Food + Dining Main


First Taste of 1500 South by Chef Art Smith

What does Southern cuisine mixed with Italian flavors look like? Leave it to a Top Chef and Oprah Winfrey’s favorite to figure it out with delicious results.

Ever since we broke the news in town that celebrity chef Art Smith was opening a restaurant in Naples, his first in his home state, I’ve wondered how his vision would come to life—how exactly would he weave an Italian flair into the chicken and dumplings of his youth, and more generally the trademark taste of the South he’s perfected through three cookbooks and two James Beard Awards? The idea, he says, came to him because this is what he views as America’s Riviera and because he was asked to be a “chef-diplomat” by the State Department and the James Beard Foundation at last year’s World’s Fair in Milan, where he ran a pop-up for two days using Italian ingredients to serve his food.

Thanks to an early preview, I got a first bite of the ultra-crispy fried chicken flecked with fresh rosemary and his homemade hot sauce. Said the chef with his famous chuckle as it was being delivered, “Some people have complained it was too hot, but I like it that way.”

I’d have to agree. You can definitely feel the love—something chef Smith always wants for his diners (you know what I mean if you’ve followed him on TV). And the sophisticated comfort food should go over well here, from citrusy olives with cheese curd to a light mascarpone mac n’ cheese with plump paprika-dusted Key West shrimp to a delicate hoecake—imagine something between a hefty crepe and light pancake—a dish, I’m reminded, that was made by field hands a century ago (aside from being a chef, Smith could easily qualify as an amateur food historian). Now it’s Naples' turn to give 1500 South by Chef Art Smith a warm welcome.

 

To plan a visit:

1500 South by Chef Art Smith

Naples Bay Resort, 1500 Fifth Ave. S., Naples

(239) 530-5105

1500southnaples.com

Chef Art Smith's famous fried chicken varies slightly at each of his restaurants throughout the country. All are crispy-skinned with juicy meat, but this one gets a special lift from a rosemary brine.

 

Citrus-marinated olive medley with thyme, rosemary and temple orange
supremes with candied pecans and pickled cheese curd

 

The Gulf staple, black grouper, here is seared and then at once spiked
with bits of zesty merguez sausage and tamed by wilted baby kale,
boiled peanuts and beans.

 

Tea-smoked salmon hoecake with black truffle pearls, creme fraiche and
crisp slices of baby zucchini

 
A modern space matches the forward-thinking marriage of two cuisines: A Chianti-hued glass chandelier (by the way, many of the 100-plus wines are from Italy and pair surprisingly well with the Southern staples) complements a large canvas by Smith's husband, artist Jesus Salgueiro.

 

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