Q: Any update on Culver's? I have quite a few frozen custard / cheese curd-eating friends looking for some info.
— James Jaross, Naples
A: We now know where and when Culver’s is opening locations in Naples and Fort Myers this summer and fall, respectively.
First up in July, the Wisconsin-based casual restaurant chain plans to open in North Naples along Airport-Pulling Road, north of Pine Ridge Road, said Culver’s corporate spokesman Paul Pitas.
The company is planning to break ground for its 4,300-square-foot restaurant within the next few weeks on the vacant commercial lot between Bob Taylor Chevrolet and SunTrust Bank, Pitas said. Culver’s is building on the southernmost parcel of The Promenade at Naples Centre, the shopping center anchored by Golfsmith, Jo-Ann Fabrics and Petco on the corner of Airport-Pulling and Naples Boulevard. The 0.87-acre property was originally planned to be a Dairy Queen and then Dunkin’s Diamonds, but neither project got off the ground.
The second area Culver’s is anticipating an October opening in south Fort Myers. The company is planning to break ground some time in May on an empty lot on U.S. 41 just north of College Parkway that was the former site of a Clarion Hotel, Pitas said.
The location, 12635 S. Cleveland Ave., also was the former site of an adjoining Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse. The hotel closed in mid-August and was razed late last year as part of a redevelopment project by Creighton Cos.
Both Culver’s locations will employ about 65 people, Pitas said.
Culver's, known for its ButterBurgers and frozen custard, has more than 470 independently owned and operated restaurants in 20 states, but these will be the first locations in Florida.
Q: Three or four years ago my family enjoyed a restaurant that served wonderful gluten-free Italian food. It was located on Pine Ridge Road in the same mall as Noodles. They closed and I wonder if they opened in another location.
— P. Fuller, Naples
A: Cafe Alessio did not open another area location after closing in May 2010 in Mission Square West, but the Italian restaurant’s original location in Doylestown, Pa., remains open and its owner is planning to return to the Naples market in 2014 or 2015.
Joe Mannino, the owner of Café Alessio, still has a home in Naples and he said he is looking for partners or investors to reopen his restaurant here.
“My goal is to buy a piece of land in Naples and open a full-scale, gluten-free restaurant,” Mannino said. “You have no idea how big it is here. The response is unbelievable.”
Contact Mannino at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Did Frascati's restaurant ever reopen?
— J.G., North Naples
A: No. Frascati's Italian Restaurant has been permanently closed since July 2010 and has not opened elsewhere. The popular East Naples restaurant anchored River Reach Plaza for about 18 years.
Zookies Sports Pub & Grill opened its second location in October 2011 in the former longtime Frascati's location, 1258 Airport-Pulling Road N.
More local restaurant news
■ Sumo Sushi Sake, the first sushi drive-thru in Naples, is expected to open before the end of February in the former Starbucks drive-thru location in The Promenade at Naples Centre on Airport-Pulling Road near Naples Boulevard in North Naples. The casual restaurant is opening in unit 200 of 6438 Naples Blvd., between Century Link and Chick-fil-A.
The local restaurant, promoted by “See you at Sumo,” will feature a menu of mostly sushi, but also serves barbecue skewers and other Yakitori dishes, salmon and steak. And don’t overlook the sake part of Sumo Sushi Sake. In addition to sake and special sake drinks, Sumo offers beer and wine.
The completely remodeled 2,072-square-foot restaurant will have more than 75 seats inside and another 30 outside.
■ Pizza Fusion is planning to open a Naples location, its seventh in Florida, on April 22. The new store will be in the 2,115-square-foot space between IBR Realty and Thoughtful Threads in The Gateway of Naples shopping center, 2146 U.S. 41 N., next to Naples High School.
The Fort Lauderdale-based chain features a gourmet menu that is 75 percent organic and offers health-conscious alternatives such as gluten-free pizza, brownies and beer. It’s appropriate that the Naples location is opening on Earth Day because the motto of the eco-friendly business is “Saving the Earth, One Pizza at a Time.”
The chain opened a Fort Myers franchise in August 2009 in Bridge Plaza, 12901 McGregor Blvd. About five years ago, the company also had planned to open a location in downtown Naples, but curtailed expansion plans when the economy slowed.
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"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News. Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.