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Naples: Small Town, Big Appetite

A national survey puts Naples in the top 10 small-town food scenes, reinforcing what we already know.



HobNob Kitchen & Bar, on Naples' Fifth Avenue South

Photo by Vanessa Rogers

 

From postcard-perfect waterfront dining to enough restaurants opening up each year to warrant an annual “best new restaurants” coronation, Southwest Florida—with Naples leading the charge—has emerged in recent years as dining destination unto itself.

Now, the proof is even more in the pudding, poutine, pappardelle, pimiento cheese, Peking duck, pulled pork (really, whatever you want). Results from a new survey of USA Today readers ranked Naples as the ninth best small town food scene across the nation, right on the heels of Yountville (No. 4) and St. Helena (No. 5) in Napa Valley. (The No. 1 was somewhat surprising, yet totally in line with the spirit of the poll: Frankenmuth, Michigan).

A list of 20 destinations was culled by experts and then voted on by the people. What’s likely caught on with travelers across the country is that it’s not just the number of independent eateries here; it’s the breadth. We have everything from niche mom-and-pop sandwich shops (thank you, Pastrami Dan’s) to restaurateurs creating whimsical themed getaways (going from one D’Amico hangout to another can mean an authentic trip to Mexico then a rendez-vous in a secret garden for the most discerning carnivores) and the type of innovators who keep up with every trend that’s worth keeping up with (take a bow, Vincenzo Betulia, Fabrizio Aielli and Brian Roland).

So go treat yourself to anything from the chicken tikka masala at 21 Spices to a molecular gastronomic five-course wine dinner. Naples' restaurant scene is our bowl of cherries.

P.S. Several of our Cuban restaurants, including Fernandez the Bull, are in the finals for another USA Today poll for the best Cuban sandwich in Florida. Show your support for them by May 9!

 

Read Hot Dish every Wednesday and Friday online and every month in Gulfshore Life.

 

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