Some might call it fate. Others, a striking coincidence. But there’s no debating Vincenzo Betulia has a great story behind the beginnings of his restaurant coming soon to Old Naples, The French Brasserie Rustique.
“One day when I was walking down Fifth when I first moved here, I had a disposable camera in my hand. Even back then, I always had it in my mind that I wanted my own restaurant. I took a picture of that building and courtyard—it wasn’t even a restaurant, but the space was beautiful,” Betulia says.
Fast-forward 16 years, and the timing was right for Betulia to sign a lease for 365 Fifth Ave. S. A lot has changed since he moved here for a job at Campiello. Opening in December, this homage to a Parisian brasserie—down to the red banquettes and white mosaic tiles covering the floor—is Betulia’s third foray in downtown dining, joining his immensely successful Osteria Tulia and Bar Tulia (pictured, at left). Both of those serve his brand of rustic Italian fare, and he’s envisioning the same authentic approach at The French but with staples like steak frites, cassoulet and coq au vin.
But why French and why now for a chef who wears his Sicilian roots like a badge of honor? “In the repertoire of cuisine, everything is written in French. In culinary school, you’re trained in French cuisine and technique,” he says. “When I worked with my mentor, Paul Bartolotta, a two-time James Beard winner, I started at his Italian restaurant, and when he expanded and opened a bistro, I worked there. In some regards, I’m following in his footsteps.”
Betulia’s cautious with the distinction between bistro and brasserie, the latter typically larger, louder and with a printed menu alongside plats du jour. He’s also acutely aware that diners don’t just eat. “For me, it’s not only cuisine but the experience, a jovial atmosphere, a relaxed setting,” he says. “We want it to be fun.”
Café Gourmand, 9853 Tamiami Trail N., Naples, 239-260-7109, cafegourmand.net. A cute breakfast and lunch café from French owners serving authentic croissants, crepes and croque monsieurs.
The Coupe, 3883 Tamiami Trail E., Naples, 239-228-5921, thecoupefl.com. When the rooster crows, head to this large daily brunch spot with WiFi and extra-large omelets and sandwiches.
El Gaucho Inca, 2700 Immokalee Road, Naples, 239-275-7504, elgauchoinca.com. The beloved marriage of the Argentine and Peruvian owners and their respective cuisines has hooked Fort Myers foodies for years; now it’s expanding to Naples.
Jimmy’s Bait-N-Tackle, 1100 Tamiami Trail N., Naples, 239-434-0000, baitntacklenaples.com. Born and raised in Naples, Jimmy McDonnell launched a hangout serving Florida pub grub like Everglades seafood stew and cracked conch.
Komoon, 1514 Immokalee Road, Suite 109, Naples, 239-234-2442, komoonthai.com. Another location, in the new Creekside Corners, of the popular spot for Thai, sushi, ceviche and Peruvian specialties.
MidTown Kitchen + Bar, 2110 Ninth St. N., Naples, 239-908-6558, midtownkitchenandbar.net. A spacious hip, urban-inspired gathering place from noted restaurateur Mike Hernandez on U.S. 41 for sharing upscale American comfort food.
Motor City Coney Island Grill, 1514 Immokalee Road, Naples, 239-784-3740. A diner with all-day delivery serving Detroit’s chili-topped coneys along with other hot dogs, burgers, omelets and gyros.
Moura Bistro, 3369 Pine Ridge Road, Naples, 239-738-8883, mourabistro.com. This tiny space with an ample outdoor patio cooks up Lebanese specialties such as falafel, grape leaves, shish kebabs and shawarma.
New York Pizza & Pasta, 8855 Immokalee Road, Naples, 239-597-3800, newyorkpp.com. The original along with this new location further east are go-tos for delivery, take-out and dining in.
Organically Twisted, 13040 Livingston Road, Suite 10, Naples, 239-302-8669, organicallytwisted.com. What started as a food truck focusing on creative, healthy cuisine is now also a brick-and-mortar café with counter service.
Shea’s at Lansdowne Street, 720 Fifth Ave. S., Naples, 239-304-9274, sheasatlansdownest.com. Get your chowda and game-day Beantown grub at this Boston-themed watering hole.
St. Germain Steakhouse, 403 Bayfront Place, Naples, 239-435-9353. Restaurateur Cloyde Pate and Bob Germain Jr. (of Germain Arena) teamed up to replace Stoney’s with this new chop house.
Tacos & Tequila Cantina, 8971 Tamiami Trail N., Naples, 239-254-8226, tacosandtequilanaples.com. The sister to a fun, clever Tex-Mex taqueria greatly expands upon the first location’s dining room and bar in North Naples’ Pavilion.
Thai Udon Café, 409 Fifth Ave. S., Naples, 239-331-2079, thaiudoncafe.com. The second, sleeker location of a local favorite for Thai and Japanese classics; also has a sushi bar.
Kitchen Confidential: See which chefs have swapped restaurants.
Big Blue Brewing, 4721 SE 10th Place, Cape Coral, 239-471-2777, bigbluebrewing.com. JoAnn Elardo reeled in a sea of accolades for her Wicked Dolphin rum and distillery; she’s now launched this brewery and gastropub in the South Cape.
Chianti’s Ristorante Italiano, 3732 S. Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers, 239-277-7701, chiantisfortmyers.com. Brian McCarley’s throwback joint serves $6 bruschetta, $8 meatball Parm sandwiches and $10 chicken Marsala.
Flat Top Larry’s, 2122 First St., Fort Myers, 239-332-2000, flattoplarrys.com. An old-school diner open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays and around the clock on weekends with daring food, like red velvet waffles and spiked root beer floats.
La Corte Courtyard Garden Bistro, 1520 Lafayette St., Cape Coral, 239-542-2224, lacortebistro.com. Even though Brew Babies closed, the courtyard eatery has been born again with a Euro-American menu from chef Tim Spain and a glamorized setting.
Molon Labe, 5100 S. Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers, 239-219-6880. A Greek family opened this café serving souvlaki and other traditional fare.
Palladio Trattoria, 28340 Trails Edge Blvd., Suite 9, Bonita Springs, 239-947-2202, palladiotrattoria.com. Northern Italian regional cuisine with a weekend piano bar.
Purple Spoon Culinary, 25151 Chamber of Commerce Drive, Bonita Springs, 239-908-3842, chefkristina.com. Described by chef-owner Kristina San Filippo as a “culinary hub,” it will host weekly chef dinners and cooking classes as well as a produce market.
Rebel Coffee, 1520 Broadway, Fort Myers, rebelcoffeeroastery.com. In the arcade adjacent to Hotel Indigo downtown, this mom-and-pop shop is slow-roasting and grinding out specialty coffees.
Stirrin’ Up Chefs, 17051 Jean St., Suite 7, Fort Myers, 239-333-9906, stirrinupchefs.com. It’s a culinary studio run by two chefs with adults’ and children’s cooking classes, parties and more.
Teatro, 11515 Bonita Beach Road SE, Bonita Springs, 239-389-6901, teatrofl.com. Celebrity chef Michael Psilakis’ upscale-casual Italian restaurant in the glimmering Southwest Florida Performing Arts Center has hours and service independent of the theater. Read more here.
STILL TO COME
Bone Hook Brewing Co., 1514 Immokalee Road, Suite 106, Naples, bonehookbrewing.com. The latest taproom in Southwest Florida to make and serve small batches of IPAs, lagers and more.
Brooks Gourmet Burgers & Dogs, 845 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, brooksburgers.com. Adding to the ongoing revitalization of the Pavilion across from Mercato is an additional locale of our nationally known burger joint.
Danger, Danger, 1017 Cape Coral Parkway, Cape Coral. This sliver of an eatery with 16 seats will focus on haute take-out and delivery; it’s a collaboration from the owners of Nice Guys and Nevermind (think: flatbreads, local whole fried chickens and burgers).
Henning’s Chicago Kitchen, 2360 Pine Ridge Road, Naples, henningschicagokitchen.com. Cracker-style and deep-dish pizzas plus various wings, burgers and craft beers are the promise from chef-owner Scott Henning.
Pinchers Crab Shack, 591 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, pinchersusa.com. The home-grown operation that catches its own crustaceans on Pine Island is opening its 12th eatery.
Public House, 1514 Immokalee Road, Naples. Restaurateur Mike Hernandez’s latest project in the new Creekside Corners will feature small plates and lots of beer on tap.
Brooklyn Dough with a Hole, 395 Third Ave. N., Naples. A New York bagel master is relocating to Naples with 25 recipes for the breakfast treat.
Divieto Ristorante, Coconut Point, Estero, divietoristorante.com. Italian pastas and mains will fuse with American plates like tuna tacos and pineapple pizza for a contemporary upscale-casual twist.
The French Brasserie Rustique, 365 Fifth Ave. S., Naples, campagnahospitalitygroup.com. Get excited for Vincenzo Betulia’s nonpareil imagining of Paris in downtown Naples. (See sidebar.)
HaVen, 13499 Tamiami Trail SE, Suite E-518, Fort Myers, 239-334-0900, havenfortmyers.com. A change in contractors has further delayed the launch of this sprawling eatery and lounge channeling South Beach at the Bell Tower Shops.
Izzy’s Fish & Oyster, 2282 First St., Fort Myers, izzysmiami.com. Chef Jamie DeRosa built a reputation for his first stylish seafood boîte in Miami; here, a second incarnation will replace the beloved French Connection in the River District.
Ocean Prime, 699 Fifth Ave. S., Naples, ocean-prime.com. Taking over the Sugden Plaza frontage at the Inn on Fifth is the latest swanky steak and seafood bastion of Cameron Mitchell’s Ohio-based empire.
The Oyster Society, 599 S. Collier Blvd., Unit 218, Marco Island, 239-394-3474, theoystersociety.com. The family behind DaVinci’s and Marco Prime is adding an upscale raw bar and seafood spot to the mix.
Timeless, an MHK Eatery, Design District, Naples. Architect Matthew Kragh has partnered with chef David Nelson, formerly of Avenue5 and Truluck’s, to launch a cosmopolitan new American venue.
True Food Kitchen, 5415 Tamiami Trail N., Naples, truefoodkitchen.com. Being constructed at Waterside Shops, the national chic, healthy-living eatery touts a menu based on anti-inflammatory diet principles.
The Warehouse, 9010 Bellaire Bay Drive, Naples, thewarehousenaples.com. Craft cocktails and modern cuisine will be hallmarks of this new structure being built in Cameron Commons.
Habitat Gastronomy on the Creek, Bayshore Drive, Naples. The owner of Three60 Market has purchased land across from it to build a park with permanent gourmet food truck-style vendors.
Seed to Table, 4835 Immokalee Road, Naples, oakesfarms.com. The highly regarded team behind Oakes Farms plans to open a retail store and café that is larger but closely in-line with its organic Food & Thought market (which is also remodeling and expanding this season).