30 Marco Lake Drive
30 Marco Lake Drive, Marco
Fine dining is still alive and well on Marco Island: Who sez? Well, for openers think about a new trendy dining club whose members shell out $100 each for a unique dinner held monthly that’s hosted by any one of the Island’s posh dining enclaves? Well, someone did just that and put the idea on a plate and presented the concept to a few more like-minded individuals.
Enter Richard E. Fonte, president of the Cedar Bay Yacht Club, Marco Island, and the man who came up with the idea of starting the temporarily named Marco Island Fine Dining Club, as another service to offer members during season.
“It began as a tryout with 15 of my friends and here’s the key: The chef can’t serve anything from the current menu and it has to be adventurous and exciting, and no one, no one will know the menu in advance. It’s all a surprise so the chef can use his imagination to create unique dishes,” Fonte explained.
“We started with Arturo’s — the first host restaurant — with 15 people dining on a variety of duck and lamb dishes, comprising seven courses served with appropriate red and white wine, and zabaglione for dessert — like a tasting menu. The chef got carte blanche and that’s the beauty of the club. Then it mushroomed and people started calling other people. Then the restaurants started calling us to get in and see if they could be considered to host the gourmet club member dinners. We’ve also had a few of the owners of Marco Island’s restaurants join the club.”
Fonte noted that the club started as an exploration — along with friend and co-founder Wes Robinson — so he could have something to offer his members at Cedar Bay Yacht Club when they return for season. “My ultimate goal is member satisfaction along with involvement by the general public, resulting in a positive impact on the community when we open our own restaurant here. The first focus is the gourmet club for our friends and then by season, dependent on state of the economy, we’ll be starting on the restaurant by the end of the year: By then the gourmet club will be in operation — full steam ahead.”
Marco Polo Supper Club hosted the second dinner on Thursday and Fonte noted that because September is usually a slow month with many on vacation, the third gourmet club dinner is planned for October and hosted by Bistro Soleil, and Verdi’s will be the host restaurant in November.
That being said, the Marco Polo Restaurant and Lounge, located at 30 Marco Lake Drive, certainly lived up to its reputation for fine dining Thursday when the restaurant hosted the recently organized Marco Island Fine Dining Club’s second gala gourmet dinner. Tom Naifeh, ebullient host and owner of the Island’s preferred supper club, seemed to be everywhere at once but stopped for a few minutes to share a few thoughts with your Eagle reporter. Meanwhile, guests who were enjoying the 6 p.m. cocktail hour at Marco Polo’s bar began heading into the dining room around 7 p.m. for dinner.
Tom Naifeh explained that several of his customers told him about the Arturo’s dinner. “Richie (Fonte) and Wes Robinson asked if I would like to be involved and my first thought was how do I get into the action? So, we’re honored to be the second restaurant to host the Marco Island Fine Dining Club dinner. You know, initially we had 20 reservations but as soon as word got out that Maxime Ribera would be the chef, that figure began pushing up and we ended up with 32 club members and a total of 50 reservations for dinner this evening.
“Maxime will be creating a unique eight-course dinner for the members. I instructed him to do anything you want and I don’t want to know, just make sure they’re not on our regular menu. Based on that, we have also selected wines not currently on our wine list to complement the menu. We’re really excited about this opportunity to extend our hospitality and exceptional menu to more people. Over the years Marco Polo has earned, a well deserved reputation for fine dining, but on the downside some people thought of us as being an exclusive restaurant where they go to celebrate special events. We want everyone who comes here to feel special, but really you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy dinner here any day of the week.”
Anyone who wants more information, or is interested in joining the club, may call Judith M. Svetaka, Marketing /Sales Cedar Bay Yacht Club at 394-9333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marco Island Fine Dining Club Dinner No. 2 menu
Hosted by Marco Polo Restaurant and Lounge
First Course: Zephries of scallops and lobster with a lobster sauce and white wine mussel soup
Second Course: Stuffed quail with a madeira sauce
Third Course: Scallop and foie gras salad with rhubarb compote
Fourth Course: Spinach salad with strawberries and pecans
Fifth Course: Sorbet
Sixth Course: Cassoulet with duck confit
Seventh Course - Bouillabaisse with lobster, snapper, grouper, mussels and clams
Eighth Course: Sabayon of strawberries and blueberries
Botani Vineyards: Muscatel seco, a dry muscat described as floral and herbal but bone dry.
Bernkasteler Badstube: Riesling Kabinett, described as loaded with lime and stone fruit.
Susana Balbo: Malbec, described as a mix of crushed black cherries and toasty/smoky oak.
Chateau Comte Henri de Vacuelles: Sauternes, filhot/sauvignon blanc, compared to d’Yquem.