September 16, 2014

The Best Dishes in Town

Our Gulfshore’s not only a divine location but a diner’s paradise as well. With so many extraordinary choices at local eateries, we thought it a good service to clue readers to the crème de la crème—the dishes no caring diner could allow himself or herself to miss. We turned to a panel of the region’s top chefs for their choices (and the wine pairings to go with them). For reasons of objectivity, the chefs were not permitted to pick their own creations. So, diners, warm up your taste buds and check out the selections.
 
Nick Costanzo
Executive Chef, Angelina’s Ristorante

Although always passionate about food, it wasn’t until college—when he was waiting tables and studying business in Charleston, S.C.—that Costanzo decided to make cuisine his career. Upon graduating from Johnson and Wales Culinary School, Costanzo came to Naples—where he worked as an executive sous chef at Pazzo and Aqua Grill and as executive chef at Zoe’s before arriving at Angelina’s in 2007.

His pick: Hand-cut Fettuccini with Amarone-Veal Ragu, Fresh Ricotta & Thyme at Olio on Naples Bay, (pictured below).
"It was perfectly made, perfectly cooked. The sauce had a good complexity of flavors and contrasts on the palate—the right amount of richness and sweetness but still fairly light. The eat a lot," says Costanzo.

Paired with: Ripasso di Valpolicella
"It would be very easy to pair with a red wine from the Valpolicella region of Italy. The wine has some of the same characteristics as an Amarone, which uses sun-dried grapes, but it’s not as full-bodied," he explains.

Brian Roland
Executive Chef,  M Waterfront Grille

A graduate of the culinary institute of america, Roland’s trained with celebrity chef Daniel Boulud and had the opportunity to cook at the James Beard House, one of the highest honors in the culinary world. He first arrived in Naples as an intern for Maxwell’s on the Bay (now M Waterfront Grille) and later worked at Chops and Crü before signing on to open M as executive chef in the fall of 2008. Roland provides cooking advice on FOX 4 Rising and gourmetgirlmagazine.com.

His pick: Five Spice Dusted Bone-In Prime Ribeye with black truffle zabaglione and roasted shallots, sage and fingerling potato at Sea Salt.
"I feel like the chef took my taste buds on a journey with Chinese five spice—cinnamon, clove, fennel, anise and Szechuan peppercorn—grilled into the steak, which brings out beautiful flavors. The zabaglione is very aerated and flavorful, and the truffle essence offers earthy notes to it. Sage is one of my favorite herbs—it goes very well with the potatoes. And the shallots offer a sweetness to the dish. It’s a very well-balanced dish."

Paired with: Provenance shiraz
"The shiraz really stands strong and withholds some full-bodied flavors against the prime ribeye, which has high fat content, and the creamy zabaglione. Also, it has some earthy tones, which the truffle really complements."

Shannon Yates
Chef, Bacchus

Yates is a man of many titles—designer, developer and chef of trendy upscale Fort Myers restaurants, formerly with Crü and now with Bacchus. He is also an avid supporter of the culinary community in Fort Myers—taking in the food, wine and atmosphere at local restaurants whenever he can.

His pick: Seafood Paella at La Trattoria Café Napoli
"Gloria [Cabral, the owner] makes the No. 1 paella in all of Southwest Florida—I don’t think anybody does it better," says Yates. "It’s very seafood-driven and spunky, moist and flavorful—similar to her personality."

Paired with: Grenache
"Grenache is a traditional Spanish deep red wine. It’s on the jammy side. It’s a perfect wine—grenache isn’t too bold. It’s a great wine for shellfish and seafood. Grenache happens to be my favorite wine globally to drink from Australia to France to Spain. Even some Americans make it well. It’s one of the most food-friendly wines."

Tony Ridgway and Sukie Honeycutt
Owners, Ridgway Bar & Grill, Tony’s Off Third, Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar

These restaurant veterans each have more than 30 years of culinary experience. The pair joined forces in Naples in 1979 and now own and operate the downtown trifecta—Ridgway Bar & Grill, Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar, Tony’s Off Third—with Tony as executive chef and Sukie as wine director.

Their pick: Shrimp and Crab Napoleon at the Turtle Club
"It was fresh and wonderful—layered with mango salsa, jicama lime salad and smoked tomato vinaigrette," says Sukie.

Paired with: Cono Sur Vision Sauvignon Blanc
"A sauvignon blanc is crisp and clean, which are two qualities you want to have with seafood. And, it has some citrus flavors that marry well with the jicama lime salad," she adds.

Jacques and Lysielle Cariot
Owners, Bleu Provence

The couple opened the restaurant in 1999 after retiring to Naples from Provence, France—successfully pairing fine French cuisine with a world-class wine selection. A graduate of Paris’ Ritz Escoffier School, Lysielle studied under the restaurant’s five French chefs before taking over as executive chef in 2004. A true oenophile, Jacques travels to wineries around the world each year and has amassed a collection of more than 2,000 different wines.

Their pick: Dessert Tray at Angelina’s Ristorante
"It’s fantastic—they have cheesecake, tiramisu, entremets (a French mousse) and always come up with new stuff each time. You think you cannot eat any more, and then you finish a tray in just a heartbeat," says Jacques.

Paired with: Nothing.
Although the couple are wine connoisseurs (they own more than 24,000 bottles), they say the dessert tray is enough on its own. 

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