The “fast fine” chain is targeted to open this fall in Coconut Point. Tim Aten
Two new restaurant chains are coming to Southwest Florida near the end of this year. The chains aren’t actually new but they are new to this region.
California-based MidiCi The Neapolitan Pizza Co. is coming to Coconut Point in Estero, and Miami-based Giardino Gourmet Salads is locating in Marquesa Plaza on the southeast corner of Pine Ridge and Livingston roads in the Naples area. Both chains will redevelop retail spaces that have not been dining spots.
The MidiCi pizzeria is expected to be open by Nov. 1 in retail units between Panera Bread and Starbucks near the main entrance of Coconut Point off U.S. 41. The lunch-dinner eatery is being built out in spaces recently vacated by a closed GameStop shop and a relocated Hair Cuttery salon.
The modern pizzeria chain, which launched just two years ago in Los Angeles, is predicted to be one of the next big brands. MidiCi (pronounced mee-DEE-chee) is positioned as a fast-casual restaurant with a fine-dining atmosphere in a category the company defines as “fast fine,” basically high-quality fare at a fair price.
The chain offers an elegant food presentation with china and silverware, but at quick-service restaurant prices. Diners create personalized 12-inch Neapolitan pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens in MidiCi’s centralized, open kitchen – known as “the heart.”
“The heart is the central structure that houses our ovens, kitchen and bar. It was designed with a heart in mind because it feeds the space and holds all the vital functions,” according to information on mymidici.com. “As the place of emotions, it takes center stage and is remarkable from every seat. It brings friends together.”
The entire concept is community branded with the goal of fostering conversation in a communal setting. The restaurants are designed with an open floor plan to create and accentuate a friendly, upbeat ambiance.
The pizzas are made with flour imported from Naples, Italy. Baked in only 90 seconds in 900-degree ovens, the dough creates a crust that is light, thin, soft and chewy, according to MidiCi’s menu.
The most popular pizzas include a double pepperoni specialty pie and The Margherita, a Neapolitan classic that also is available in gluten-free and vegan options.
The pizzeria also features appetizers, salads and desserts, such as gelato. Best sellers include house-made meatballs with smoked mozzarella, burrata with melon and prosciutto, a purple kale and ricotta salad, and a signature Nutella calzone with fresh berries. Beverages include espresso, gourmet teas, signature cocktails, craft beer and wine.
The fast-growing chain, launched by Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt CEO, plans to have 50 locations open nationwide by the end of this year and 400 within the next six years. In Florida, the first locations opened in Kissimmee in December and Fort Lauderdale in March. In addition to Estero, locations are coming soon to Daytona Beach, Miami, St. Petersburg and West Palm Beach.
Giardino Gourmet Salads is targeted to open near the end of the year in a space fronting Pine Ridge Road just east of Livingston Road.
Giardino (pronounced jar-DEE-no) will move into a 1,476-square-foot space near Starbucks in Marquesa Plaza. The MetroPCS dealer there is relocating 2 miles west on Pine Ridge Road to a new store between Patric’s and Bonjour restaurants in North Naples.
“They will be starting the buildout as soon as they get possession,” said Tara Stokes of Investment Properties Corp., representing the landlord.
Giardino, created by a former teacher and firefighter searching for healthier eating options, started small in 2004. The original 12-seat restaurant in Coral Gables grew into a multiunit operation with 12 restaurants in Miami-Dade and Broward counties before venturing outside Florida to Nashville and Raleigh, N.C.
The brand strives to retain the passion of its founders with hand-crafted salads and a fresh gourmet menu with signature touches such as baked croutons and homemade deli items. In addition to a variety of salads served in bowls or as wraps, Giardino’s menu also features grain bowls and wraps, soup, and deli salads such as tropical chicken, curry turkey and creamy tuna served in a bowl or bun.
The eatery’s 20 salads range from a traditional Caesar, country Cobb or a classic spinach to international and regional varieties such as Greek, Thai, Caprese, Napa, Baja and Parisian. The Mama Mia has Romaine greens, sun-dried tomatoes, red bell peppers, goat cheese, sliced almonds and garlic croutons with Chianti vinaigrette.
Salads may be ordered piccolo (small), basta (large) or in a wrap. Patrons have the option of adding a deli salad scoop such as seafood or hummus.
The other way to go is “My Way,” where diners create their own combinations. Start with a base of greens (such as iceberg, arugula, kale or baby leaf spinach) or grains (quinoa or white or brown rice) or a wrap (plain, wheat, spinach or tomato-basil) and then pick from a dizzying number of toppings, dressings and croutons.
Topping choices alone include more than 30 fruits and vegetables, seven different cheeses, five kinds of nuts, and other items such as crumbled bacon, anchovies and hard-boiled eggs. Top that off with at least 20 choices for dressings and about 10 crouton selections.
The three grain bowls are The Gardener with Quinoa, which has avocado, plum tomatoes, garbanzo beans and dried cranberries with olive vinaigrette; La Fiesta with Brown Rice that has roasted chicken, corn, black beans, red onions and plum tomatoes with sour-guacamole dressing; and Wok with Jasmine Rice featuring shrimp, carrots, green peas, red cabbage and bean sprouts with a spicy peanut dressing.
The Naples eatery will be owned by brothers Mike and Ralph Collar and Ralph’s son, Dan Collar, who has experience with the brand in Miami. Additional expansion is planned in the Naples and Fort Myers markets, said Giardino spokesman Chad Cohen.
For more information, go to giardinosalads.com.