It’s not often that I walk into a new restaurant and lose my composure, but the moment I stepped into Izzy’s Fish & Oyster in the Fort Myers River District my words ran away from me.
“Wow,” I said before I could stop myself. “It’s gorgeous in here.”
The young woman at the door smiled knowingly. “We get that a lot.”
The restaurant—a partnership between chef-owner Jamie DeRosa, who relocated Izzy’s here from Miami Beach, and the Kearns Restaurant Group, responsible for many of the restaurants in downtown Fort Myers—sits at the corner of First and Jackson streets in a spot long held by the French Connection. The redesigned interior is upscale-nautical, done in cool blues and whites, and the atmosphere is at once sophisticated and approachable. The menu focuses on New England seafood with an emphasis on its raw bar, especially its oysters.
My dining companion and I decided to start there, with a half-dozen of the chef’s selection of raw oysters ($15), plus an order of dressed oysters ($12). For the half-dozen, the chef sent out Malpeques, Wiannos and Moondancers, the first from Prince Edward Island and the last two from Cape Cod Bay. Each was exceptionally fresh, with slight variations in flavor ranging from the sweet brined Wiannos to the full-bodied, more tannic Moondancers. Though they came with the usual accompaniments of horseradish and cocktail sauce, we preferred the champagne mignonette for its bright acidity. The dressed oysters arrived with a splash of ponzu sauce and a sliver of raw jalapeño in each. A different approach from the undressed oysters, these were lively and complex in flavor.
When it came to her main course, my friend decided to honor Izzy’s New England inspiration and order the Maine lobster roll ($22). Though I’ve tasted my share of lobster rolls over the years, this version stood head and shoulders above the rest. Served on a warm buttery slice of toast, the large chunks of lobster were blended with just the right amount of mayonnaise. The effect was more elegant than a simple sandwich.
For my entrée, I selected the local catch of the day ($23), a filet of pompano served over a bed of wilted spinach with slices of preserved lemon and Kalamata olives. The fish was sublime, fresh and moist, and the citrus of the lime and the salt of the olives perfectly balanced its mild flavor.
Izzy’s dessert menu has a classic Americana feel with options like homemade soft-serve ice cream and a popcorn milkshake. But after seeing one of the restaurant’s house-made whoopie pies ($5) headed to the next table, we flagged down our waitress and said, “We’ll take one of those.” Two chocolate patties sandwiched a layer of marshmallow fluff—delicious and fun.
With its exceptional food and stunning interior design, Izzy’s has quickly become a must-visit dining destination in the River District.
Izzy’s Fish & Oyster
2282 First St., Fort Myers, 337-4999, izzysftmyers.com. Open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight. Wheelchair-accessible. Thirty-minute call-ahead reservations only.