While there are quite a few places to find some red sauce in Southwest Florida, we’re always motivated to welcome another. Cravings for eggplant parmigiana and a great Bolognese can come on hard and fast—and everyone has their own definition of what works for them.
Now, with the debut in January of Bella Vita Grill, the River District in Fort Myers can claim a large-scale, table-service restaurant that isn’t focused on pizza—and it has a spacious rooftop bar with top-shelf liquor to boot.
The kitchen is under the direction of Sicilian chef-partner Michael Serratore, who relocated here after two decades of owning restaurants in Chicago, most recently a spot downtown near Randolph Street (for Windy City food lovers, it was walking distance from Blackbird). He and his investors have taken care to remodel the downstairs dining room of Fort Myers' Prime de Leon, expanding the bar considerably to fit around 10 to 15 people and switching the floors to polished concrete. Plus, they’ve got another bar they can set up outside on Patio de Leon to serve people coming through for the River District’s various pedestrian-focused events, like Art Walk and Music Walk.
Much of what is on offer is straightforward, the way you remember it from childhood—a crispy calamari fritti, a velvety rigatoni alla vodka, an al dente linguine alla vongole—with a few surprises thrown in. Those include grilled artichokes, a salad with paper-thin slices of roasted beets and fresh ricotta, and a main of beef medallions stuffed with sausage, romano cheese and spinach. All of the dishes are surprisingly affordable, with most pastas in the $15 range and entrées featuring chicken, veal and beef between $16 and $22 (for the pescatarians out there, there are market-priced daily seafood specials in addition to some seafood appetizers).
To plan a visit:
Bella Vita Grill
33 Patio de Leon, Fort Myers