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Monday, July 27, 2020

Sea, Sandwiches and Sips in Portland, ME

Maine is a magical place in many ways. Once a center of all things maritime such as ship building and commerce, it still very much retains its connection to the sea. On a recent trip to Portland, ME, Suzanne, my traveling companion and I experienced a taste of Portland's maritime history aboard a sunset cruise with The Portland Schooner Co.. They specialize in sails around Casco Bay and one of its inner ports, The Port of Portland on historical Maine-crafted schooners. What is a schooner you ask? It is a sailing ship with two or more masts with its sails parallel to the length of the ship. Unbeknownst to us before the sail, we were in for a real treat. The sail took place on The Timberwind, a schooner built in 1931. It is listed on the The National Register of Historic Places.

The Timberwind, Portland Schooner Company
Even better, the sail featured a talk on Maine's lobster industry by Ben Coniff, one of the owners of Luke's Lobster (LL). LL is an empire of almost 40 restaurant locations nationally and internationally. They also own a lobster processing facility south of Portland that processes about five percent of the total lobster catch of Maine. Additionally, a representative of Allagash Brewing Company, a Portland brewery specializing in bottle- and can-conditioned beers, provided samples for tasting. This promised to be something really special on our first night in Portland.

All hands on deck, The Timberwind
Before the ship set sail, some of the passengers were recruited to raise the sails, a group activity I was more than happy to watch.

One thing I found interesting were the wooden timber mast hoops that allow the sail to move up and down the mast. Real old time!

Once we set sail, Ben of Luke's Lobster gave us a primer on lobstering and how LL came to be.

Luke Holden, Ben's partner, is part of Maine's lobster royalty. His grandfather and father were lobstermen, his father evolving into a lobster buyer opening up one of the first lobster/crab/fish wholesale/retail business in Portland. This progressed into the first licensed lobster processing facility in the state of Maine. A processing facility takes in lobster, cooks it and breaks it down into a value added product, or a product worth more than that in its original form.
Luke started out as an apprentice in anticipation of becoming a licensed Maine lobsterman. The licenses are so coveted though there is typically up to a ten year wait for a full license. He then went to school in business, working in Manhattan at a financial firm for a time. Luke was frustrated with a lack of restaurants serving lobster rolls and other traditional Maine seafood. By then he had partnered with Ben. Using Luke's family seafood connections in Maine they opened a small 200 square foot retail space (shack) in Manhattan in 2009. Many more were to follow. Unfortunately, many of their retail spaces (shacks) had to close for the time being due to COVID. They are at present kept afloat because of diversifying approximately five years ago into becoming a commercial supplier to grocers such as Whole Foods.

Lobster traps, Portland Pier
Maine lobster management by the state has been impressive in terms of its sustainability. Escape vents for smaller lobster are mandated to be incorporated into lobster traps. The traps must also have biodegradable fasteners on them so the trap will break apart allowing the catch to be freed  should the trap be lost. There are catch limits on the size of lobsters that are either to small or big. The latter size limits are in place to maintain hearty breeding stock. One sustainability measure I thought interesting  was the practice of v notching. 

V notched lobster tail. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
If a fertile female is brought up from the trap, a v notch is cut into the tail and the catch returned to the water. Should the lobster be ever caught again before producing eggs, this is a marker that the lobster is a fertile female and should not be harvested.
Non commercial lobster fishing became legal for Maine residents in 1996. I found some of the history and regulations published by the Department of Marine Resources for the State of Maine interesting. For more detail go Here.

We were also given a brief history of a noted Portland brewery, Allagash Brewing Company 
by their Southern Maine representative, Tessa.
When Allagash was started in 1995, craft beer was much more difficult to market. The whole premise of the brewery initially was to make up for the lack of Belgian Wheat Beer, beers that are made from mostly wheat rather than barley. These beers are also bottle or canned conditioned. This means that they undergo a secondary fermentation after bottling or canning by the addition of additional yeast and sugar. This is similar to the way champagnes are made using The Traditional Method. The first beer made at Allagash, Allagash White, is still their flagship beer. We were given a can of this and another beer, their River Trip, a Belgian style Session Beer, on our sail.
Allagash Beer Sampling
These were really good, and perfect to wash down a lobster roll from Luke's Lobster.
Lobster Roll, Luke's Lobster
This was one of the better lobster rolls I have ever had. The cooked lobster is drizzled with lemon butter and a spice mixture of oregano, thyme and celery salt. Absolutely delicious. The slaw was also a nice side, incorporating cider vinegar, poppy seeds and honey.

On a roll (sorry!), we stopped by Luke's flagship restaurant in Portland the next evening to sample more of their fare.

We started with an order of their whole belly clams, which were excellent. Our server told us they used rice flour on these making them gluten free.

Whole belly clams
We also tried a lobster BLT. Lobster on a sesame seed bun with applewood smoked bacon, lettuce and tomato. It was something I had never tried and another excellent dish.

Lobster BLT
All the food sampled on the sunset sail and after at Luke's was excellent. I am not a fan generally of wheat beer but the Allagash beers were top notch and very much enjoyed. Last but very much not least, the sunset cruise with Portland Schooner Co. is a must do when visiting Portland. I could go on and on and on but will stop here and say,

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Portland Schooner Co. Facebook Page
Maine State Pier
Portland, ME 04101
Sailing May-October

Luke's Lobster Website
60 Portland Pier
Portland, ME 04101
Sunday-Thursday: 11AM-9PM; Friday-Saturday: 11AM-10PM; All major credit cards accepted.

Allegash Brewing Company Website
50 Industrial Way
Portland, ME 04103
Call for ordering and resumption of tour schedules.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

American Mariculture is No Shrimp in SWFL Aquaculture

Aquaculture is, by definition, the farming of fish, crustaceans and algae among other aquatic animals and organisms. In terms of seafood, the United States (US) imports approximately 90% of what it consumes. Most of these imports come from Asia and South America. In terms of aquaculture, the US ranks thirteenth in the world.

The predominant imported seafood types are shrimp, salmon and shellfish, respectively, with 90 percent of the shrimp consumed in the US imported.

A company on Pine Island, Florida, American Mariculture Inc. (AMI), is trying to change this.

AMI is headed by Robin Pearl.

Robin Pearl, CEO of American Mariculture
Mr. Pearl is an expert on shrimp farming as well as a world-class entrepreneur, as you will see later. It was interesting talking to him about his business and the shrimp farming industry. He started his interest in aquaculture by trying to farm trout in Florida for a sort of "mini golf adventure" for families that want to have a fishing experience. Unfortunately, he found out the hard way that trout do not weather the heat in Florida.

At some point, someone suggested he try shrimp farming. He initially tried farming bait shrimp, which are domestic. He eventually found that Pacific White shrimp, the predominant shrimp used for consumption, were more suited for shrimp farming. I asked him why, and he told me they were no different than any other farmed animal in that they were well researched and conducive to being farmed.

Mariculture is the use of marine environments to produce marine organisms. AMI's property, about 60 acres on pine island, could not be more well suited. The property used to be an old palm tree farm which went belly up a number of years ago. AMI uses at present, about 25% of their land for their aquaculture ventures, though they are scaling up to triple that. Pure water, which is essential for shrimp farming, comes from a well about 1800 feet deep. 

AMI has at present, about 80 employees, and produces about 375 tons of shrimp per year. This may seem like a lot, but it's really, for now, a byproduct of their breeding program. More on that later. AMI also has the distinction of being the largest shrimp farming operation in the US. In addition its brood stock (breeding shrimp) are the genesis of about 30% of the world's farmed shrimp.

Farmed shrimp have many advantages to wild caught. Shrimp from AMI are available fresh if need be, a rarity in the seafood world. Further, they can be shipped as such in Styrofoam containers with gel packs.

Fresh shrimp to be shipped
Wild caught shrimp are almost always frozen as shrimp boats stay out in the water a number of weeks. Is there any advantage to fresh shrimp? I don't know, I suppose it's a matter of taste. Further, farmed shrimp at AMI are available year round. The farming at AMI is also very sustainable. They are a zero discharge facility and return used water from their shrimp production to the aquifer on Pine Island through the use of percolation ponds. These take advantage of permeable soils that filter the water on its way to the aquifer.  AMI is at present involved with the University of Florida in using the waste collected from shrimp farming for fertilizer to grow crops. Shrimp farming also eliminates what is known as bycatch, the collateral damage of wild caught shrimp harvesting. It is estimated that for every pound of shrimp, six pounds of other marine life and birds are also harvested. 

I asked Robin how long fresh shrimp last. Fresh shrimp that have been deheaded and deveined last up to 10 days refrigerated, while whole shrimp are only good for 24-48 hours. Apparently the heads have bacteria and perishable oils which hasten spoilage. I thought that was a good take home point for future reference.

After all this great information, there was a tour of the facility. AMI produces what is known as Biofloc which is integral to shrimp farming.

Biofloc production
Biofloc is what is known as a heterotrophic system that employs algae and bacteria to clear the water of waste (ammonia) and help convert this to food for the growing shrimp. Besides being natural, this eliminates the need for mechanical bio filtration which can be a cumbersome and costly endeavor. Pure water is also essential to shrimp farming which employs environments that have higher shrimp densities than in nature. Water quality is easily affected by this making the need for constant water quality monitoring essential. 

Water quality lab

Water quality features such as pH, oxygenation, salinity, nitrate, ammonia and suspended solids are continuously monitored and adjusted lest the growth rate and survival rate of the shrimp are compromised.

After the shrimp are bred and the eggs harvested, they are transferred to tanks until about 22 days. 

22 day old shrimp ready for the production tanks
These young shrimp are very susceptible to bacteria and other pathogens and AMI has various biosecurity practices in place such as changing shoes upon entrance to the facility, the use of disinfectant shoe baths upon entering most of their production areas and frequent hand washing, in addition to other measures. Interesting 10% of AMI's business is the export of these baby shrimp to other shrimp farms. This parallels the wine industry, with a Negociant who buys others grapes or juice and makes their own wine under their own branding.

Once mature, these baby shrimp are transferred to production tanks until they reach full maturity. AMI currently has 144 of these.

Production (maturation) tanks at AMI
Liners are used here as soil can affect water quality and the coverings over these tanks prevents rainfall coming into them which can affect pH of the water. Here are some shrimp about halfway through their growth cycle.

Shrimp from production tanks
We were also shown their processing facility. They are fully FDA and third party certified. What do I mean by the latter? AMI sells to Disney, Kroger and Costco among others, and all of these retailers have their own independent certification. If you are an independent wild catch shrimper, you can not just sell to these companies. You must sell first to a processing facility that has passed muster with third party certification. It was interesting, FDA certification is fairly quick, but those for retailers run two or three days. In fact, retailers such as Costco take the social side of food production quite seriously and interview the employees as to how they are treated by their department heads. What I did not realize until visiting their processing facility is that 95% of shrimp processing (cleaning and peeling) is done by hand, even worldwide.

The really interesting part of this whole tour was a brief discussion of their genetics program from their geneticist, Dr. Mitch Lucas. He explained AMI's genetics program, where they breed shrimp. Their goal is to produce shrimp through selective breeding that have superior viability and growth rates. This is the major focus at AMI

The shrimp at AMI are not GMO. Shrimp used in their breeding program are selected from previous research on Pacific White Shrimp or from observable characteristics. They are then bred, and the progeny analyzed genetically based on their predictions. If the progeny do not produce the desired characteristics, their model is then modified, the genes of the progeny reanalyzed, and the process repeated until the desired characteristics are realized.
Dr. Lucas emphasized a couple of basic genetic concepts to me. One is Hybrid Vigor. This is when the crossing of two very unrelated genetic parings give better characteristics then inbreeding with either parent. Through their genetic program, they can choose mating partners that are very far away from each other genetically to exploit this phenomenon.  There is also the concept of Linkage Drag. This is when positive characteristics that are selected genetically are linked to negative effects that are hard to separate. An example would be a shrimp that has an enhanced growth rate but in turn a reduced viability. This has happened, and through AMI's genetic program, they can analyze and minimize this. As was explained to me, plants have been bred for 10,000 years and animals not much less, but aquaculture is quite new and there is a lot to be learned.

What was really instructive was a video of Dr. Lucas explaining some of AMI's analytical methods. They are quite sophisticated. A couple of terms will help here. PCR is sort of the "loaves and fishes" thing in molecular biology where minuscule amounts of DNA are replicated and amplified to render a big enough sample for analysis. Alleles are a pair of genes that produce a characteristic, like eye color or growth rate.

AMI has also ventured into the consumer world with a couple of projects. The first are some prototype shrimp packaging for individual consumption.

Consumer shrimp packaging
These are sealed and frozen shrimp, the packaging on the left complete with garlic/parsley butter. One punctures the packaging and puts in into the microwave and viola! These will be marketed to the major grocery retailers.

AMI also has a food truck, Eddy's Awesome Shrimp.

Eddy's Awesome Shrimp food truck
At present, they are located at the entrance to AMI on Pine Island. After the tour of AMI I tried a couple of things from their menu.

Eddy's Awesome Shrimp menu

The food here was incredible. There was a shrimp po-boy,

Shrimp po-boy
and the shrimp burger. The patty was made from ground shrimp meat, and it was topped with soy-marinated pineapple, bacon and a chipotle mayonnaise. It was fantastic.

Shrimp burger
The food from Eddy's was excellent, and some of the best, if not the best I have ever had from a food truck. Everything here is made with fresh shrimp, harvested perhaps less then 24 hours prior to serving. This is about as farm to table as it gets. I urge AMI to get this out into the community. People would be lined up around the block for food like this.

What is even more cool is that you, as a consumer, can buy small quantities of shrimp from Eddy's. They come in 1 and 1/2 pound packages, deheaded and deveined for $18.00 or $12.00/lb. Fresh shrimp like this sold at AMI and very hard, if not impossible to find, especially for these prices. They are branded as Sun Shrimp, the retail/wholesale arm of AMI.

Fresh shrimp from Eddy's Awesome Shrimp

In general, AMI is not open to the public but their fresh shrimp and excellent menu items from their food truck are. I know the majority of readers have never had fresh shrimp and this is a unique opportunity to be able to purchase them. They are delicious, with a flavor somewhere in between shrimp you find at most retailers and lobster. Highly recommended.

Having luckily been given a tour of AMI, it was a great day out learning about shrimp farming and breeding. I am certain you will hear more about AMI, a leader in aquaculture locally and worldwide.

It's a wrap for another post on forks.

American Mariculture, Inc.
9703 Stringfellow Rd.
St. James City, FL 33956

Eddy's Awesome Shrimp

Open 11AM-6PM Monday-Friday. Mostly take out, limited on premises dining. All major credit cards accepted.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Food June 2020

Wow, we live in very strange times now. I have not posted anything in over three months in a abundance of caution. In Florida, we are opening up for commerce but personally, I still do not feel comfortable.  Here are our statewide stats as of Thursday, July 18, 2020.

I had heard about a video blog on Bloomberg, How Restaurants Will Change After Coronovirus.

I thought the presentation a bit hum drum, even though Daniel Boulud and Marcus Samuelsson were on board. 

Although I am still very phobic to any business model that does not fit into our present state of contagion,  Chef Samuelsson is bringing an interesting concept to Miami. It will be an extension of his Red Rooster Harlem celebrating American Cuisine into Overtown. It's been delayed due to COVID but Eater has published a bit about his preliminary opening as a creamery. It looks fantastic. I can't wait to eat here, It will, fashioned around epidemiological concerns, be something to really look forward to. The reason I picked Eater's version are the over the top pictures of some of the menu items.

Can't wait for normalcy. Be cool, be safe.


Saturday, March 7, 2020

Industrial Strength Barbecue at Industry Beer and Barbeque in Naples

Industry Beer and Barbeque (IBB) is a restaurant serving, as an astute reader may suspect, beer and barbecue.

Industry Beer and Barbecue
IBB is the third local tasty installment from Chef Chris Jones and partners, a culinary triumvirate presently including Lowbrow Pizza and Beer and Industry Pizza.

IBB's barbecue is uncommon in the Naples area as it uses offset smokers to cook their meats. Offset smokers combine an off grill smoker box containing wood and or charcoal with a barbecue grill. This allows the smoke to pass over the meat, cooking it at low heat and imparting a barbecue flavor. IBB uses hickory and live oak woods in their offset smokers. It is an art knowing how to cook meats in this fashion using the correct amount of heat, smoke and air flow to produce optimal textures and flavors in the finished product.

Offset wood barbecue smoker

Chef Jones was all in a number of years ago with his Porker BBQ food truck. His barbecued meats and menus thereof using a mobile format were very good. I was anxious to see how his previous food truck venture translated into a brick and mortar setting. At IBB he has combined his barbecue acumen with a fantastic selection of Craft Draft Beer from Southwest Florida, easily one of the area's largest. Both of these offerings were a very big "culinary carrot" on a stick for me. Readers must be aware that this craft beer selection is dynamic and changes frequently. I have posted this beer menu as being representative of the numbers, and not the selection of local craft beers available.

The Food Menu at IBB follows that of the Porker BBQ food truck. As IBB is a brick and mortar establishment, what is different here, besides the beer offerings, is the availability of bulk barbecued meats. These include prime brisket, pulled pork, pork belly, turkey breast, in house made sausage and spare ribs. Beef ribs, those Flintstone-esq primal one pound each barbecued ribs are available, for now, on Saturdays until sold out.

The interior of IBB is commodious, festive and appointed with the work of local artists.

What really struck me here was the availability of a coin-op jukebox, something one does not see very often anymore. In terms of beverage, the local craft draft beer selection is legion and one of the best in town, with over 70 varieties.

Local craft beer selection, Industry Beer and Barbecue
If beer is not your thing they do have a decent wine selection with a rumored soon to be liquor license.

My dining companion and I sampled a number of Food Menu items on two separate visits.

The first thing sampled was the pimento cheese dip. Pimento cheese is shredded cheddar cheese with mayonnaise and pimento ( red bell pepper). This dip is affectionately known as Carolina Caviar or "pate du sud" (pate of the south). 

Pimento cheese dip
I love pimento cheese on top of fried green tomatoes, their proper crown. The pimento cheese at IBB was very good, kicked up a bit with the addition of a bit of heat, probably cayenne pepper. It was great on the vehicle provided, saltines. For cheese lovers, a highly recommended dish here.

The barbecued tacos followed. 

Barbecue tacos
The barbecued tacos were great. Barbecue carnitas (pulled pork shoulder) is served with flour tortillas, red salsa, cilantro, chile crema, pineapple, slaw, pickled red onion and cotija cheese. This dish was very good. It did not need any of the salsa which was too sweet anyway. I am a big fan of pico de gallo which I thought would be much better here. It didn't matter, the tacos were good stand alone.

We also ordered El Puerco Gordo (the fat pig) sandwich.

El puerco gordo sandwich
The sandwich was excellent. This was a veritable wall of meat consisting of prime brisket, pork belly and pulled pork in between two pieces of bread. It was served with condiments of in house pickle chips, pickled onion and pineapple slaw, a cabbage slaw with pineapple and vinegar. The Frito pie served with this was really clever. Served in a bag of Frito chips, the pie consisted of Frito chips, beans, cotija chese, japapeno and chile crema. This was an excellent menu item and plenty for two. I think this was my favorite dish of our two visits, highly recommended.

On the second visit, we ordered the Meatfest. It is served on what I like to call stainless steel "prisonware" and is an obligatory serving for at least two. It features all of the establishment's regular barbecue fare.

Meatfest, Industry Beer and Barbecue
Counterclockwise starting at 5 o'clock, there are tortillas, pickled onion, Hawaiian rolls, BBQ beans, corn bread, honey butter, turkey, sausage, pork belly, brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, mac and cheese and two different slaw offerings from the restaurant. My favorites were the in house made sausage, the hot guts link, and the beans. The beans are pinto beans cooked in beer, with barbecued bits added. On the whole, the Meatfest was really good and a great retrospective of IBB barbecue. To make all this even better, you can get 20% off your entire bill during their happy hour that runs from 4 to 530 PM daily.

IBB has a whole lot to offer.  Very good barbecue served in a number of formats to please anyone and an unparalleled selection of local draft craft beers. Chef Jones's brilliance shines here as with his other restaurant offerings. I think there is something at IBB for everyone. With IBB's location in Bayfront Naples, I think this will be the breakthrough culinary concept and location that really puts Chef Jones et. al. on the map of Naples's restaurant scene. All of his culinary endeavors are highly recommended. If you haven't been to IBB, go. They will not disappoint. 

That's that for another post on Forks.

Industry Beer and Barbeque
449 Bayfront Place
Naples, FL 34102

Sunday-Wednesday, 12-9 PM, Thursday-Saturday, 12-10 PM; Happy hour 4-530 PM daily with 20% off your entire bill; Kitchen stops serving one hour before closing; All major credit cards accepted.

Interior, Industry Beer and Barbecue

Taco slaw

Wine selection

Sunday, February 23, 2020

A Happy Hour That Will Make You Very Happy at Grappino in Naples

Grappino is a restaurant in Naples featuring Italian cuisine.

Cherry tomato, basil, olive oil and balsamic bruschetta

It is the newest venture of the Aielli Group who have distinguished themselves in both Naples and St. Petersburg with their mastery of Italian fare. Grappino diverges from their other endeavors in that it features more rustic, simply-prepared and softly-priced dishes from Italy.

Grappino in Italian is literally a small portion (shot) of grappa, similar to that wee dram of whisky associated with Scotland. Grappa is a brandy-like spirit made from pomace. Pomace is a by product of wine making, consisting of grape skins, seeds and stems left over after wine making. Being in the shadow of the wine trade, grappa has been very much under the radar and a somewhat ridiculed spirit for many years even in its home country Italy. This is changing. Some producers are featuring grappa that is barrel-aged among other refinements, leading to speculation that grappa may eventually follow the way of tequila as its quality improves. Grappino is almost distinctive in North America as it is one of the few establishments that feature over 100 different grappa varieties. With this armamentarium of grappa choices, one has a unique opportunity to cut their teeth on this perhaps up and coming alcoholic beverage.

This brief mention of grappa aside, my dining companions and I were here for their happy hour. I love a good happy hour and the happy hour Menu here in addition to the culinary provenance of these restaurateurs really caught my attention.

Happy hour is served in the bar. A few minutes here while we decided what to order convinced me that this was one of the more aesthetically pleasing bar spaces in Naples.

Bar area, Grappino
The happy hour Menu has a nice variety of foods ranging from crispy (fried) items, pizza by the slice, bruschetta, a couple of meat and cheese dishes in addition to two pasta dishes.

The first thing sampled off the menu was the fritto calamari, really a fritto misto (mixed fry)

Fried calamari with vegetables
Fried calamari rings are mixed with breaded and fried baby broccoli and bell pepper along with bits of provolone cheese. It is served with a ratatouille aioli, basically a mayonnaise with minced vegetables incorporated into it. It was good and a fun plate to share. This dish could have used more aioli but that was easily remedied by asking for more.

We also sampled some of the bruschetta. It was topped with a very generous portion of cherry tomatoes and flavored with basil, olive oil and a balsamic glaze. This menu item was notable in both its simplicity and deliciousness. The restaurant serves four other varieties of its bruschetta, all of them looking equally as good as the one sampled.

The next happy hour menu item was the grilled soprresata with parmesan cheese and croutons.

Soppressata witn parmesan cheese and croutons
Soppressata is an Italian dry salami and this dish was really a deconstructed panini sandwich. The croutons, grilled sourdough bread, were a vehicle for the grilled meat with cheese. Another very good menu item.

We tried a couple orders of Grappino's pizza. Their pizza is Roman style. This is pizza that is crispy on the outside but with a airy open interior "crumb" structure. It is also sometimes served in single, rectangular pieces which is what Grappino does. Although many contemporary pizza recipes are incorporating artisanal bread baking techniques, I'll leave that for now on a "knead to know" basis (sorry, couldn't resist).

The one thing I will talk about, as the restaurant features this prominently, are hydration levels of pizza dough. Hydration incorporates the concept of bakers percentages, which is basically a w/w (weight/weight) percentage of ingredients. It is a great way to standardize recipes to make them more simple and consistent. Everything using this method is all relative to the weight of flour. For example, if one has 100 grams of flour, then a 70% hydration would be adding 70 g (or ml) of water to it; one ml of water weighing 1 gram.

Pizza dough with a high hydration level (80%), when exposed to the heat levels of a pizza oven, will produce steam. This results in a more open and airy crust, perfect for Roman style pizza. The pizza dough at Grappino is cooked in a brick oven under high heat.

Brick oven, Grappino

The restaurant served two types of pizza, one with a tomato sauce (rossa) and one with out (bianca). We tried both of them. The "rossa" style pizza slice we ordered was served with spicy salami, tomato, mozzarella, onion and chili. It was excellent.

Rossa style pizza
We also sampled the bianca style pizza, this particular menu item having butternut squash, in house made ricotta, sage and honey. The ricotta was exceptional, little bites of heaven accentuated by the sweetness and savoriness of the honey and sage, respectively. Another excellent, excellent happy hour item from Grappino.

Bianca style pizza

We finished with a pasta item, baked torchioni bolognese. 

Torchioni are long, curved tubular pasta with one narrow end and one open end resembling a torch and designed to cup sauces. The dish is served with a bolognese (meat) sauce and topped with caciocavallo cheese gratin. Caciocavallo cheese is a semi dry cheese similar to provolone. This was my least favorite of the samplings here. I prefer a bolognese sauce that's a bit sweeter, perhaps with a bit more carrot and onion in the mix. Although not bad by any means, I preferred our other menu selections more.

The menu items for happy hour at Grappino were on the whole, very good and very much recommended. It's hard to find a good happy hour these days. If it's a chain restaurant, what used to be good is frequently not any more as the corporate bean counters step in. If it's a more local establishment, many of them just do not know how to provide value and good food. The happy hour at Grappino is one of the better in town, administered by local restaurateurs that really know what they're doing. I don't think many will be disappointed by the quality and value for this happy hour. They also have a nice selection of wines, cocktails and beers. I cannot talk about these as I did not indulge on my two visits here. For me, a good happy hour is more about the food than beverage. For food at happy hour, this establishment excels.

It's a wrap for another post on  Forks

90 Ninth St. N.
Naples, FL 34102

Happy hour Monday-Saturday from 3-6 PM in the bar area; All major credit cards accepted.

Baked torchioni bolognese. 

Exterior, Grappino

Open kitchen, Grappino