When I learned that a new French restaurant—Tartine & Tartelette—had opened in North Naples, I was perplexed. Could this area support another venue for Gallic cuisine when several excellent options already exist? How would this most recent addition fit into the mix?
After dinner at Tartine & Tartelette, I can now say I understand. This isn’t a French restaurant like we’ve come to expect with the standard compilation of classic bistro favorites. No; this is the kind of restaurant you’d find in France, a place where chic diners eat in a relaxed setting governed by impeccable good taste. The menu may have a few nods to traditional favorites, like escargot and steak frites, but the majority of the dishes are contemporary and inventive, the type of plates you’d find in better cafés while visiting Europe.
I could tell from the moment my companion and I stepped through the door that this would not be the standard American take on the French model. For starters, the décor is sleek, done in gray and silver and white, a look the French would say is done with beaucoup de gout—lots of taste. An Eiffel Tower sits behind the bar, but otherwise it’s impossible to tell it is a French restaurant.
Owners Jean and Axelle Bechu
The menu, too, struck me right away. My dining companion ordered for her appetizer the oeuf cocotte ($8), a dish I’ve eaten a number of times in France but never seen on a menu here. Two eggs are poached in cream; this particular version also had chorizo in the sauce. It’s rich, hearty stuff, and this take was very compelling. On the lighter end of the spectrum, I ordered the salmon millefeuille ($12), a vibrant dish that layered sliced green apples with smoked salmon and crème fraîche blended with chives. The taste was unusual but exquisite.
As our plates were cleared and we waited for the main course, I found myself humming to the music on the stereo. It was, to my surprise, an Elton John song. Next came a contemporary French tune. Then the call sign for the station, a French radio channel they must have been streaming. Of course, I realized: This wouldn’t be the type of place to pipe in accordion music or Édith Piaf singing La Vie en Rose.
Our main courses arrived. My companion had daringly ordered the evening’s special, ox tongue served in a white wine cream sauce infused with gherkin pickles ($29). I’ve run into tongue before, but mostly in kosher delis where it’s served thinly sliced. This was a new approach for me—a thick cut with taste buds that were hard to ignore. When my friend passed me a bite, I found that the meat was tender like veal but with a concentrated flavor closer to venison. The gherkins gave the sauce a nice bite that balanced the intense richness of the meat.
Pan-seared scallops with grapefruit butter
For my main course, I ordered the dorade meunière ($27), a large filet of sea bream grilled and served with a brown-butter and lemon sauce. The dish arrived as it would in France: simply—a piece of fish cooked firm and moist and accompanied by plain white rice and two slices of baked tomatoes. The stars of this dish were the freshness and quality of the fish.
When it came time to select dessert, my companion and I couldn’t choose between the many appealing options. Instead, we opted for the tasting plate ($12), five miniature versions of full-size sweets that included a lemon tart, salted caramel cream over shortbread, a homemade brownie, a mini île flottante and a tiny ramekin of crème brûlée. Together, they made for the perfect end to the meal, lightly sweet and flavorful and surprisingly formative when you added up all those little bites.
I’m an ardent admirer of French food. I love the classics, but I enjoyed Tartine & Tartelette’s take, too. We’re lucky to have this new establishment added into the Southwest Florida mix.
Tartine & Tartelette
11121 Health Park Blvd., Naples, 239-888-1151, tartine-tartelette.com. Open for lunch Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Open for dinner Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to close. Wheelchair-accessible. Reservations suggested.