Located in an obscure strip mall off U.S. 41 and Sunrise Boulevard, La Trattoria Café Napoli is certainly one of Fort Myers’ hidden treasures. A tribute to chef and restaurant owner Gloria M. Jordan d’Cabral’s Cuban family traditions as well as an extensive showcase for her exquisite European culinary training, this restaurant is exactly the sort of inspiring surprise diners search for.
The surprises started with the setting: The Italian-inspired exterior gives way to Spanish tile floors and bright red- and yellow-hued walls accented with paintings of flamenco dancers, bullfighters and bold abstracts. Amid the small group of well-spaced tables, a guitarist strummed soft Spanish melodies as a friendly Gloria and her attentive servers bustled from table to table. As the evening progressed and the tables filled up, we were glad we had made reservations.
While my husband and I waited for our tapas to arrive, we enjoyed homemade Cuban bread dipped in garlic-scented oil. The balsamic-accented plums stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese and wrapped in prosciutto ($8) were a delightful sweet and savory sensation. And the garbanzos ($8) with chorizo, garlic and tomatoes were equally delicious.
To accompany our entrees, we ordered a bottle of Gaucho Club Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($35), which was smooth and buttery with a nice finish (and appeared on several tables, despite a nice-sized list of red and white wines by the glass and bottle). My truffled cheese sacchetti ($17)—handmade light pasta sachets with black truffle-scented ricotta and mozzarella in a savory basil and walnut pesto with small cuts of zucchini—was balanced by the delicate flavors of the cheeses without being overwhelmed by the truffle. My husband’s vitelo calabrese ($19)—tender pan-seared veal scallopini topped with mozzarella and Portobello mushrooms and finished with Marsala wine sauce over roasted potatoes—was so tasty he has since recommended a return trip to have it again.
No dinner is truly complete without dessert, despite our two very full tummies. As with the tapas, we wanted to sample a selection, so we chose (from a verbal list) the tartufo—semisweet raspberry gelato surrounded by a (very) hard dark chocolate shell For dessert, one can’t do much better than Café Napoli’s tartufo—raspberry gelato encased in a dark chocolate shell drizzled with caramel; traditional rich, creamy flan (both $5.25); and smooth, refreshing mango gelato with a dollop of strawberry preserves ($4.50)—all simple, yet delicious.
If you simply came across La Trattoria Café Napoli without any prior knowledge of its origins and menu, you would be more than pleasantly surprised. Fort Myers needs more of these small, ethnic neighborhood restaurants where you can find flavorful food, attentive service and affordable prices in an attractive yet casual atmosphere.
La Trattoria Café Napoli
12377 S. Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers; (239) 931-0050, latrattoriacafenapoli.com
Open for lunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Monday through Friday); dinner 5-10 p.m. (Monday through Saturday)
Wheelchair accessible. Reservationsrecommended.