Hot Dish

Hot Dish: Sept. 30, 2009

BY September 30, 2009
Inside the Gulfshore’s dining scene.
A Capital Anniversary!
Naples’ The Capital Grille celebrated its first anniversary Sept. 22 at Mercato with a house full of loyal customers. The superb, friendly service paired with great steaks and seafood packs the parking lot at lunch and dinner almost every day. 


Proprietor Peter Lopez must know a few thousand people by name; many greet him like a long lost friend. 

Capital Grille diners Scott and Simone Lutgert with Stephanie Henderson.

Some anniversary celebrants included Lori and Marshall Hanno with son Matthew, Denny and Karen Berens, Scott and Simone Lutgert, and Blaine Crandall. The Capital Grille, 9005 Mercato Drive, Naples, 254-0640.

Poodle Skirts, Pompadours and an Italian Buffet
Noodles Italian Café & Sushi Bar is hosting a ’50s Sock Hop Dance from noon till 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18 to help the Soroptimists raise money for The Alzheimer’s Association. The $20 ticket includes an Italian buffet lunch and dancing to ’50s music with vocalist Jeannie Upton and local musicians. A silent auction and raffle for door prizes will raise additional funds. Traditional ’50s Sock Hop attire (poodle skirts, bobby socks, saddle shoes, jeans and leather jackets) is encouraged. Noodles, 1585 Pine Ridge Road, Naples. For tickets, call Rita Albaugh at 821-5562 or Jeannie Upton at 269-6320.
Sunset Dining on the Gulf
Some of the most fun dining experiences I’ve had are on the Naples Princess evening cruises. They serve hors d’oeuvres for $44 or dinner for $54. This is the time of year when more savvy locals are aboard than tourists. The ship takes a leisurely two hours to cruise Port Royal, then heads out into the Gulf for some stunning sunsets and to possibly see a green flash. (It does exist—I’ve seen two in my lifetime!)
Stunning sunset view from the Naples Princess.

I went with Haskell’s Wine and Spirits on the Princess for a special Wine Tasting Cruise for $25. 

Haskell’s wine cruise on the Naples Princess.

Guests sampled 30 wines and feasted on smoked salmon, crab claws, barbecue ribs and salads. Fun! 

A feast of crab claws during Haskell’s wine cruise.

Dolphins jump the wake, osprey fly close by and manatee can be seen bobbing along. The next wine cruise is Thursday, Oct. 29 with boarding at 5:15 p.m. sharp, returning at 7:30 p.m. Call Haskell’s at 254-1120 for reservations.

Cook Up Your Best Marinara!
Rotary Club of Fort Myers’ Italian Fest is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4 at the Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers with free admission! Sample food from the area’s finest Italian restaurants—Sasse’s, Giovanni’s, University Grill, Pizza Fusion, Mario’s, Rita’s Italian Ice and Rao’s. Enter the best homemade marinara competition, compete in American Bocce ball and listen to live music by Flying Bambino Brothers, Fort Myers High, Pete and Cher, Tom Foolery and Alter Ego. There’s a kids’ area, too. Call 332-8158 to register.
Comings and Goings…
Mamma Pasta is no more—sort of. The restaurant still exists off Cypress Lake Drive in Fort Myers, but it’s been renamed Rao’s Italian Restaurant. After eight years, owner Carlo Rao decided he wanted to put his name on the marquee. There’s new landscaping and a few new dishes, but fans of Mamma Pasta will be happy to know Rao’s has a similar menu and lower prices. 7890 Summerlin Lakes Drive, 936-3660.
The Crêpeatery opened in the kiosk in front of the Hollywood Theaters at Coconut Point in Estero. It serves a wide variety of crêpes including vegetarian, taco, honey chicken, Mandarin chicken, and roast beef entrée crêpes, plus a dozen dessert offerings. This is an independently owned restaurant, not a chain. For more details, call 992-2622.
Jane Wood will open her newest Jane’s Café location on Fifth Avenue South in Naples in mid-October at the site formerly occupied by Trilogy and before that Zoe’s. It will be an English family restaurant with family-friendly traditional British dishes and prices. 720 Fifth Ave. S., Suite 101, Naples.
The Channel Mark on Fort Myers Beach just closed after many years. Expect a new tenant within months at this attractive waterfront location.
Executive Chef Martin Murphy returns to Bonita Springs’ Robb & Stucky KitchenAid Culinary Center for a grand re-opening wine reception Oct. 19 after a year away in New Hampshire. He will be resuming classes and wine dinners at the center. Call (866) 206-3840 to register for the Oct. 19 dinner. 26501 S. Tamiami Trail, Bonita Springs.
Let’s broaden our dining choices together. Post your hints and experiences of great Southwest Florida restaurants below, as a comment, or email

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