Best of March: The top things we ate in SWFL

Will Watts

 It’s time to look at some of the best things we ate in March!

Davide Italian Cafe & Deli, Marco Island

For Italian lovers, Davide Italian Cafe & Deli has it all: sandwiches, pizza and pasta. It’s a satisfying stop for takeout or dine in; lunch or dinner.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Davide is to dinner what Versace is to fashion

The calamari fritti; calamari lightly fried and served with marinara sauce, is one of my favorites. On the entrée side, the pasta Bolognese earns accolades as does the quattro stagioni.

Calamari fritti from Davide, Marco Island.

Davide might call itself a café and deli, but that’s only a reflection of its size and some of its offerings. When it comes to taste. It ranks among the island’s best restaurants with top-notch service.

Señor Tequila's Fine Mexican Grill, Golden Gate

For my entrée, I picked the chile relleno, a poblano chile stuffed with mozzarella and fresh Mexican cheese dipped in egg batter and fried to golden brown. You don’t find this dish at all Mexican restaurants and when you do, it’s often just stuffed with cheese. At Señor Tequila's you can add chicken, shredded beef or ground beef.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Señor Tequila's Mexican flavors delight

Chile verdi from Señor Tequila's Fine Mexican Grill in Golden Gate.

Another entrée recommendation, the chile verde, chucks of pork swimming in a green sauce; served with rice, refried beans topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, guacamole and sour cream. The pork was lean and roasted to perfection.

NeNe’s, Marco Island

I ordered the French roll, which comes with your choice of sausage, ham or bacon, topped with cheese and any any-style egg on a … you guessed it, French roll. While readers of this column know I’m not the biggest ham fan, I did have a tough time deciding between sausage and bacon. I opted to split the difference and get half with sausage and the other half with bacon. The server and the kitchen staff kindly obliged. For the eggs, I picked scrambled.

The French roll from NeNe's Kitchen, Marco Island.

If you’re not in the mood for the French roll, try the Italian frittata: a combination of two eggs, bacon, ham, hash browns, sausage, green peppers and mozzarella cheese. Light, fluffy and filled with goodness. Upon sampling, I quickly realized that while I enjoyed the French roll, my dining companion had bested me again.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: NeNe’s unique offerings keep ‘em coming

Dolphin Tiki, Marco Island

Hidden behind Angler’s Cover, a condominium community on Marco Island, and right on the water is the Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill. There’s no need to contemplate whether you want to eat outside or in. There’s only outside. And every seat has a view.

The boom, boom shrimp salad from Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill, Marco Island.

For my entrée, I picked the blackened ahi tuna salad. It comes with romaine lettuce, tomatoes and a cucumber wasabi dressing. I was warned about the dressing and requested it “on the side.” It was good, but stout.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Take a mini-vacation at Dolphin Tiki

I also recommend the boom, boom shrimp salad, crispy greens, tomatoes, mandarin oranges, cucumbers, and topped with boom, boom shrimp. What is boom, boom shrimp, you ask? Breaded shrimp cooked in a chili sauce, usually mixed with cream or mayonnaise.

Thai Udon Café, Naples

For starters, you can’t go wrong with the shrimp papaya salad. It features the namesakes, as well as tomato, green beans and peanuts. It got high marks for freshness, quality and taste.

Shrimp papaya salad from Thai Udon Café, Naples.

For an entrée, pad kea mao. It’s a flat rice noodle sautéed with bamboo shoots, bell pepper, snow peas, carrot, basil leaves and chili sauce. You can have it with chicken, beef, mixed vegetables, tofu, mixed seafood, lobster or a combination. I picked chicken.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: High marks for Thai Udon Café

Even better, the chicken mango curry featuring plentiful big chunks of mango. It also had broccoli and basil leaves.

Marco Prime Steak & Seafood, Marco Island

Start things off with the “classic” French onion soup featuring gratinée au gruyere. Or perhaps the mixed greens featuring candied pecans, ripe tomatoes, cucumber, fresh-baked croutons, sweet basil vinaigrette and goat cheese.

The charred salmon from Marco Prime.

For the main entrée, how about Wagyu beefs tips, served in a Dijon mustard cream sauce featuring shallots, wild mushrooms, asparagus and topped with crispy onions and served with the house mashed potatoes.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: It’s ‘Prime’ time on Marco

Or perhaps the charred salmonin a citrus-chili glaze and served with stir-fry vegetables. The salmon fillet was on the large size and tasted amazing – even if salmon’s subtle taste is light competition for the charring; as was the glaze.

Firehouse Subs, North Naples

What’s better than great food? Great food that makes a difference. At Firehouse Subs, a portion of your purchase in 2019 goes to the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, to be used to provide lifesaving equipment to first responders.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Firehouse Subs – For a sandwich that will satisfy more than just your appetite

According to the company’s website, since the Foundation started, it has granted over $40 million to provide equipment, training, and support to our hometown heroes.

The turkey bacon ranch from Firehouse Subs, Naples.

I ordered the turkey bacon ranch, featuring smoked turkey breast, pepper bacon, melted sharp cheddar cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and creamy peppercorn ranch dressing.

My partner in dine picked the Engineer, featuring smoked turkey breast, melted Swiss, and sautéed mushrooms, with mayo, deli mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a kosher dill pickle on the side.

At the Marco Island Farmer’s Market ... 

Sweet Blendz

I sampled the “Super Hero Bowl.” You’ll find a blend of acai, strawberry and blueberry in the bottom – it tastes like a cross between ice cream and sorbet; topped with granola, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, mango, raspberry chia seeds, hemp hearts, flax seeds, cacao bibs and bee pollen. 

The "Super Hero Bowl" from Sweet Blendz.

Sweet Blendz also offers the “Amazon,” a blend of acai, strawberry, and blueberry topped with granola, strawberry, banana, blueberry, orange and kiwi. Also, the “Dragon Bowl,” a blend of acai, strawberry and blueberry topped with granola, strawberry, banana, blueberry, mango, chia seeds and hemp hearts.

More:Food Finds: This healthy dessert will ‘bowl’ you over

Chef Sebastian Mazzotta

First up, crab cakes. So, we ordered these at the market, took them home and stuck ‘em in the fridge. Imagine my surprise when we went to cook them: along with the crab cakes came instructions on how best to cook and serve them, along with a remoulade and salsa. We followed the instructions to the letter and just look at the results (see pic). The crab cakes had a fantastic visual appeal and tasted great. Love the detail Chef Mazzotta. 

More:Food Finds: Crab cakes delight

A crab cake from Chef Sebastian Mazzotta.

While at his booth, we also picked up two single serving white chocolate and banana bread buddings. I would have never thought to put those two flavors together, especially in bread pudding. The texture was flawless – not an easy task when utilizing bananas. It was moist, subtle in flavor and had the perfect texture. The chef recommends serving with ice cream, and who can argue with that logic.

More:Looking for a place to eat on Marco Island?

If you go

Davide Italian Cafe & Deli

  • 2541, 688 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco Island
  • 239-393-2233
  • davideitaliancafe.com

Senor Tequila's Fine Mexican Grill

  • 11965 Collier Blvd, Naples
  • 239-352-1242
  • senortequilasrestaurant.com/ golden-gate

NeNe’s Kitchen

  • 297 N. Collier Blvd, Marco Island
  • 239-394-3854
  • neneskitchen.com

Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill

  • 1021 Anglers Cove, Marco Island
  • 239-394-4048
  • dolphintikibar.com

Thai Udon Cafe

  • 5926 Premier Way #116, Naples
  • 239-596-7331
  • thaiudoncafe.com/
  • 409 5th Ave S, Naples
  • 239-331-2079
  • 10952 Eagle Village Dr #400 D
  • 239-673-6868

Marco Prime Steak & Seafood

  • Located in Marco Walk Plaza, 599 S Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-389-2333
  • marcoprime.com

Firehouse Subs

  • Riverchase Shopping Center, 11178 Tamiami Trail N, Naples
  • 239-500-7827
  • firehousesubs.com

The Marco Island Farmer’s Market

  • 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesdays, at Veterans Community Park, Marco Island
  • Information: cityofmarcoisland.com.

Sweet Blendz

  • sweetblendz.com

Chef Sebastian Mazzotta

  • 239-595-2742
  • chefmazzotta.com