Naples' Best Restaurants for Wowing and Wooing



With a name like Naples, this destination practically guarantees romance, especially in the dining department. The region is heavy on Italian restaurants, and satisfies that craving for Old World ambiance and from scratch cuisine with extra special spots such as Campiello and Osteria Tulia. They evoke Italy's finest with artfully tailored specialties and atmospheres custom made for romance. At Campiello, you feel as though you are dining in a Roman courtyard, whereas at Osteria Tulia you will sense more of a rustic farm house air.

Other restaurants, such as The French Brasserie Rustique and Bleu Provence take their romantic cues from France, one of the most passionate places in the world, especially when it comes to food. But of course the setting tracks strongly when it comes to creating a date night atmosphere to remember and cherish. And one of Naples' most endearing settings is the beach, where sunset happens nightly. BALEEN boasts one of the region's most striking settings, so close to the beach you can sit with your toes in the sand and bask in the glow of a bonfire and Naples' brand of toasty climes.

This list scours the multitude of restaurants that fill the Naples, Bonita Spring and Marco Island area with so many choices, so little time. Based on careful research and consideration, it offers up  the 10 best restaurants in the region for impressing a first date, fanning the flames of passion, celebrating love or even popping the question.



10
Old Naples
Chez Boet
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


 

Chez Boet labels its cuisine "French home cooking," but also delves into the north African cuisine that one finds in Paris. Hummus accompanies the crusty bread; tagine - slow roasted stew with couscous - is a specialty. The lamb variety is exceedingly hearty and flavorful. Mussels comes in a delicious light wine broth as an appetizer or as moules frites, an entree with hand cut French fries. Seafood, pates and fondue round out the menu. Divine desserts bust the firmest resolutions: fine chocolate fondue and napoleon with fresh berries and homemade chantilly. Less snooty than the French restaurant stereotype, intimate Chez Boet even caters to "well-behaved" kids.


9
The Grill
Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Naples


 

Nothing beats a dinner out at the Ritz, where service, setting and culinary excellence combine to foment an experience that transcends mere eating by miles. The Grill excels in fine steaks, but also knows its way around seafood. Dry-aged cuts include New York strip, ribeye and Delmonico, plus filet mignon, veal chop and Colorado rack of lamb. Why not splurge further and add a side of foie gras or a lobster tail? Signature entrees run the gamut from salmon with mussel-dill butter sauce to braised short ribs with maple butternut squash puree. Despite its formality, the atmosphere feels relaxed. Live music, usually light piano, frequently entertains.


8
Bay House Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


 

Overlooking serene Cocohatchee Bay, the Bay House - as it is most commonly known- is regarded as one of the city's most spectacular seafood restaurants. This charming eatery serves fresh, Southern-inspired and bistro-style seafood dishes, as well as steak and chicken options. Most tables in the main dining room - decorated coastily with wooden boats hanging from the ceiling - and patio offer views of the surrounding waterway, ensuring patrons a scenic setting on top of a sensational meal. Tierney's Bar offers an alternative cozy setting of fireplace and dark wood. Live entertainment plays in the bar Wednesday through Saturday evenings, and private banquet rooms are available.


7
Sails Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


 

"Excellence" describes the new Sails Restaurant from start to finish. From start: Owners meticulously sourced decor items such as a Greek marble bar in the shape of a sail, dish ware, and the finest seafood and steaks to create a modern European coastal setting and cuisine. Guests select their own fresh seafood, its poundage and its preparation: wood grilled, salt baked or seared a la plancha. Artistically presented seafood towers, crudos and tartares launch a memorable experience. Courses of seafood salads, house-made pasta and global entrees ensue. Try the Peppered Tuna Rossini with seared foie gras, black truffle and charcoal-roasted onions; or prime tenderloin with coffee-roasted onions. An exacting wine list and decadent, modern dessert menu are the final excellence icing on this lovely cake.


6
The French Brasserie Rustique
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


 

From soupe a l'oignon to the nuts in the apple tarte tatin, everything feels and tastes deliciously francais at this addition to the Fifth Avenue South litany of inimitable dining experiences. Chef Vincenzo Betulia, mastermind of two eateries up the street, leaves his native Italy for a rustic brasserie adventure in an art nouveau setting with a massive display kitchen and charming bar offering indoor-outdoor service. The lunch/Sunday brunch menu spans eggs, a $22 prime rib burger, pasta and steak frites. What's for dinner? Start with the oeufs mimosa – deviled eggs with braised Portuguese octopus and napa cabbage – or chopped tartare and cornichons. Both demonstrate Betulia's flair for turning folk food gourmet. Provencale seafood stew, trout amandine, crisp duck leg confit with sour cherry, oven-roasted chicken with wild mushroom ragout... the entrée choices are concise and carefully crafted. Plats du jour add a bit of nostalgia as do classic cocktails and comfort desserts.


5
Bistro Soleil
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


 

Through the decades, the historic Olde Marco Inn's dining room has evolved into a gracious Victorian setting with a cranberry glass chandelier and Audubon prints. Bistro Soleil, with its delightful Continental interpretations, sheds new light on the culinary tradition. For starters, the sun-dried tomato and basil veloute gratinee with Swiss and blue cheese, or Prince Edward Island mussels steamed with herbs and white wine immerse you in Chef Denis Meurgue's irresistible style. Reasonably priced follow-up courses continue to tantalize with offerings such as wild mushroom risotto; slow-roasted crispy Long Island duck a l'orange; grouper topped with crab and capers in lemon butter sauce; fresh beignets with chantilly; and homemade warm apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream and balsamic vinegar reduction.


4
Old Naples
Campiello
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


 

This class-act Third Street South restaurant occupies the historic Naples Mercantile Building and a pleasant Rome-reminiscent courtyard to its west. There's another courtyard out back for the best inventory of al fresco dining in Naples. Inside, you will find an inviting dining area, spacious bar area and large, open kitchen complete with a traditional wood-burning oven. Some of the pasta, such as the pappardelle with braised veal, is made in house. Many of the ingredients - guanciale for one of the wood-fired pizza, cheeses and sausage - get shipped from Italy. There's short ribs with smoked tomatoes or pan-roasted black grouper for dinner, chicken and caramelized pear salad for lunch and cannoli cheesecake and gelati for dessert.


3
Osteria Tulia
Photo courtesy of Osteria Tulia


 

The first dilemma: Sit al fresco and people watch along busy Fifth Avenue South or enter the embrace of "farmhouse chic" indoors, where repurposed barn wood creates warmth and character? Then the food ordering decision! The lunch menu may be small, but it is also packed with wow. Chef Betulia makes everything himself - from the pancetta on the chicken liver crostini to the fennel sausage tossed with mascarpone cream and torchio pasta. Pizza on both lunch and dinner menus ranges from classic tomato with basil and mozzarella to the spicy lamb and goat cheese. Braised pork osso bucco with with parmesan risotto, pan roasted salmon and homemade pasta dishes make meals memorable.


2
Old Naples
Bleu Provence
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


 

This charming trip to provincial France stirs in some of the sophistication of Paris and an encyclopedic wine list to make it one of a kind. Owners Jacques and Lysielle Cariot, who formerly lived in Provence, do not pinpoint one signature dish at Bleu Provence, saying that the restaurant's aim is to provide a well-rounded, interesting menu that pleases many appetites. That it does. Provencal fish soup and moules frites (mussels with French fries) are a couple of favorites, but the menu covers all manner of seafood and fine meats such as local pompano or cobia, filet mignon and sweetbreads. In season, Sunday brunch ranges from crepes to rack of lamb.


1
BALEEN
Photo courtesy of LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort Naples


 

BALEEN gives a global twist to its breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. The setting couldn't scream Southwest Florida more succinctly with its Gulf of Mexico and white sand views. You can even dine with your toes planted in the sand should you desire. At breakfast, eggs with crispy tomato rice and crab Oscar benedict show off. Sunday brunch brings a three-course menu of creative seasonal dishes. The lobster Cobb salad dazzles on the lunch menu. For dinner, start with the beef carpaccio "ravioli," then the truffled lobster risotto or blackened grouper. Whatever you do, leave room for the key lime pie, it's buttery and delicious and in a class all its own.


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Meet Chelle Koster Walton

Chelle Koster Walton – the Local Expert for Naples, Florida and the Caribbean – has been covering the destination for 30 years. Her top-selling Sarasota, Sanibel Island, and...  More About Chelle

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