For me, Mexican food is always a great idea — rarely a week goes by that my taste buds don't demand a fresh enchilada or heaping helping of chips and salsa.
So when La Piñata in East Naples opened recently, people on this side of town flocked to it. And they are still flocking.
A smaller menu is always a good sign — the menu at La Piñata is a reduced version of most Mexican restaurant menus. There is a lot of kick on here, beginning with the green chili cilantro salsa. The red salsa is mild.
The menu includes the usual Mexican favorites, but because everything is made fresh daily, several items are served as specials. If you're looking for something specific that isn't on the website, call ahead to confirm the specials, because several dishes, such as chili rellenos, rotate. (It's also fun to go to La Piñata and just be surprised.)
If you go
La Piñata Mexican Restaurant
Where: 3367 Bayshore Drive, East Naples
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday
Cost: $3.50-10.99 starters; $2-$16.99 entrees
Information: 239-774-4445; www.LaPinataNaples.com
There are four burrito choices at La Piñata: pinto bean and cheese, spicy ground beef, pulled pork and seared steak ($10.99-12.99). Chimichangas ($10.99) are available with beef, chicken or cheese and are topped with the restaurant's house-made pico de gallo.
La Piñata also has a fajita menu featuring a trio of steak, chicken and shrimp, or one of each, with sautéed red and yellow peppers and onions. ($12.99-16.99) Traditional enchiladas at La Piñata are topped with cheese with a choice of red or green sauce and are available with cheese, chicken or ground beef. ($10.99-11.99).
On the appetizer menu, the sopa de pollo con tortilla, or tortilla soup ($5.99), is loaded with chicken and has a hearty tomato base. An appetizer portion of fresh guacamole is $6.99.
The nachos make a great sharing platter. The lunch portion of the nachos is $7.99 and is served heaped with chips, melted Jack cheese, pinto beans and is covered with shredded cabbage, sour cream, guacamole, jalapeño peppers and pico de gallo. You can add chicken or steak for $2 and $2.50, respectively.
The fish tacos ($3.50 per taco) are also good with a zesty Mexican slaw. (Actually, the fish dishes in general are good here.) One of the servers told me the caldo de mariscos, or Mexican style shellfish stew ($14.99), is her favorite dish.
The variety of tacos is a nice change, too — chicharron, with fried pork rinds and green jalapeño tomatillo sauce; slow-cooked pulled steak; marinated pork and barbacoa — and each is served with chopped onion and cilantro. The tacos are $2 each on a corn tortilla and $3 on a flour tortilla.
La Piñata's house-made corn tortillas really add to each of the dishes. When the mood for mole strikes, there is nothing like delicious mole sauce and savory rice — paired with whatever protein you may be eating — wrapped up in tortillas.
There were a lot of other things to like about La Piñata. It's immaculate, decorative and bright, accented with items partner Hector Hidalgo brought from Mexico. Cheerful piñatas greet you from lofty perches throughout the restaurant amid colorful Mexican pottery and black-and-white prints. The service is very good, and the staff is knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
The small bar area serves as a gathering place for lone lunchers and a quick dinner.
It is good to see another new restaurant become part of the Bayshore Drive area. The area is experiencing a rebirth, with the opening of Three60 Market last year, and now, La Piñata's welcome arrival.
La Piñata caters as well, and although it is a walk-in restaurant, they do take reservations. During season, reservations are a good idea.