Dining Review: The Continental Stakes Its Claim
With the best of steaks and a flamboyant flourish, The Continental is making a statement in downtown Naples.
Restaurants, like people, have personalities. Some are wallflowers, some walk the middle road. Others, like The Continental on Third Street South, take the town by flamboyant storm. Gauzy, draped gazebos house private tables requiring advanced reservation. Exuberant bougainvillea and a huge stone fountain draw people into a softly lit, lush courtyard. Live music sets the scene. And the prices, it must be said, match the setting. The steakhouse, the latest project from respected restaurateur Richard D’Amico, had a reputation before it opened. Our task was to see if it met expectations.
The menu favors hearty, carnivorous appetites. Case in point: Entrées are categorized as “steak” and “not steak,” with the former clearly the focus—a full page of cuts is divided by breed and provenance. Fish, not even listed, varies depending on what is fresh. While it’s possible for vegetarians to find sustenance, we knew we were in for a decadent meal when our server referenced the foie gras-stuffed roasted chicken ($30) as the “lighter” dinner option. Light it was not, but it was fantastic. The chicken was tender and juicy, and the stuffing was rich and flavorful without being overpowered by the foie gras. A 22-ounce bone-in New York strip steak from Kansas-based Creekstone Farms ($58) was presented at medium-rare perfection, everything a cut of meat like that should and could be.
Vegetable and potato sides are offered à la carte and family-style, plenty large to share. The roasted carrots with thyme, garlic and honey ($12) were outstanding—beautifully caramelized but still retaining a hint of crunch. The gratin of potato with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serrano ham ($14) was lusciously cheesy with the right amount of saltiness.
Our appetizers, a yellowtail carpaccio with tomato and jalapeño ($14) and a baked ricotta with roasted tomatoes and pine-nut granola ($14), started us off well. The combination of tastes in the carpaccio was excellent and the fish fresh. If I could be very picky, I would have preferred it sliced thinner, but I still scraped up every last morsel. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the warm ricotta, my companion found it texturally underwhelming and wished for something crunchy. In a pinch, the hot rolls we had been served did the job.
Desserts are delightfully old-fashioned, consisting of a selection of pies ($10 each), a take on traditional cheesecake ($10) and vanilla soft serve with toppings ($9). Cheesecake fans should be pleased. An entirely unfussy slice comes adorned with only a shortbread cookie. It’s airier than a New York cheesecake and very satisfying. For a real sugar kick, we ordered the accurately named Salty Caramel Peanut Blondie Pie. I boast a truly refined sweet tooth, and this hit every mark for me, beginning with the melty caramel, through to the crunchy, buttery crust and finishing with a side of soft serve. More, please.
Don’t let the cocktail or wine lists pass you by. The Continental is curating an enticing cocktail culture, complete with cheeky drink names. Our “PS, It’s a Champagne Cocktail” ($14) and “The Church Key” ($14) were well-balanced, refreshing and highly drinkable. All non-sparkling wines by the glass are available in 6- or 9-ounce pours. The Orvieto Classico ($11) and Bordeaux Superieur ($14), both at 6 ounces, were recommended by our accommodating and knowledgeable server to pair with our entrées.
The final tab, pushing $230 before tip, was sizeable but not, frankly, as much as we’d expected, having heard plenty of prior chatter about the steep price tag. The cocktails and premium steaks alone, like a wagyu from Japan’s Miyazaki prefecture, could easily drive your check way up, but otherwise rates are more or less comparable with other high-end establishments. Our meal was terrific from start to finish, so we were happy to pay up, but we admittedly are unlikely to make this a regular haunt. Your cardiologist might also thank you if you keep this to a special-occasion restaurant. But do go. Sometimes a night on the town is just what the doctor ordered.
1205 Third St. S., Naples, 659-0007, continentalnaples.com. Lunch daily 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner Sunday through Wednesday 5-10 p.m. (bar menu 10-11 p.m.), Thursday through Saturday 5-10:30 p.m. (bar menu 10:30 p.m. to midnight). Wheelchair accessible. Reservations recommended.