It’s almost time to celebrate Independence Day, which means it’s time for my annual halftime report, looking back at area restaurants that opened so far this year. Here’s a quick recap of the local venues that launched during the first six months of 2022.
Under the wire
Beating the buzzer this week are two major venues that opened during the final days of the first half. We knew they were coming because they were supposed to have opened late last year but it’s surprisingly uncommon nowadays for restaurants to open as initially planned. Chalk it up to permitting problems, staffing stagnation and supply chain chinks. Just focus on the fact that they’re finally open.
The last day of the first half is scheduled to be the first day for Sea Monkey Tavern & Grill in the Shoppes at Dockside in Old Naples. Massimo “Max” Puglielli, who has served authentic food from his native Italy for more than five years at his nearby Mino, is slowing things down a bit with an island vibe at his new Sea Monkey, which is opening at 1100 6th Ave. S. in the rustic space vacated by the original Parrot Bar & Grill.
Meanwhile, off U.S. 41 near the border of Collier and Lee counties, legendary restaurateur Sal Sinzieri is solely focusing his attention on a new Italian dining spot that is sure to top many local lists. Mr. Sinzieri, the originator of MiraMare, Fish and Bice in Naples, is back with MareTerra Ristorante, which opened June 27 at 28340 Trails Edge Blvd. in Bonita Springs. He completely transformed and modernized a longtime Italian restaurant space that most recently was the acclaimed Palladio Trattoria.
Dinner bucket list
Many notable dining spots opened in the year’s first half. Here are 10 to check out.
In January, Nosh on Naples Bay launched in Naples Bay Resort while Simit Fresh Mediterranean came to River Reach Plaza in East Naples. In March, The Bohemian Restaurant opened in Entrada at Old 41 Road and Bonita Beach Road in Bonita Springs, Two Fillets came to Naples Park on U.S. 41 in North Naples, and Oasis opened in Ave Maria’s Town Center.
In May, Le Martinique French Cuisine & Bakery finally opened on U.S. 41 in Naples and Carole’s House Café came to St. Andrews Square in East Naples. In June, Ichi Togarashi opened on the corner of Fifth Avenue South and Eighth Street South in Naples, La Bella Apulia Gourmet Market & Apericena arrived in the Shoppes at Dockside in Naples, and Food and Thought 2 introduced its all-organic restaurant at Fountain Park off Airport-Pulling Road in North Naples.
Other restaurants changed more than names as they morphed into new concepts near the start of the year. In January, Beef O’Brady’s at Grande Oak Shoppes in Estero became The Pickled Onion Bar & Grill, the former Matzaluna on Sanibel became Tutti Pazzi Italian Kitchen, the longtime Sonny’s BBQ became Mitchell’s Bar-B-Q , and Eat Smart locations in East Naples and Fort Myers both switched to Lobster Rolls #1.
In April, K.C.’s Parrot 41 Bar & Grill flew into That Taco Place’s place at Courthouse Shadows in East Naples, Mila Bistro moved into Old Europe Bistro’s spot at Naples Walk in North Naples, and Sushi Thai Too’s fifth location replaced Cirella’s at Vanderbilt Commons in North Naples. In May, EJ’s Meridian Café opened in the former digs of Meridian Café, which closed in January.
A few local restaurateurs doubled up and opened two eateries during the first half of the year. Tony Brito, who already was operating a half dozen area locations of Napoli on the Bay Pizza, launched new places for the popular local pizzeria in Naples Park in January and at Entrada in Bonita Springs in February.
After launching a mobile location in the food court at the Naples mall in December, Breno Donatti opened two more locations of Winfield Sandwich Shoppe on U.S. 41 in April and May in Naples and North Naples. Already operating Fuji and Araya in North Naples, Jon and On Augsondthung opened Yoko-San Ramen in January and Fuji Sushi Bar & Asian Bistro in The Pointe at Founders Square in April.
A smorgasbord of eateries opened this year at the major mixed-use retail centers in the region.
Fibrre, Juice Society Juicery and Naples Gourmet Ice Cream all came to Coconut Point in Estero. El Nido Mexican restaurant, which announced a specific opening date but didn’t open, is still coming to the regional mall.
Gulf Coast Town Center added The Library Pizza & Pub at the former spot of Aurelio’s in February and Koto Grill Sushi & Hibachi at Burger 21’s old unit in May. At Mercato in North Naples, The 239 Naples and Zza Baby Pizza Bar recently launched.
Modo’s Grille opened at Miromar Outlets in January and The Dogos hot dog spot came to the Coastland Center mall food court in June.
Half of the planned restaurants in The Pointe at Founders Square opened this year on the corner of Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard, while the rest are still coming this summer. Now open are Fuji Sushi Bar & Asian Bistro, I Heart Mac & Cheese, Skillets and Tacos & Tequila Cantina.
Piece of pizza
Although folks are particular about their personal pizza choices, there are always new pizzerias to choose from. In addition to The Library, Napoli and Zza Baby, a handful of other pizza places recently opened in the area.
In May, Olympia Pizza replaced Twisted Cheesery on Davis Boulevard in East Naples and Jet’s Pizza opened its third Collier County location in Vanderbilt Commons on Vanderbilt Beach Road. In June, Moravela’s Pizza opened another location in Everglades Square on Everglades Boulevard in Golden Gate Estates and Rio Pizzeria brought its Brazilian-style pie to Olympia Park off Airport-Pulling Road in North Naples.
Zeppe’s Tavern, while known for its pizza, is really much more than a pizzeria. It started rockin’ on June 1 at Wiggins Pass Road and U.S. 1 in North Naples.
Fans greatly anticipated new locations of Chick-fil-A at Addison Place on Immokalee Road in North Naples and Popeyes on U.S. 41 in Bonita Springs that opened in February and March, respectively, but introductions may have been necessary for some new franchises here.
In January, Kwench Juice Café opened in Crossroads Market on Pine Ridge Road and Bubbakoo’s Burritos came to Naples Boulevard in North Naples.
Aussie Grill came to Cleveland Avenue in south Fort Myers in February, I Heart Mac & Cheese to The Pointe at Founders Square in March, Mystic Lobster Roll Co. to the Shoppes at Vanderbilt in April and Clean Juice opened an Estero location in May.
More in Collier
Additional venues opening this year so far in Collier County include Fresh Bowl Kitchen at Meridian Marketplace in North Naples, Tony’s N.Y. Pizza in the Shops of Marco on Marco Island, Fusion Bowlz on U.S. 41 in North Naples, The Sen Asian Noodle Bar at Restaurant Row in East Naples, Macanudo Mate at Bed Bath & Beyond Plaza in North Naples, Brookside Market on Davis Boulevard in East Naples, Antojitos Y Mas at Everglades Square in Golden Gate Estates and Royal Scoop at Vanderbilt Commons in North Naples. Havana Café, which has changed ownership a few times since 2005, was recently reimagined by new owners as Havanna Café in Chokoloskee.
More in Lee
More places for nourishment in Lee County include Big Nick’s BBQ and Hot Pot & BBQ in south Fort Myers, The Rabbit Hole Kava Bar and Vichino’s Cafe & Wine Bar in Bonita Springs, El Local in San Carlos Park and Lit Coco Jamaican restaurant in Fort Myers Beach. In Cape Coral, enjoy Art Cafe, The Spot, a relaunched Rumrunners and Gazoops Ice Cream & Waffle Bar.
For positive-thinking foodies, the year is only half full. The second course undoubtedly will be just as grand as the first. A lot of new restaurants are prepping for opening day.
Happy Independence Day! ¦