‘Watts for Dinner’: Ristorante Limoncello adds unique twists to traditional fare

Will Watts

Being hungry early has its benefits. We arrived shortly before 6 p.m. to Ristorante Limoncello, therefore we qualified for the “first-seating special.”

Insalata mista from Ristorante Limoncello, North Naples.

For the incredible bargain of $14.95 each, we could choose from the zuppa del giorno (aka soup of the day) or insalata (salad) and an entree from a special list of 10.

I picked the Caesar salad and the penne alla Bolognese.

Some say the best measure for a good Caesar salad is how bad your breath is afterwards – but that’s the camp that likes raw garlic in their dressing, and on some occasions, anchovies. So, this salad failed only by that measure, but in the realm of Naples pre-dinner salads, it was top notch. Fresh greens, check. Just the right amount of cheese, check. Cold, crisp and delicious. Check! Check! Check!  

On to the main dish. The star of the Bolognese – a meat-based sauce originating from Bologna, Italy – was indeed the sauce. But first, let’s address the elephant in the room; as you may have surmised from the name of the dish, “penne alla Bolognese.” I have become accused to being offered this dish with my choice of either angel hair or spaghetti. For many of you, which pasta is under the sauce really doesn’t matter. Yet for others, it means a great deal.

Penne alla Bolognese from Ristorante Limoncello, North Naples.

In Italian cuisine, Bolognese is typically served with long ribbon pasta – like tagliatelle, pappardelle, fettuccine or mafaldine – but shells (like conchiglie and lumachel), twists (like fusilli, trofie or gemelli) and tubes (like rigatoni, macaroni and yes, penne) are all acceptable.

Now back to that sauce. I haven’t tasted tomatoes so fresh since my mom used to harvest them fresh out of her garden for her famous vegetable beef soup; and that was more than 20 years ago. I think I may have forgotten what fresh tomatoes tasted like, until now.

Caesar salad from Ristorante Limoncello, North Naples.
Fettuccine alfredo con pollo from Ristorante Limoncello, North Naples.

The pasta was cooked to perfection; the meat was high quality and I welcomed the fresh pepper and parmagianni; but even if all that other stuff had been problematic, I would have still been happy; just due to the taste of the sauce.

My dining companion picked the insalata mista (mixed salad) and the fettuccine alfredo con pollo (fettuccine with chicken, cream and parmesan cheese). His salad was a thing of beauty to behold, a nice mix of fresh greens, onion, shaved carrots and a light vinaigrette.

Like my Bolognese, his sauce was the star of the show, with the perfect cheese-to-butter ratio. He took a couple of points off for the chicken; as he preferred a tastier companion – perhaps blackened or heightened seasoning. In this case, and like many prefer, the chicken takes a back seat to the sauce.

Tiramisu from Ristorante Limoncello, North Naples.

Dinner was such a bargain that we opted to add dessert to the mix, sharing a tiramisu classic – ladyfinger dipped in expresso coffee, with mascarpone cheese and dusted with cacao.

Surprisingly, the tiramisu arrived looking like a big scoop of hand-dipped chocolate ice cream, with a side of whipped cream and strawberries. I give it an A for being unique and loved the not-too-sweet flavor. My dining companion was expecting something a little more traditional (and a little sweeter).  

In a sea of Italian restaurants, Ristorante Limoncello is making waves; and we’ll be surfing by again one day.  

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If you go

Ristorante Limoncello

  • 13800 Tamiami Trail N. Naples
  • 239-260-7478
  • limoncellonaples.com