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Dining Review: Dorona in Naples

This modern Italian steakhouse from a Naples restaurant dynasty has arrived in style.



Smoked egg yolk tops a Jackman ranch beef tartare served with toast.

Vanessa Rogers

 

Some meals are so flawless that it’s possible to move from cocktails to appetizers to entrées to dessert without a single misstep. Dorona, an Italian steakhouse from chef Fabrizio Aielli of Sea Salt and Barbatella fame, delivers exactly that experience.

Before I walked through the front doors to an interior hung with glass chandeliers and accented in gold, I’d had the thought, “Just what makes an Italian steakhouse?” Here was one answer: an opulent and European-looking inside, as if Sophia Loren might be sitting at the table next to us.

Charred octopus is balanced by a caramelized onion jam and flavors of burrata, black truffle and smoked paprika.

The word “dorona” comes from a rare Venetian white wine grape, and the restaurant’s wine list is fittingly extensive—and its cocktails are current and inventive. I ordered the light and sip-able Anguria ($11), made with local watermelon, vodka, St. Germain and lime juice and served in a coup glass with a sliver of crisp cucumber.

For our first course, my dining companion and I shared plates of charred octopus ($16) and beef tartare ($16). The octopus was very good, the light char offset by a caramelized onion jam, and the tartare was, well, exquisite. Made with beef from the Jackman ranch outside Clewiston with a smoked egg yolk perched on top to be swirled in, the dish felt slightly exotic and adventurous.

The steak options at Dorona are high-
caliber, from natural rib eyes to dry-aged strips to outlandishly big tomahawk chops. My companion selected a 5-ounce wagyu New York strip ($35), which, like the tartare, came from Jackman. She requested it rare, and—unlike in many restaurants—it arrived rare.

“Look at this,” she said as she cut her first bite. “Perfect.”

And for me? I selected the ravioli stuffed with veal osso buco ($22). Pasta in a steakhouse might not seem like an obvious choice, but pasta in an Italian steakhouse was exactly the right move. Served with a black truffle cream sauce, the homemade ravioli were individual pockets of epicurean bliss. I wished I had a second stomach for it all.

Homemade ravioli gets the royal treatment with a filling of veal osso bucco and sauce of smashed black truffle.

No second stomach forthcoming, my companion and I plunged ahead and ordered two (two!) desserts: homemade mango sorbet ($6) because it was the evening’s special, and the chocolate layer cake ($12) because our waitress told us that, at one time, it was in such high demand that the restaurant couldn’t put it on the menu because it was always selling out and disappointing customers. One bite in, and I understood why they’d had to hide it in the kitchen. It was so devour-worthy that if I weren’t already stuffed I might have gone looking for more. The mango sorbet, served with almond biscotti, was fresh and effervescent on the palate.

With Sea Salt and Barbatella as forerunners in this restaurant family, Dorona makes an outstanding addition to the collection of Aielli-owned eateries. For diners seeking top-notch steaks plus appetizers, sides and more with an Italian flair, this novel take on a steakhouse is not to be missed.

2110 Tamiami Trail N., Naples, 529-2819, doronanaples.com. Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 5-9 p.m. Wheelchair-accessible. Reservations recommended.

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