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Category: Dining

Estero LifeStyle Magazine – October 2015

Estero LifeStyle Magazine – September 2015

Go wyld: FINE DINING WITH CREATIVE FLAIR

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

Wylds ld Cafe C f seems a bit of f a misnomer i for this elegant eatery along Bonita Beach Road. Candle-lit, white-linen dining awaits in this cozy yet modern restaurant with colorful art cheering up the dark decor. Owner Rob Charest invites local artists to display their work on his walls, giving guests the feeling of dining within a small art gallery.

As we headed to our table by the window, we appreciated the many styles and subjects – from Southwest Florida palm trees and sunsets, to butterfl ies and abstracts. We also appreciated the ample spacing of the restaurant’s 20 tables, along with corridors and coves, coupling to create a quiet dining experience conducive to conversation. As a testament to the quality of Wylds Cafe, the restaurant has weathered economic waves, now celebrating its tenth year in business. Charest opened the cafe in 2005 with two partners, all of whom were professionally trained chefs. This is evidenced in the artful presentation, as well as the creative culinary combinations on the menu. Wylds Cafe makes good use of fresh, locally sourced produce, along with fresh catches from the Gulf, delivered daily. Charest notes there is no walk-in refrigerator at Wylds
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Italian Cuisine FRESH FROM THE MARKET

 
BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

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By day, DeRomo’s Gourmet Market is bustling with shoppers gathering fresh meats, cheeses, wines, deli and bakery items and pantry goods – imported and inspired from around the globe. At night, the lights come up on the patio where tables line the walkways and the hearty laughter of good times mingles with cascading water.

Since opening in October as the much- anticipated anchor for the revitalized Promenade at Bonita Bay, DeRomo’s has enjoyed a steady stream of guests. “We’re the most unique concept in Southwest Florida,” says DeRomo’s founder and visionary Francis J. Cuomo, who grew up near New York’s “Little Italy” and boasts 37 years in the restaurant, catering and marketplace business. “We have house-made mozzarella, house- made sausage and all of our family recipes. Everything is baked fresh.

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EUROPEAN brasserie TRADITION IN ESTERO

 
BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

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Following in the brasserie tradition of France, Mereday’s Brasserie at Coconut Point offers casual upscale dining in a relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere with white linens, candlelight and soft music. In European vocabulary, a brasserie is a step above bistro and a step below fi ne dining, offering classic cuisine, artfully served and carefully sourced. Brasserie also translates as “brewery,” with Mereday’s offering an extensive selection of craft beers, wines and mixed drinks.

Chef/Owner Charles Mereday is a newcomer to the Southwest Florida restaurant scene but is making his mark fast. The Brasserie is his third area eatery to open in less than two years. His Naples fl agship restaurant, Mereday’s Fine Dining, opened in July 2013, followed by Alto Live Jazz Kitchen in March 2014.

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BLUE water BISTRO

 
BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

It had been a while since we last visited Blue Water Bistro, and although we were greeted by the familiar shiny swordfi sh swimming on a wall of oceanic blues, this culinary experience was to be a completely new adventure. Owner Skip Quillen and the Culinary Concepts chefs recently pored over the menu – updating, enhancing and reenergizing the restaurant’s offerings.

While perennial favorites like Morning After Mussels and Homemade Crab Cakes remain, the majority of the menu is as fresh as the fish flown in each morning. Tuna and swordfish from the Pacific waters are overnighted, arriving at the restaurant the day after they’re caught. Other fresh catches come from the waterways of Hong Kong, Colorado, Canada, Massachusetts and Peru, as well as shrimp and grouper straight from the Gulf. The revamped menu begins with new cocktails and artisan Ciabatta bread for the table. New appetizers include the Jalapeno Pops, starring giant, tempura-fried jalapenos with a krab-cream cheese filling and served with spicy mayo. (A surefi re way to get the kids to eat their greens is the tempura- fried Crispy Green Beans, also with spicy mayo.)

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France IN FORT MYERS

 
BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

Even with its lighted blue windows, this small bistro tucked away in the Regal Plaza off U.S. 41 south of Six Mile Cypress is easy to pass by – but that would be a mistake. While Blue Windows French Bistro may be unknown to the thousands of motorists who drive past it each day, the restaurant is so well known among foodies that reservations are a must.

The exclusive French bistro seats a maximum of 33 at its 10 tables, offering an intimate dining experience hosted by Chef Christian Vivet and his wife, Mari. It’s a casual atmosphere with elegant food, fi tting for a fi ne French bistro.

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BEST – OF – ESTERO Dining 2014

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This year, our tastebuds traveled through Italy, Thailand, India, Peru, Argentina and the Hawaiian islands – all without leaving Southwest Florida! We embarked on many culinary adventures in 2014 and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Here, we invite you to savor again with us some of the most fantastic dishes in local fine dining. From calamari to peanut butter pie – and all the mouthwatering meals in between – foodies will delight in these gourmet eats!

BICE GRAND CAFE
23161 Village Shops Way, Estero
NOT TO MISS: MADEIRA

This succulent dish is as tasty as it is beautiful. Choose either veal or chicken, lightly fl oured and sauteed in sweet mushroom Madeira sauce. It’s topped with melted mozzarella and served with hearty mashed potatoes. Dishes at BiCE look as lovely as they taste, making it easy to “feast with the eyes fi rst.”

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MOLINO’S REAL ITALIAN Experience

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES
dining

Born in Trieste, Italy, and raised in the restaurant business in New York, Chef Kenny Purisico knows authentic Italian cuisine. “I was in the kitchen since I was 11 years old,” he says in his Brooklyn-meets-Italian accent. He opened Molino’s Ristorante at The Promenade in the shopping center’s heyday in 2003 and is one of the few tenants to weather the economic downturn, being one of the area’s premier dining destinations. Now, Purisico is excited to be part of the reenergizing of The Promenade, with its lovely water features, walkways and European- style architecture.

Tranquility was in the air as we strolled past the fl owing waterfall near the entrance to Molino’s. A large, covered patio seating 60 overlooks the water feature and gardens, providing the ideal place for open-air dining. Inside, soft music invited us to relax in Old Italy while admiring the majestic columns and elegant draperies. We were seated with a splendid view of the gardens, but many other special seating options are available. An elegant alcove with Venetian windows provides a beautiful and intimate setting for a party of six.

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EL GAUCHO INCA

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

On our never-ending search for distinct dining experiences, we rode the trail up to Fort Myers to enter the rustic ranch lifestyle of a gaucho on the South American pampas. The minute the door closes to the outside world, suburban Florida is left behind and the scene is set for Argentinian adventure – with a few jaunts to Peru. The longhorn cattle skulls, cowboy hats and wagon wheels set the stage for authentic South American-style cooking.

El Gaucho Inca is the culinary offspring of a Peruvian- Argentinian marriage. When Peru native Rocio Navarrete and Argentinian chef Mariano Maldonado got together 12 years ago, the chef was forced to expand his repertoire of fl avors, venturing into the cuisine of Peru, with its infl uence from the native Inca population, along with European immigrants. Of course, he would never abandon the meat-laden menu of Argentina!

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A TABLE APART

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

Growing up on the Big Island of Hawaii, Chef Jeff Acol has long had an affi nity for the water and its diverse inhabitants. The fl avors of Hawaii, with its Asian infl uence, not only fi nd their way into many of his signature dishes, but the chef also carries with him a deep reverence for sustainable seafood. “A lot of the recipes are reinterpretations of my childhood, so it’s personal,” says Chef Acol. An avid diver and fi sherman, he keeps preservation of the “Aina,” or earth, at heart as he designs his menu.

A Table Apart sets itself apart from other restaurants with its pledge to serve seafood that is not overfi shed and does not contain high levels of mercury, and by sourcing meats and poultry products from farms that use natural production (no hormones or antibiotics). The chef goes local as much as possible, through Farm-to-Table programs, using fresh and ecologically friendly ingredients. He’s married to a Frenchwoman, who brings her own infl uence to the menu at A Table Apart. Jessica Acol makes all desserts in house daily.

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THE OTHER SIDE BISTRO

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

rian McCarley is a rarity. For one thing, he is one of the few Fort Myers natives around, born at Lee Memorial Hospital and a graduate of Cypress Lake High School. Perhaps even more rare, McCarley is one of just 63 certifi ed executive chefs in the state of Florida. He opened his third local restaurant last spring when he and his wife, Barbara, bought The Other Side Bistro in Bonita Springs, so named because it’s on the “other side” of the British Open Pub in the Publix plaza in front of Pelican Landing.

This little known gem easily makes our “Top Ten” list of best local restaurants for its outstanding dishes, masterfully prepared and beautifully presented. This night out was such a pleasant surprise – considering we hadn’t heard of the restaurant – causing one among us to declare: “This is a hidden treasure. People need to know about this place!” A true chef, McCarley is constantly tweaking his menu. Not only does this keep him from getting bored, but his guests also infl uence the menu offerings with their comments. “It’s like a toddler,” the chef says.

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PASSAGE TO INDIA

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

Borhan Ahmed didn’t plan to open a restaurant when he immigrated from Bangladesh in 1987. He came to study engineering. But he missed the fl avors of India and decided to embrace his passion for food and cooking. He set out to make authentic dishes, just like his mama and grannie. He’s now been in business in Southwest Florida for 22 years.

It’s a family affair – with Borhan running the kitchen, his wife as hostess and all four of his children serving tables or pitching in behind the scenes. “I am head chef, side chef, sous chef, everything,” Borhan says. It’s been that way since the beginning. Four or fi ve hours before the restaurant opens for dinner, Borhan is hard at work making dough for Nan, a traditional Indian bread cooked in an extremely hot clay oven called a Tandoori.

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ISLAND VIEW RESTAURANT

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

As the long days of summer beckon a trip to the beach, don’t just think of packing sunscreen and fl ip-fl ops. Locals can now enjoy a spectacular sunset and fi ne dinner at the Lani Kai Island Resort. This Fort Myers Beach resort has long been known as the party place for nightlife and spring breakers, as well as a place to grab a casual bite to eat while at the beach. Recently, however, the owner has added class to the resort’s top-fl oor dining options, with the opening of the new Island View Restaurant.

“Bob Conidaris and his family wanted to give this beach something it hasn’t had before, which is an upper-scale restaurant with good food at reasonable prices,” says Executive Chef Jason Smith-Agate. He recently relocated from Chicago to run kitchen operations at Island View, having grown up working in his father’s three Italian restaurants: “When I was eight or nine, if I got in a fi ght with my brother, I’d have to wash dishes.” Chef Jason’s Italian background is evident in the restaurant’s new design and menu, with most entrées cooked in an Italian wood-fi red oven. He’s sticking with what he does best, incorporating fresh-caught, local fi sh and seafood.

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Ruth’s Chris Steak House

 

BY LAURA J. Cummings gates

dining

The story behind the unusual name starts with Ruth Fertel, a New Orleans single mother of two who bought “Chris Steaks” and turned it into a steakhouse empire with more than 130 locations serving about 25,000 steaks a day. When most people think of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, their mouths start watering for a tender, juicy fi let.

What they may not know is this local favorite for fi ne dining also serves up “well done” seafood, chicken and lamb chop dishes, the quality of which is quite “rare.” Our server, Billy, a likable and outgoing FGCU bioengineering major, admitted his favorite dish on the menu is not ribeye or fi let mignon – although those are excellent choices. The dish he can’t get enough of is the Stuffed Chicken Breast, an oven roasted, double chicken breast stuffed with a creamy, garlic-herb cheese blend of cheddar, swiss and monterey jack.

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Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

Relax! You’re on island time when you enter Roy’s Restaurant at The Promenade. “Aloha spirit” takes over when you hit the door, from the warm welcome to the attentive service throughout the dining experience. While Roy’s offers fi ne dining, there is no stuffy dress code.

Roy’s aims to be “fi ne” in its quality of food and delivery of service, with the ultimate goal of leaving customers smiling. “We call it ‘aloha’ – that warm, genuine delivery of everything we do,” says longtime General Manager Wade Lowe. Although Roy’s now has 31 worldwide locations, the company leaves room on the local menu for each chef’s creative touches. In Bonita Springs, Chef Jason Grasty incorporates his passion for Japanese, Thai and French fl avors. He trained under Roy’s founder and Master Chef Roy Yamaguchi and adds his own fl are to the seasonally changing menu.

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ANGELINA’S RISTORANTE

 

BY LAURA J. Cummings gates

dining

SThree-story wine room with more than 4,000 bottles of wine. ince opening fi ve years ago, Angelina’s Ristorante has become a premiere locale for European-style dining in Southwest Florida. Known for its amazing, three- story wine room, Angelina’s has elevated its entrées to new heights with the addition of Executive Chef Sarah Grueneberg. Although she may look baby-faced, Grueneberg is no novice when it comes to cooking, having been named Eater’s Chicago Chef of the Year for 2011. And if she looks familiar, it could be you’ve seen her on TV.

Grueneberg was runner-up on Bravo’s “Top Chef: Texas 2012.” Angelina’s owners Don and Angela Smith stole Grueneberg away from Spiaggia, Chicago’s only four-star Italian restaurant. With a culinary arts degree from the Art Institute of Houston, Grueneberg recently revamped the menu at Angelina’s, bringing complex fl avors to classic Italian cuisine. Wild truffl es are a fresh addition, along with a beautifully buttery mashed potato puree inspired by Grueneberg’s grandmother.

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Cgrape Chef

 

BY LAURA J. Cummings gates

dining

Vietnamese-born chef Mai Harkness has proven she is versatile and crea- tive in her cooking, from amazing Asian entrées to all-American breakfast favorites. “I cannot follow a recipe,” she admits. “Food is fun. It’s being creative.” She worked for Darden Restaurants and several hotel chains in the Orlando area before opening a coffee and wine bar in Bonita Springs.

Eager to get back into the kitchen, she launched a breakfast and lunch spot at the Fla- mingo Island Flea Market, offering an extraordinary dining option in an unusual location. Nowhere else in the market can you fi nd a lobster crois- sant, pot stickers or smoked salmon. Mai shortly followed up with the opening of a fi ne dining restaurant in North Naples. Keeping the original name, Cgrape Chef also does catering, offering healthy menu items which are both fl avorful and eye-catching. About 90 percent of the menu is gluten-free, using rice instead of wheat-based in- gredients.

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Ted’s Montana Grill

 

BY LAURA J. Cummings gates

dining

A meal at Ted’s Montana Grill is more than a culinary experience; it’s an educational journey into sustainability and the American bison. Founded by media mogul Ted Turner and restauranteur George McKerrow, Jr., Ted’s Mon- tana Grill stars the bison, which is leaner than beef, boasting a high iron content, fewer calories and lower cholesterol. Although most entrées come in either certifi ed bison or Angus beef, it would be a shame not to try at least a bison slider.

Even the soups and the pot roast feature bison, which is slightly sweeter and lighter than beef. Ted’s also promotes sustainability for the planet, which is the reason your drinking straw is made of polymer-coated paper. Ask for server Maria – one of the few with a “100%” pin from McKerrow – and she will enthusiastically tell you all about the environmental considerations at Ted’s, along with bison as a sustainable source of red meat.

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PEWTER MUG

 

BY LAURA J. Cummings gates

dining

In the often fi ckle world of fi ne dining, few restaurants can boast the longevity of the Pewter Mug, which has been a local landmark since 1970. A stone hearth and deep wood-paneled walls give a relaxed, homey atmosphere, setting the stage for a fi ne steak and seafood feast. Although there have been some ownership changes throughout the years, the butcher and bar manager both have been with the Pewter Mug for more than 40 years. Regulars know Bar Manager Pat Murphy as “Murph the Surf,” as he enjoys catching some wave action when he’s not behind the counter.

He liberally shares tales from his world safari adventures while mixing up his “Almost World Famous Murph-a-Ritas.” Butcher and Sous Chef Mike Pilarski works behind the scenes, aging and hand cutting each steak. Pewter Mug serves only Certifi ed Angus Beef and will even cut to order. Chef/Owner Bernard “BJ” Zarvis has been at the helm of the Pewter Mug since 2010, having previously served some of the world’s top golfers at the Naples National Golf Club. Zarvis is a Stoneybrook resident and invites his Estero neighbors to make the short drive down U.S. 41 to expe- rience top-notch steaks and seafood in the dignifi ed, yet unpretentious, atmosphere of the Pewter Mug.

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Pagelli’s Rustic Tuscan Grille

 

BY LAURA J. Cummings gates

dining

omewhere between stuffy formality and chain familiarity is where you’ll fi nd Pagelli’s Rustic Italian Grill. With its inviting location by the water at Coconut Point, this Italian eatery stands out for quality and authenticity. If you haven’t been to Pagelli’s for a while, it’s time to give the Tuscan grille another try. The new Executive Chef, Justin Fleming, is launching a revamped menu this month, adding 11 appetizers, four fi sh dishes, meat and cheese boards and homemade pastas. “We’re making everything from scratch,” says Fleming.

“It’s concentrating on the old school, traditional stuff. This is Old World-style cooking. All the sauces are handmade. Everything is cooked to order.” You won’t be eating boxed pasta products. Pagelli’s recently purchased some 50-year-old pasta machines from Italy to make everything from ravioli to tortellini and gnocchi. “This is as close to handmade as you can get,” Fleming says.

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Gorging in a Garage

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

Ford’s Garage is downtown Fort Myers’ most-packed eatery on weekend nights, and a new location recently opened in Cape Coral. That will be followed by an Estero location this month – in a 6,000-square-foot space on the east side of the Miramar Outlets mall near Ben Hill Griffi n Parkway, which formerly housed the Tipsy Tarpon.

Like the Cape Coral location, the Estero Ford’s Garage will feature two bars with vintage Ford vehicles as centerpieces. When you step inside, the impression of entering a 1920s service station is tangible. From the old gas pumps to the Model A’s on lifts above the bar, this place is themed out Disney-style. Every detail has been thought of, right down to the metal hose clamps that act as napkin rings. Nods to the legendary Henry Ford are everywhere, from old photographs to automobile motors, vehicles, and thin tires from the early 20th century.

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WATCH & EAT

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

If you’re looking for a good place to watch a football game while enjoying quality food at a reasonable price, try Miller’s Ale House in Gulf Coast Town Center. Not only is it a favorite hangout for Florida Gulf Coast University students, it’s also a popular place for family dinners and quick-but-tasty lunches. “We’re kind of a neighborhood-type feel,” says general manager Jimmy Chico. “We have a value-driven menu with our price points. Everyone likes a good value.”

Nightly dinner specials feature baby back ribs, Maine lobster, prime rib, jumbo shrimp, or mussels for less than $13. Lunch specials start at $4.99 and include gyros, meatloaf, and fi sh-n-chips. “You can get in and out of here in 20 minutes, get a large portion with a drink and spend less than you would at McDonald’s,” Chico says. Miller’s Ale House has 57 high-defi nition TV screens with every sports package available. When the FGCU Eagles faced the Florida Gators in the Sweet 16 last March, the Ale House hosted a huge party, setting up a jumbo screen outside with bleachers. “We set records that day,” Chico boasts.

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THE ESTERO SUMMER SAVINGS DINING GUIDE

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS GATES

dining

As a father of two preschoolers and another one on the way, Kevin Yankow doesn’t even attempt to dine out with his family during peak season.

“You can easily be waiting 45 minutes to sit down,” says the owner of Key Real Estate. “Not every restaurant has a good plan to occupy a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old.” Summertime offers the Yankows an opportunity to get into their favorite restaurants – Marsala’s, Outback Steakhouse, and Carrabba’s – without a wait. They also venture to new restaurants during the summer.

“Estero has so many dining options with the three large malls, you could probably eat at a different restaurant every day of the year,” Yankow says. While a few local eateries choose to close down for the summer, others capitalize on full-time residents’ appetite for good food without the wait. Summertime can be the perfect time for families and couples to grab a deal on a high-quality meal. Here are some of the best restaurant deals around Estero this summer…

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SUNSHINE GRILLE

 

BY LAURA CUMMINGS GATES

dining

Sandy Stilwell started washing dishes in her uncle’s restaurant when she was 12 years old and quickly determined one thing: She would never be in the restaurant business. While it took her a couple decades to reconsider, Stilwell now runs seven local restaurants with plans to build an eighth near the Sanibel Causeway. Together, her restaurants served more than 1 million people last year.

“What was my greatest fear has turned into my greatest passion,” says Stilwell, a Fort Myers native who built a career in the hotel industry before venturing into restaurants with the opening of Keylime Bistro at her Captiva Island Inn 13 years ago. We set out to try her lone Fort Myers location, the Sunshine Grille, which moved to a corner lot on Gladiolus Drive in November 2011, doubling its size and offering an updated look and menu.

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BEST OF ESTERO DINING

 

BY LAURA J. GATES

dining

As you consider where to take your sweetheart for a special Valentine’s dinner, we would like to highlight the best of what our local chefs have to offer. We at Estero Lifestyle Magazine have enjoyed some amazing culinary delights during the last year. Here is our Top 10 list of appetizers, entrees and desserts from the restaurants we visited in 2012.

Big Hickory Seafood Grille

26107 Hickory Blvd., Bonita Springs

Not to miss:
New England Clam Chowder and Calypso Lobster Salad

Topped with bacon and chives, this creamy soup is hearty and comforting with its smooth, rich fl avor that rivals any chowder served in the Northeastern states. Try it with the Lobster Salad, featuring amply sized chunks of meat and a tomato crown with wafer “claws” to give the illusion of a lobster’s shape.

Bistro 41

13499 S. Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers

Not to miss: Pork Pot Roast

Bistro 41 manages to make this comfort food sophisticated. Braised in port wine and well-seasoned, the Good Nature pork roast is served atop roasted garlic mashed potatoes with a stack of caramelized onions swirled on top. The dish is fi nished with savory gravy and beurre monté and served with broccolini. It’s a local favorite.

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Big Hickory Seafood Grille For Sea Salts and Landlubbers

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS

dining

Come by land or sea to the Big Hickory Seafood Grille to experience a bit of Old Florida charm while enjoying quality fresh from the sea entrees. Herons and pelicans may be your dinner companions as you relax by the waters of Estero Bay in a place where time seems to slow from its modern frenetic pace. Tucked between Bonita Beach and Fort Myers Beach, just south of the Big Hickory Pass Bridge, this waterfront gem is far removed from corporate dining options and well worth the drive for those seeking a more authentic Florida experience.

Opened as a fi sh camp in 1969, Big Hickory has been a local favorite for decades, with most of its clientele coming by boat in the early days. “We just want to create a nice feeling for people to come in and relax and enjoy a little bit of Old Florida,” said Lorna Shrigley, who purchased the Big Hickory Marina and its accompanying restaurant with husband Mike in 2008. Our neighbors from The Meadows of Estero, the Shrigleys have made improvements every year since, advancing the restaurant’s reputation for high quality seafood in a relaxed, natural setting. “It’s a very beautiful dining experience,” said Mike, pointing to the tiered al fresco dining area, ensuring every guest enjoys a lovely view of the water. The Shrigleys also have added a cozy side patio with attractive, fl ame-encased heaters for those breezy nights by the bay.

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La Fontanella

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS

dining

Just a few doors down from Publix in the Shoppes at Pelican Landing, sits a gem in fine dining which seems worlds away from its bustling strip mall location. While shoppers rush in and out of the grocery, La Fontanella beckons them to linger and indulge in a slow-cooked Italian repast.Established in 2000,La Fontanella has long been a favorite for white-linen dining in the Estero-Bonita Springs area. Egyptian-born owner Moe Abdelmasih trained under some of the best self-taught chefs in New Jersey before taking over operations at La Fontanella.

His wife, Mona, greets each guest warmly at the door. We had the privilege of being served by their son, Mina, a student at Florida Gulf Coast University. The owners are always on site, ensuring guests are enjoying their meal and the total dining experience. The menu features much more than spaghetti and lasagna. Those basic dishes aren’t even listed.

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BISTRO 41

 

BY LAURA J. CUMMINGS

dining

Looking for a hip place for al fresco dining this fall? Try Bistro 41. Located in the Bell Tower Shoppes, Bistro 41 exudes chic. The contemporary feel of the restaurant coupled with an expansive outdoor dining area makes this a superb choice for casual fi ne dining. Judging from the architectural features and decor of bright, bold paintings, we were anticipating something special on the plate-ups. Chef Heath Higginbotham did not disappoint as he presented beautiful dishes, making it easy to feast with the eyes fi rst.

To be sure, the bold fl avors were not a disappointment, either. Propelled by the success of Bistro 41, owners Shawn LeMarie and Robert Rommel recently purchased Bayfront Bistro on Fort Myers Beach. Both restaurants have captured local culinary awards. Many things have changed for the Bell Tower Shoppes and its eclectic collection of retailers since Bistro 41 opened in 1997, but the quality of this restaurant is not one of them.

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CIRELLA’S

 

BY LAURA CUMMINGS

dining

With roots in the hearty Italian cuisine of Sicily, Cirella’s serves up Old World comfort food while adding sophisticated fl avors from the East with its full sushi bar. Executive Chef Michael Cirella grew up in the kitchen. His father, Sal Cirella, opened his fi rst restaurant in New York City almost fi ve decades ago. During season, regulars of Cirella’s in Bonita Springs will certainly meet Sal as he exuberantly greets guests.

Michael will more likely be found in the kitchen, having trained and worked 35 years as a chef. Michael opened the Bonita location in the Prado at Spring Creek six years ago, serving up classic Italian dishes. Before long, he brought in Sushi Chef Ron Mendoza, uniting the divergent cuisines of two cultures under one roof — something common in New York but more exotic on Florida’s Southern Gulf Coast.

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