessible indoor-outdoor bar and a 4,000-bottle wine cellar. The inviting atmosphere at Aqua beckons you to join their party and indulge in the finest local seafood and steaks, along with live music and specialty drinks until the wee hours.
DISH TO DIE FOR: Prime New York Strip – An elevated version of the 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 potato puree and roasted broccolini.
BAR TULIA – MERCATO
9118 Strada Place, Suite 8150, Naples
239.438.1031 / bartulia.com
Bar Tulia is a gastropub that satisfies discerning palates for cuisine and cocktails alike. Building upon his successful restaurants in Naples, renowned chef and Sicilian native Vincenzo Betulia opened Bar Tulia in Mercato in April 2021. The dishes are created using fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced locally and from overseas (like the gourmet Italian cherries!), prepared with a unique combination of traditional and modern flavors inspired by Betulia’s homeland. The Bar Tulia beverage menu is a sight to behold, featuring signature craft cocktails with clever names like Hop to Scotland, Butter My Toast and Rummage Sale.
DISH TO DIE FOR: Truffle Brie Raviolo “Carbonara” — One giant raviolo filled with mouth-watering fresh ricotta and smothered in creamy cheese and brown butter. This satisfying pasta dish is adorned with bias-cut asparagus, greens and guanciale (cured Italian pork cheek).
THE CLAM BAKE
16520 S Tamiami Trail, Suite 152, Fort Myers
239.482.1930 / clambakefortmyers.com
The Clam Bake is a comforting taste of home for local New Englanders and a special treat for guests who may be experiencing this style of seafood for the first time. Originally from Rhode Island, the Thomas family has been crafting delicious seafood dishes long before setting their sights on Southwest Florida. The Clam Bake also creates unique cocktails with names that are nods to northern locales, such as the Mystic Sunset Margarita named after the famous Mystic seaport in Connecticut. The restaurant’s motto is, “Bring your family to meet our family.” Serving fresh Atlantic coast fare in a warm, welcoming atmosphere isn’t just the Thomas family’s job – it’s their passion.
DISH TO DIE FOR: Lobster Roll — The abundance of fresh lobster with absolutely no filler makes this roll stand out. It’s served cold to preserve flavor and texture and nestled in a light and airy, toasted split-top hot dog bun that is flown in from up north (a big deal for New Englanders in the know).
13800 Tamiami Trail North, Naples
239.260.7478 / limoncellonaples.com
When you visit Limoncello, you’re whisked away to a simpler time and place where the fare is fresh from the land and sea, and everyone is famiglia. Adorning every wall in the main dining area are hand-painted Italian street scenes straight out of the mid-20th century. Owners Cosimo and Ashleigh Picci bring their love of the Amalfi coast into everything they do at Limoncello. Along with Chef Matteo Hanaman, who was born and raised in Calabria to a family of restaurateurs, Picci and Hanaman prepare an authentic taste of Italy in every dish created at Limoncello. The food is made with simple and fresh ingredients, just as you’d find in traditional southern Italian dishes.
DISH TO DIE FOR: Polipo Alla Griglia – Perfectly grilled octopus on a bed of savory roasted potato slices in salmoriglio (lemon and olive oil sauce). Octopus is a southern Italian classic and is found in many dishes from that region.
3250 Bonita Beach Rd. SW, suite 202, Bonita Springs
239.301.2902 / malinchebonitasprings.com
The Lopez family, brothers Jorge and Antonio Lopez and Jorge’s wife Mara, serve up delicious, authentic Mexican food that honors their Aztec and Mayan culture from central and southern Mexico. Many of the recipes on the menu are derived from their hometown, Tlaxcala, with ingredients purchased directly from Mexico for true authenticity. Less adventurous guests can choose from more familiar menu items such as enchiladas or chimichangas. The list of tacos is extensive. What sets Malinche apart are the Clasicos de la Casa (house classics), such as Tlacoyo Pre-Hispanico and Especiales (specials) like Entomatadas, a main dish from Central Mexico. No matter what you choose, you’ll leave Malinche with a newfound appreciation for Mexican cuisine.
DISH TO DIE FOR: Molcajete Azteca – One of “abuela’s most popular dishes,” it is a sight to behold. Served in traditional molcajete volcanic rock, honoring the volcano Malinche, it is served with Mexican rice, homemade frijoles de la olla, guacamole, pico de gallo, fresh tortillas, queso fresco, grilled onions, grilled nopal (cactus), toreado grilled jalapeno, Mexican chorizo and salsa. A choice of marinated chicken, steak or blackened shrimp rounds out this unique dish.
MAKS ASIAN KITCHEN & SUSHI
13650 Fiddlesticks Blvd, Suite 206, Fort Myers
239.985.9632 / maksfl.com
Billy and Kevin Mak’s ultimate goal at MAKS Asian Kitchen & Sushi is quality and freshness, which the brothers deliver in abundance. The restaurant is clean, modern and inviting with subtle Asian decor accents, such as wooden partitions that artfully resemble cherry blossom branches. The sushi bar is impeccable and minimalist, with sushi that speaks for itself. The menu contains a wide variety of extremely fresh sushi and sashimi, as well as hot and cold Japanese and Chinese dishes. The chefs at MAKS (including Kevin and Billy) are masters of their craft, meticulously creating classic and unique Asian cuisine that keeps patrons returning time and again.
DISH TO DIE FOR: MAKS Crispy Rice – It’s one of the more complex items to create, according to Billy, and certainly worth it. Butter soy crispy rice topped with spicy salmon or choice of spicy tuna, smelt roe (also known as masago–deliciously edible fish eggs), scallions, avocado slices and spicy miso mayo.
4480 Bonita Beach Road SW, Bonita Springs
239.301.4949 / primehouse1.com
Owner Sam Purisic and his family have created an upscale, contemporary steakhouse that delivers everything a high-end steakhouse should – top quality steaks, seafood and seasoned service with a smile. Whether cooking in the kitchen, tending bar or serving, the Purisic family is committed to delivering exceptional service. The chef at Prime House spent years at Peter Luger’s steakhouse, and the expertise is evident. Many guests visit the restaurant several times a month to get their fill of first-class steaks, seafood and occasional Tomahawk and Wagyu market specials.
DISH TO DIE FOR: Porterhouse for Three — This is one of the best steaks we’ve ever tasted. Bold statement, but true. The porterhouse was cooked to perfection and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. An instant favorite.
REAL SEAFOOD CO.
8960 Fontana Del Sol Way, Naples
239.591.3523 / realseafoodcorestaurant.com
Real Seafood Co. offers premium fresh fish and seafood from the waters of New England, Nova Scotia, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico in a fun, tropical setting. The vibrant, eclectic ambiance isn’t the only thing worth noting – every dish on the menu features fresh-caught seafood, express-delivered and made-to-order from scratch. The quality of the restaurant’s seafood suppliers set Real Seafood Co. apart from many others; Foley Fish products are sustainably sourced, meticulously processed and handled with care from dock to plate.
DISH TO DIE FOR: Drunken Grouper — This eight-ounce black grouper – the highest quality grouper you can eat– is marinated with chardonnay, broiled to perfection and topped with sweet onions and basil in a sweet citrus glaze. It’s served with garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed asparagus for a meal made in paradise!