Meals that Warmed the Heart
After Irma, Naples has been pretty bleak. We salute these restaurants that are opening or have opened their doors for gatherings that were strictly on the house.
Chef Asif Syed (in white) surrounded by his 21 Spices team members and the first responders who were treated to a luncheon there on Sept. 21
The past two weeks have been treacherous for everyone in Southwest Florida, and it has been an especially tough road for restaurants in greater Naples—with the boil water advisory lifted only two days ago, continued limited use of dishwashers and laundry machines for those on county water, and no power still in some spots—it's a miracle as many places are open.
In the days immediately after the storm, however, a few in hard-hit Naples and Bonita Springs were able to get up and running despite the odds. Just the colossal task of reopening was philanthropic in itself, filling a need for the community. And some of those that did went a step further: Rather than focusing on making up missed margins, they invited people in, chicken-soup-for-the-soul-style, for hot meals on the house. We decided to highlight a few here.
- The Continental and Campiello: These sister restaurants in the D’Amico famiglia on Third Street South were some of the quickest to bounce back in Irma’s wake, and spread their good fortune with the people of Naples—preparing free meals for anyone who walked in on Sept. 14, just four days after the storm. Deciding which one to walk into was just your pick of comfort food: Italian at Campiello (pasta with marinara and sausage with salad and bread) or American at The Continental (meatloaf, mashed potatoes and biscuits).
- Purple Spoon Culinary: Based on the success of its first “Community Dinner” on Sept. 14, where chef-owner Kristina San Filippo opened her healthful oasis to anyone who wanted a meal in the immediate aftermath, she is hosting another on Saturday, Sept. 23 from 5-8 p.m. People are invited to indulge in whatever is on the menu that night and will be asked to contribute what they feel is fair (her forte is whipping up whatever is freshest at the moment from local farms—she sells take-out meals nightly in the space throughout the year and also hosts a local farmer’s market on Wednesdays that will be back Sept. 27).
- The Big Taste Grill: It’s the world’s largest traveling cookout: a 65-foot-long truck that sizzles 2,500 brats per hour (owned by Naples philanthropists Shelly and Ralph Stayer, who co-own Johnsonville Sausage). Its first Collier relief stop was at the Johnsonville Marketplace on Thursday, Sept. 21, and it is soon moving onto the hardest-hit areas, Immokalee and the Keys. Residents and relief workers will be comped all of the sausage they want to eat Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Farm Worker’s Village and Sunday, Sept. 24, at Immokalee Community Park. (Keys dates and locations are TBD.)
- 21 Spices by Chef Asif: The chef-owner here opened his doors on Thursday, Sept. 21, to a lunch saluting first responders and national guardsmen. A longtime force on Marco as the culinary head of the island’s Hilton resort before striking out on his own with his critically acclaimed modern Indian restaurant, he wanted to honor and pay tribute to the difference they make in our coastal communities.
- Tijuana Flats: The Central Florida-based chain with locations throughout Southwest Florida (Naples, Bonita and Fort Myers) acted fast and declared that 10 percent of proceeds from all of its 125 locations from Sept. 15-17 would go to Irma relief, as well as delivered food to shelters and relief efforts across the state in conjunction with Florida’s Emergency Operations Centers. (This is too cool not to print: The company’s Just in Queso Foundation has raised $3.5 million over the past decade.)
- Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria: Super-quick to help out, the fast-casual taco joint and bar was, according to sources, the first place to go into crisis-relief mode after the storm, handing out free food to first responders on Sept. 12 (just two days after the eye soared over town).
- 7th Avenue Social: Owner Colin Estrem, a D'Amico alum, was so inspired by the generosity and good will on display at Campiello and The Continental that he decided he wanted to do a similar type of gathering at his Southern-style eatery. What resulted was free community breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday that fed 370 people.
- Chicken Salad Chick: The fast-casual spot on 41 and Immokalee with more than a dozen types of chicken salad on the menu daily reopened very soon after the storm, and its owners gave away hundreds of meals to first responders and other relief personnel throughout the week.
The D’Amico philosophy? “Our home is your home.”
Anyone was invited into Campiello (left) and The Continental (right) for a free hot meal on Sept. 14.
For Lee County meals with purpose, look for our Wednesday Hot Dish blog.