Hot Dish: Jan. 14, 2009
By Ivan Seligman
Inside the Gulfshore’s dining scene.
Happy New Year! Over the past year, there have been about as many restaurants opening as closing. It’s time to try the new spots’ fine cuisines. Here are two very good picks:
Aurelio’s Brings Thin Crust to Gulf Coast
Aurelio’s Pizza makes a great Chicago-style, thin-crust pizza, served for years at the Naples location on U.S. 41, and now at the second spot on Main Street in Gulf Coast Town Center. For years, I’ve considered Naples’ Aurelio’s to have one of the best thin-crust pizzas around in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere. Now, owners Jack Haberkorn and Jack Canna have added a winner to the other dining spots at this shopping center.
Aurelio's owners Jack Haberkorn and Jack Canna
The new Aurelio’s had to turn away hundreds of hungry shoppers who saw the lights on in the days before its recent opening. The décor is full of dark woods, a tall ceiling with stained-glass lighting and a rich red brick wall behind the long bar.
And the food? Like I said, you’ve just gotta try their thin-crust pizza. It speaks for itself! Aurelio’s offers more than 30 pizza varieties, including a gluten-free thin-crust. My pizza arrived bursting with taste, with hot mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and a crisp crust. My favorite topping? Crispy anchovies baked right on top.
This Illinois-based family chain has slowly expanded over the last 50 years in just six states, perfecting their thin- and thick-crust pizzas, calzones and other favorites. I also like the toasted raviolis, breaded and served crisp and packed with luscious ricotta cheese. Dip ’em in the marina sauce, and you’re set! Aurelio’s Pizza, 9909 Gulf Coast Main Street, Gulf Coast Town Center, Fort Myers, 274-8446.
Asian Fusion Delight Comes to Bonita
David Wong’s Pan Asian & Sushi Restaurant is Bonita Springs’ newest restaurant, and in a few months, the lines to enter may be as long as its name! The menu has both familiar and new dishes created by a skilled chef with Asian nuances that make them taste even better than you expected.
Crispy Red Snapper
The Cambodian-style Scallops Amok ($9) is a beautiful banana-leaf bowl containing scallops far more tender than we imagined, and the lime leaf, lemongrass, chili and basil makes for a very tasty portion. Our attentive waiter, Chris, suggested the Thai staple, Red Curry, with seafood ($23), and the first bites brought smiles to our faces. The spicing is a bit better than what we’ve had in the area, and the fresh Japanese green pumpkin, artfully decorated squid, and crisp taro chips yield a wonderful medley of tastes and textures. The sushi is quite fresh, and nicely presented.
David Wong's Pan Asian & Sushi Restaurant
Housed in the former Cilantro Tamales, the décor is now stylishly warm, inviting and a little exotic. Owner David Wong attends to the details, and server Chris knows the ingredients intimately (he cooks, too). The food is appropriately served hot and tasty. We left happy at our new find and quite full, too! Who knows? You may be the first of your friends to try, and to also recommend, this gem. David Wong’s Pan Asian & Sushi Restaurant, 25301 S. Tamiami Trail, Bonita Springs, 992-5600.
Let's broaden our choices of great Southwest Florida restaurants together. Post your hints and experiences below or e-mail me at Diningscene@live.com.