Dining Out: Sophia's Ristorante Italiano doesn't disappoint

Sophia’s Ristorante Italiano

* 6545 Pine Ridge Road, Naples, (239) 597-0744

* 4 to 10 p.m. daily

Leigh Tahirovic/staff
this appetizer, Vongole & Cozze, is littleneck clams and mussels with hot chili peppers and olive oil and garlic at Sophia's Ristorante Italiano.

Leigh Tahirovic/staff this appetizer, Vongole & Cozze, is littleneck clams and mussels with hot chili peppers and olive oil and garlic at Sophia's Ristorante Italiano.

Leigh Tahirovic/staff
Sophia's Ristorante Italiano has intimate dining at its location, 3454 Pine Ridge Road in Naples.

Leigh Tahirovic/staff Sophia's Ristorante Italiano has intimate dining at its location, 3454 Pine Ridge Road in Naples.

Leigh Tahirovic/staff
Sophia's tiramisu is a dessert large enough to share.

Leigh Tahirovic/staff Sophia's tiramisu is a dessert large enough to share.

“Eat pasta. Live longer” is the catchphrase of Sophia’s Ristorante Italiano. While eating pasta may not extend your lifespan, eating at Sophia’s will certainly make living more enjoyable.

Jay and Camille Cherr, who also own and operate Susie’s Diner on Marco, own the Naples restaurant, and the Cherrs have put noticeable effort into their new endeavor, even going so far as to name the place after their 4-month-old daughter, Sophia.

The restaurant, located in the former Roman Oven and Grill by the Harley Davidson store on Pine Ridge Road in Naples, just opened last Friday, so they are still working out the finite details of the restaurant’s workings, like the brick oven pizza isn’t available yet. But all selections will be available by this weekend.

Despite knowing that the restaurant had just opened, my husband Rama and I still ventured to the eatery for a romantic night out. We made reservations in advance but I noticed there were plenty of tables available as the host escorted us to a table in the back of the restaurant, which had a nice view of the open kitchen.

Our server scooted off to fill our drink request, two cokes, after informing us that there was no ginger ale (another item not available yet), and we studied the menu. After much debate — we couldn’t settle on appetizers — I selected the calamari fritti and Rama ordered vongole and cozze.

The calamari was coated in a special seasoning and fried golden brown, and served with marinara. The appetizer was large enough to share as it was nearly overflowing on the plate, but the calamari was a little too chewy for my liking. Rama’s dish was a combination of littleneck clams and mussels with hot chili peppers and olive oil in a white wine sauce and served over linguini. Both of us concurred that the dish was amazing. The white wine sauce and the subtle hint of spicy made this dish. Rama was even reluctant to allow our server to take away the plate. Vongole and cozze can also be prepared with a red wine sauce.

We also struggled with the main course selections. Finally, I chose lobster fra diabolo and Rama ordered the filet mignon baraolo. The menu described my entree as a classic dish, slightly spicy with fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, served over linguini. The lobster was de-shelled and seasoned with herbs and butter and stuffed back in the tail and stacked atop linguini with a piquant marinara. The pasta was somewhat under-cooked, but it didn’t matter one iota because the lobster was so savory. I nearly gobbled it all up before offering Rama a sample. He agreed that the seasonings heightened the flavors.

Rama’s dish was the evening’s disappointment as the filet was overcooked to the point of being charred. Now, note my disclaimer — Rama ordered his steak medium well but it came well done. The host offered to make another one, but we declined since we had a two little kids at home with grandma and wanted to get home. Despite that, the filet was still a dish I would try again. It was served with mushrooms, prosciutto and red potatoes, which made for a lovely presentation. And the 10-ounce filet was a hearty portion for Rama who is a big eater.

I wish that dessert came at the beginning of the meal, so sometimes I select my dessert before I select my entrée. At Sophia’s I did just that. I spied the cherries jubliee, described as tableside flambé for two. My mouth was watering as I imagined the presentation and that first bite. But I was sadly informed that my dessert selection was not yet available. So, instead we settled on tiramisu and ricotta cheesecake.

I ordered the cheesecake, but when I saw Rama’s tiramisu come out, my fork was like a heat-seeking missile and scooped up a bite. What a delight! The cake was moist; the coffee flavors just right and the cocoa topper not too overpowering. I loved it so much that I switched desserts with Rama, who was happy with the simplicity of the ricotta cheesecake. And after Rama’s disappointing filet, the host offered to comp our desserts.

Our evening at Sophia’s ended up being a spectacular dinner, one that I am ready to repeat.

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