Less is more: SWFL restaurants paring down to healthier, more sophisticated portions

'Bell & Evans' Chicken Breast Paillard with ancho chili powder, tomato, black beans, avocado and green onion salsa highlights smaller portions at Ridgway Bar & Grill in Naples Fla., on Wednesday August 10, 2011. Michele AnneLouise Cohen | Naples Daily News

Photo by MICHELE ANNELOUISE COHEN // Buy this photo

"Bell & Evans" Chicken Breast Paillard with ancho chili powder, tomato, black beans, avocado and green onion salsa highlights smaller portions at Ridgway Bar & Grill in Naples Fla., on Wednesday August 10, 2011. Michele AnneLouise Cohen | Naples Daily News

Ridgway Bar and Grill

1300 3rd St S, Naples, FL

Less is more.

Or at least that’s what one Southwest Florida restaurateur is hoping.

Tony Ridgway, owner of Ridgway Bar and Grill, said he recently altered the popular Third Street South restaurant’s menu to reflect smaller portions on several of the menu items.

It’s a move Ridgway said is happening at restaurants throughout the country, as part of an effort to provide a healthier portion and reduce the cost to both the restaurant and the patron.

“The prices have gotten so expensive, and when you have huge pieces (of meat) you have to charge more,” he said. “You have way too much food on there that no one needs to eat and way too big of a price tag.”

The change means diners will get smaller cuts of things such as steak — a 10-ounce steak compared to a 14-ounce steak — as well as a smaller price tag.

Smaller portions at restaurants isn’t an entirely new idea, said Beth Preddy, a spokeswoman for Naples Originals, a consortium of independent restaurant owners.

“I think it’s been a trend for a long time,” she said. “It’s driven by the diner’s enhanced education and desire to taste a broad ranges of flavors.”

Brian Martin, chef and general manager at EVOO Bistro in North Naples, said he generally keeps portions for proteins between 6 and 8 ounces.

That’s perfect portion size for Martin, but he said he understands why some restaurants keep doling out plates full of food to hungry patrons.

“In today’s age and economy, you have to make sure you’re getting the right bang for the buck,” Martin said.

Ken Knief, general manager of Angelina’s Ristorante in Bonita Springs, said he believes his patrons are getting the most for their dollar.

Knief said that since the restaurant strives to create an authentic Italian dining experience, his team keeps portions smaller so diners can order multiple courses and not feel stuffed.

“We actually have done it since the beginning because people started to dine that way,” he said.

Angelina patrons often order a antipasto, or appetizer, a pasta dish and an entree. Knief said in order to make it easier on diner’s stomachs, people can get half orders of pasta and risotto dishes.

Most people share a half order of pasta as a second course before moving on to a larger entree.

“You get a good value for the money,” Knief said. “People like our portions. Everyone is pretty happy. Very rarely do we get a complaint of it being too big or too small.”

That wasn’t always the case at Ridgway’s restaurant. Ridgway said sometimes patrons would be surprised when a large entree would show up at their table.

“When you put the plate in front of them, you go ‘wow, look at that,’ ” he said. “It’s kind of like plate shock.”

Martin said restaurants are trying to find a “happy medium” when it comes to how much to serve diners.

Ridgway said patrons are pleased with the change, but most aren’t even noticing they’re getting less food at a lower price.

And while Martin said he understand why Ridgway and other restaurateurs are looking to downsize, he said there won’t be any changes at his North Naples restaurant.

“More times than not I hear people say it’s a good portion,” he said. “I always think it’s weird to hear people say they got too much food.”

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