Local restaurants have been a study in resilience. Vincenzo Betulia added the 50-seat Nonna’s Garden to his Bar Tulia and is debuting second Tulia locale at Mercato. (Photo by Brian Tietz)


Staying Power

We salute the superhumans who continued offering innovative dining options despite pandemic odds.

You could not have convinced me, one year ago, that the restaurant industry would power through the long pandemic months with such vigor, imagination and bravado. Moving, shaking, expanding, reinventing. Who could have thought that restaurant and drinkery owners would take advantage of pandemic economics to meet new needs in creative ways that we once thought were impossible? They are superhumans in the world of small business and hospitality, and I salute them. Many restaurants bolstered their staying power by increasing outdoor seating. Bar Tulia on Fifth Avenue South added Nonna’s Garden with 50 seats, and then went on to assemble a spinoff hybrid in Mercato, which launched in April. Alexander’s Restaurant  in midtown Naples, added six more tables to its already highly demanded three-level garden space. To keep fellow tenants of the plaza appeased, staff must store the tables each night, but they do so happily to keep things moving forward. Gloria M. Jordan-Cabral of Fort Myers’ La Trattoria Cafe Napoli fame, took outdoor dining to new heights with her three-acre, special-event kitchen, dining and entertainment space at Dim Jandy Ranch in Fort Myers. Lake Park Diner, contrary to the trend, added a new air-conditioned indoor space, but with an open-air feel, to its previous all-outdoor layout. Some changed their footprints, refreshed concepts
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