Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Subscribe to Southwest Florida Forks

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Dinner at Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery in Fort Myers

Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery

Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery
is a restaurant serving Italian cuisine in Fort Myers, FL. The bakery is a bit of a misnomer, as there really is no bakery besides that which serves the restaurant. However, with an advance request, they will bake you anything asked of them with sufficient notice.

The chef de cuisine, Barbara Storci, is  an extremely talented chef moving here from Italy about 2 years ago. Her grandfather was in the restaurant business in Rome for many years and she grew up learning her craft from a very early age.

Barbara and her uncle Robert, Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery
I had heard very good things about this establishment so my dining companion and I decided to take a peek.

The interior of the restaurant is intimate, probably accommodating 40 diners. We did not have reservations mid week in the middle of April, but no problem, they could accommodate us.

They have a very nice Menu. The offerings looked delicious, and I could not wait to sample them.

At first sight simplistic, we were brought some ciabatta and focaccia pieces to mop up the seasoned olive oil that was brought to the table. With the quality of olive oil and the bread that was served here, this was delicious, and a harbinger of things to come.

Antipasto Toscano

We tried the antipasto Toscano. It was very good, and featured bresaola and salami, seasoned olives, spinach with balsamic glaze and these exceptional pieces of focaccia bread with sauteed leeks and parmesan cheese. The leeks and focaccia bread were brilliant in their simplicity and a taste until then unknown to me. The plate was served with in house made cornetto bread, which is an Italian variation of the French croissant. Highly recommended.

Cornetto with ham and fontina cheese.

Seeing me maniacally taking photographs for this blog post, the owners were kind enough to provide a little lagniappe before moving onto our mains. The first was a delicious caponata. This was an excellent and very traditional rendering of that classic Italian starter with eggplant, olives, capers, celery and sweetened balsamic vinegar. We were also served a very unique off the menu item of cornetto filled with ham and fontina cheese. Both of these dishes are highly recommended.

I have been searching locally for a good ragu so we decided to try the fettuccine with bolognese sauce. Traditionally this sauce involves a mixture (soffritto) of onion, celery and carrot and finely ground meats, in this case beef. Milk, wine and tomatoes are added and the mixture slowly cooked to produce a very viscous sauce. Barbara told us this was her grandmother's recipe. I prefer a more complex ragu with a mixture of meats like beef top round, pork sausage and pork shoulder, but this was very good and recommended.

The restaurant has a weekly special menu featuring cuisine for one of the 20 regions of Italy. When we were there their menu had a Tuscan bent.

Veal scallopini with porcini muchrooms

We opted for the scaloppina di vitello al funghi porcini, which was veal scaloppini with porcini mushrooms. This was cooked apparently in a "Tuscan style" which is different that one would find perhaps in Rome. It was absolutely delicious, and featured veal scallopini in a sauce of sage, pancetta, wine, porcini mushrooms, garlic and tomatoes. With scaloppini dishes, the meat serves as the foil or vehicle for the sauce. This dish was exceptional, and perfectly executed as a scaloppini dish. Most highly recommended.


My dining companion has a very sweet tooth and inquired about their desserts. The tiramisu was suggested by our server. After tasting this, I could see why. This was a very good, and perfectly prepared tiramisu, the richness of the coffee and chocolate flavors perfectly complementing the sweetened cooked egg and mascarpone cheese mixture. I am not a dessert person but thought this dessert delicious.

The food at Colleoni's is traditional, but very good. Most of what you are served is made in house, and it shows. This is very much a family run business and they take great pride in serving you quality Italian cuisine. Highly recommended.

Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery 
12731 Mcgregor Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33919
Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch: 10 AM- 3 PM, dinner 5-9 PM
All major credit cards accepted; No valet parking; Kid's meals available

Interior, Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery

Caponata with cornetto bread

Fettuccine with bolognese sauce

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Happy Hour at Vergina in Naples

The Bice Group are a consortium of restaurants in primarily the United States and the Middle East among other locations. They have a a number of locations in Florida, perhaps most prominently in the city of Naples. Starting with their original Naples, FL location, Bice, the Bice group has recently rapidly expanded their presence with other brandings. These include Kitchen, Cafe Milano, Virgina and the upcoming restaurant La Trattoria. Interestingly, all of these locations are with 1/2 mile of each other in Downtown Naples.

Having written about 2 of these establishments, Bice and Kitchen, I thought I would check out the happy hour at Vergina which was acquired by the Bice group almost a year ago.

Vergina, Naples, FL
The are considering changing the name to Monticello. Personally, I think this would be a big mistake as the restaurant's present name has a significant amount of name recognition locally, being open for over 10 years before changing hands.

Bice group is doing a bit of different marketing at it's Naples 5th Avenue S. locations, and offering a happy hour with most, if not all of it's menu items at 50% off. I have my own thoughts on this, but more later in this post.

In all the years I have lived in Naples, I have never eaten at Vergina. Recently I discovered their happy hour, which runs from 3-5 PM. Their Menu items during this time are 50% off. They also have beer, wine and drink specials at happy hour. One can indulge themselves with this very good food and drink value in the bar area, the restaurant proper or at both of their outside dining areas.

Outside dining on 5th Avenue S., Vergina

Before ordering my dining companion (DC) and I were brought some bread and olive oil dip.

Ciabatta bread with herb/parmesan olive oil,
The bread was delicious, and the seasoned olive oil a perfect accompaniment. I wish there would have been more of it, and there was upon request.

Deconstructed mussels al forno

DC and I split an order of steamed mussels al forno. This seemed to be a deconstructed version, as the traditional dish uses roasted breaded mussels, forno meaning oven in Italian. These very large PEI mussels were served in a traditional sauce of olive oil, wine, garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley. The side of grilled crostini was a nice touch, and an ode to the more traditional version. The mussels were great, meaty and well seasoned. The broth, as usually the case, is a great dip for the bread served. I just wish there would have been more mussels but at happy hour prices it was all good.

We then moved onto our mains. I picked the pappardelle bolognese, ribbon pasta with a slow cooked beef and pork ragu. The pasta, made in house was very good, but the ragu ok, not the best I have had. Thank God for parmesan cheese, it always makes every thing better.

I also ordered a side of garlic broccoli rabe. Broccoli rabe is not really broccoli, but part of the family of cruciferous vegetables, their name derived from the Latin cross-bearing. This family of vegetables includes cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.They are high in vitamin C and fiber and there is anecdotal evidence for other health benefits. I thought this dish good, and large enough to share with my DC.

DC ordered the chicken Marsala.

Chicken Marsala
It was the star of the show. With this dish, chicken breasts are braised in a mixture of Marsala, butter, olive oil, mushrooms, and spices, and served atop mashed potatoes. Braised spinach is added as well. This main choice was fantastic, and definitely the winner in the war of the entrees that night. I will add it was a bargain at the happy hour price of $12.00, again all with a table side view of 5th Avenue S.

The food at the "new" Vergina was good to excellent. The happy hour offer is an extremely good value for prices in downtown Naples, and this promotional offer is highly recommended.  The Bice group is becoming a culinary presence in downtown Naples, and their happy hour business model in their soon to be 5 downtown restaurants may be a game changer. That may be a good thing as I am hearing talk of $70 entrees in at least one of the downtown Naples establishments. To my knowledge, there is not one Michelin starred restaurant in the state of Florida but who knows, it may happen one day.

The food at Vergina is good, especially at happy hour prices and the seating along 5th avenue, sublime. I hope readers will check out this very good value.

That's that for another post on Forks.

700 5th Avenue S.
Naples, FL 34102

Happy hour from 3-5 PM daily excluding holidays; All major credit cards accepted; No happy hour kid's meals, Valet parking available.

Outside dining, Vergina
Interior, Vergina restaurant
Bar area, Vergina restaurant

Pappardelle Bolognese
Garlic broccoli rabe

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dinner (again) at 1500 South in Naples

1500 South  (1500)

Restaurant 1500 South
is a restaurant in Naples Bay Resort. Naples Bay Resort is a lovely collection of both resort rentals and private residences all with easy access to the Gulf of Mexico.

Resort area and residences, Naples Bay Resort
Their flagship restaurant, 1500, was opened two years ago with much buzz by celebrity chef Art Smith. Chef Smith has been in some very high profile cooking ventures. In addition, he has published cookbooks, has been involved in many children's charity concerns and received numerous culinary accolades at the highest levels.

I visited here shortly after they initially opened and Documented my meal here.

Fast forward two years and a friend invited me along for a sampling of their new Menu. I was unaware of the change in ownership until I arrived that day. Apparently Chef Smith has not been involved in the restaurant's operations for a number of months and it has been taken over by Naples Bay Resort. Chef William Conroy is the new Chef de Cuisine. He is CIA trained and has had some interesting gigs in a Colorado 5 star resort in addition to the Aspen Food and Wine Festival.

The Patina of 1500 had not changed since I had been there last, and is still a beautiful dining space just off Naples Bay.

I love their bar space and open air kitchen.

Open air kitchen, 1500 South
Now for the food. In the interests of transparency and full disclosure, our food was given to us gratis for evaluative purposes.

The first thing brought to the table was the southern panzanella salad. This was the chef's take on the classic Italian bread and tomato salad.

Southern Panzanella salad
It was brilliant, and featured in house made burrata, some of the best I have had. Grits croutons, smoked avocado puree, heirloom tomatoes, tomato aspic, pickled onions, balsamic glaze and arugula microgreens finished the dish. Highly recommended.

We then moved onto the grouper cake that was served with a preserved lemon (aioli) mayonnaise and arugula with orange segments and preserved lemon.

Fish cakes ordered out are usually short in the fish and long in the cake. This fish cake was not. The cake was very dense, a consequence of using ground saltines instead of bread crumbs, the latter a more traditional Maryland way. Why not, we're in Florida after all. The fish cake was good, though a bit salty for my tastes. I thought the bitter flavors of the preserved lemon clashed with the sweetness of the oranges in the arugula. This dish was ok, and a bit of a let down from what was served to us earlier.

Oven roasted snapper
We then tried the oven roasted snapper. This was good. I must say, this chef knows how to cook fish. The fish was served with coconut rice, shredded coconut added to it during cooking. A sauce of coconut milk, coconut rum, lime zest, pineapple, cilantro oil and micro cilantro sealed the deal along with the rock shrimp used as a foil for this dish. My only complaint with this is that the acidity of the pineapple really conflicts with the rest of this dish and would better left out. Just my two cents.

We sampled one last entree, the braised short rib.

Braised short rib

The short rib was cooked sous vide for many hours. and served atop grits with demi glace. The meat was perfectly cooked and seasoned but the rest of the dish was lacking. Although very well cooked and having a really good starchy "mouth feel" the grits were flavor-wise unremarkable even when buttressed by the addition of the demi. This dish, though so-so, could be brought to greatness with some very minor modifications.

We were then served our dessert, a white, milk, and dark chocolate mousse. My dining companion spotted this immediately as something not made in house which was confirmed by the chef. No matter, it was ok and should have appeal to most.

The food served at 1500 was good, but reminded me of fare I have been served in the clubhouses of many country clubs locally. This is food that generally is good, but non controversial in terms of presentation and taste. I had seen glimpses of chef Conroy's talents in the dishes served to us, and I hope at some point he will more fully express his culinary acumen.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

1500 South
1500 5th Avenue South
Naples, FL 34102

Open 8-10:30 AM Monday-Friday for breakfast and 5-10PM daily for dinner, Open 8-11AM for breakfast Saturday and Sunday; Kid's meals; All major credit cards accepted.

Bar area, 1500 South

Dining area, 1500 South

Fish cakes in preserved lemon aioli

Chocolate mousse trio

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Dinner at Taco Lindo in Naples

Taco Lindo (TL)

Taco Lindo, Naples
is a restaurant in east Naples that serves Mexican cuisine.The name of the restaurant really means "pretty taco" which is a bit misleading as many other things are served here. The food, as the owner explained, is influenced by the fare of the Guanajuato region of central Mexico. Upon researching this, street food in the state of Guanajuato such as tacos, burritos and tostadas are traditionally Mexican but with a twist. This was my experience at TL. The restaurant has been open for about 4 years.

As you enter TL, you will find the interior somewhat small. I would guess the restaurant could seat 25 to 30 diners at most. What the restaurant lacks in space in makes up in ambience, with colorful pastels, murals and tchotchke on the walls. I was particularly intrigued by the inflatable Mexican beer bottles suspended from the ceiling.

Interior, Taco Lindo
The restaurant also serves take out and delivers within a 3 mile radius. After a short wait, we were seated and given menus. The restaurant does not have a website and the menu can be hard to find so here is most of it.

A duo of salsas and in house made chips were brought to the table to snack on while my dining companion and I decided what to order. The salsas were very good but the owner was tight lipped about how they make them.

Salsa and chips
This was my best guess for the Salsa Verde . The red salsa was made with tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro and my best guess was a pinch of oregano which gave it a very unusual flavor. Both salsas were mild, extremely flavorful and excellent.

We thought we would try a couple of the tacos and a gordita. We ordered al pastor and carnitas tacos. Al pastor is pork that is marinated in dried chilies, spices and pineapple then cooked on a vertical spit. Carnitas are the Mexican version of pulled pork, slow braised or fried. These were served with onions, cilantro and corn tortillas. Both were very good. A gordita is traditionally a corn meal-based pastry stuffed with meat and other "goodies". The gordita at TL was sort of a quesadilla-gordita hybrid and served with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and a spicy aioli. As were the tacos, the gordita was also very good.

Wanting to try more of this wonderful food, we moved onto the pork in green salsa.

Pork in salsa verde

This again was another excellent dish, a most generous serving of pork in tomatillo sauce, delicious beans and rice, lettuce, sour cream and pico de gallo. The flavors in this dish were exceptional and a bargain at $12.99.

Guanajuato is noted for it's milk-based desserts but these were absent on the menu. Instead we opted to split a capechano tostada, capechano being a dish that incorporates two meats, in this case, steak and chorizo. It was served with beans, cheese, lettuce, avocado, tomato and sour cream. It was also exceptional and highly recommended.

All of these dishes are traditional Mexican cuisine but were better than most, perhaps reflecting the influence of Guanajuato cuisine. The owner, and perhaps rightly so, was not willing to give insight into her cooking, so I can only guess. Nonetheless, the cuisine at TL is really good, and from what DC and I ordered, most highly recommended. The strip mall they are located in has been extremely underpopulated for some time so there is a good reason they are very busy and still here after 4 years. I hope you will try Taco Lindo, I do not think you will be disappointed. 

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Taco Lindo
4003 Santa Barbara Blvd.
Naples, FL 34104

Monday-Thursday: 1030 AM to 10 PM, Friday-Saturday: 1030 AM to 11 PM, Sunday: 1030 AM to 930 PM; Kid's meals available; All major credit cards accepted; No valet parking; No reservations accepted.

Al pastor and carnitas tacos (12 and 3 PM), chorizo gordita
Steak and chorizo tostada

Take out service, Cafe Lindo

Friday, March 23, 2018

Social Hour at Veranda E in Naples

Veranda E (VE) is a restaurant in Naples, FL. It is part of the Hotel Escalante (HE) located in downtown Naples. There is interesting local History behind the name Escalante that involves the Calusa Indians and the canal that is now a road (5th Avenue S.) that connected Naples Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

VE recently introduced a "social" or happy hour that runs from 4-6 PM daily. I have sampled some of their fare a while back. It was excellent and was curious to check out what they were offering.

Social hour is not in the main dining area but held in the pergola adjacent to the hotel in addition to the outside hotel reception area.

Pergola, Veranda E
This is a great seating area as not only does it have good views of the courtyard of HE but it is very private.

Pergola social hour seating, Veranda E
I had arrived here a bit early and had the opportunity to get a tour of part of the restaurant by Chef de Cuisine, Mounir Loqmana. He was recently brought on board and has achieved recognition as the Chef de Cuisine at USS Nemo. Chef Mounir has been an integral part of putting Asian fusion on the map in this area.

Chef Mounir was very happy to show me the traditional garden at VE

Chef Mounir, Veranda E
Besides the traditional garden, they grow a number of herbs, micro greens and vegetables hydroponically; enough to sustain the needs of the restaurant.

Hydroponic garden, Verand E

I think this is very appealing and definitively adds to the je ne sais quoi of VE.

My dining companions and I tried a number of items from their social hour Menu and one from the regular menu that was highly recommended. 

The octopus was an appetizer from the regular menu.

Octopus appetizer
A "secretly" spiced and cooked octopus was served atop a mix of Asian pear, green, red and poblano peppers and accented with garlic and macadamia nuts. Romesco sauce and a fermented black garlic puree finished the dish. I had a bite of this, and it was one of the best cooked octopus dishes I have ever had. Chef would not come clean with it's preparation but apparently it was an old family recipe.

Another dining companion ordered the carne asada soft taco. It was served with guacamole. At the restaurant lime and lemon juice are infused with chopped habenero peppers and mixed with avocado, tomato, cilantro, onion and tomato. My dining companion thought the steak in the carne asada was a bit tough, though liked the flavors and the dish overall.

Another dining companion ordered the hot-n-crunchy grouper sliders with house made potato chips.

Grouper slider

This was another dish that was garnished with a mango chutney, which I thought very tasty. Dining companion did not care for it but I thought it was good.

The blackened fish taco was a similar dish, and this dining companion really enjoyed it. It was served also with in house made chips, guacamole and cabbage slaw with avocado cilantro salsa.

I tried a couple of things to more fully evaluate the menu, the first of which was the Veranda E calamari. This was calamari that was given the General Tso's treatment, and was very good. 

Veranda E calamari
I had to laugh as the server told me as he brought this plate to the table, "the chili peppers will leave you alone if you leave them alone."  A culinary non alignment pact.

I finished with the brisket and short rib burger with blue cheese and chips.

Brisket and short rib burger
I am not a burger aficionado but wanted to try this anyway. I have been concerned about the price points of hamburgers in the area lately but at $17.00 for social hour, it was worth every penny. 

There were mixed reviews from some of our dining companions but in my opinion Veranda E has a lovely happy hour; one of the best around. The setting is beautiful, the food really good, and it does not get much better than this locally. Highly recommended.

Table garnish, Veranda E
It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Veranda E at the Hotel Escalante
290 5th Ave. S.
Naples, FL 34102

Social hour 4-6 PM daily; Valet parking available; All major credit cards acccepted.

View from social hour, Veranda E

Chef's garden, Veranda E
Blackened fish taco
Carne asada soft taco