Best of April: The top things we ate in SWFL

Will Watts

As we look forward to filling our bellies with quality Mexican food for Cinco de Mayo, we also glance back at the best things we ate in April.

Frankie’s Authentic Italian Deli, South Naples

South Naples welcomed a tasty newcomer to the block, Frankie’s Authentic Italian Deli.

From the cold sub’s menu, I sampled the “All American,” featuring turkey, ham, roast beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and “your choice of dressing.” This smorgasbord was served on a giant Italian hoagie roll.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Frankie’s a welcome addition to South Naples

The meat and cheese are Boar’s Head; which puts me at ease right away. Love that brand! The bread is fresh and chewy, just like you’d expect. The veggies, fresh and crisp. We also sampled the “Frankie’s Fat Boy” from the hot sub’s selections. The sandwich features thinly sliced ribeye steak, hot and sweet peppers, onions and mushrooms. But that’s not all. Oh no! It’s topped with French fries and brown gravy.

The "All American" from Frankie's Authentic Italian Deli in South Naples.

We also ordered a buffalo pizza; featuring, you guessed it, buffalo sauce, chicken and blue cheese. Hardly traditional, but quickly becoming one of our favorite pizzas. The crust was thin and amazing. The toppings plentiful. A huge thumbs up.

Stan’s Idle Hour, Goodland

Stan’s celebrated its 50th anniversary in April. It’s widely known that this Goodland establishment is a place to have a good time. But what about the food? After all, that’s what I’m all about. 

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Idle hands find a home in Goodland

The conch fritters are the best I’ve had outside the Conch Republic of Key West. They’re served with the smoothest tartar sauce around.

Fried catfish and sweet potato fries from Stan's Idle Hour, Goodland.

The fried catfish with sweet potato fries is also sure to delight. The meat was super white and missing that muddy taste that most catfish has, but that’s not a complaint. Heck no! The crust was crispy and golden brown. The inside was flakey, albeit a little oily. The sweet potato fries were amazing. 

But between you and me, the star of the show was a little drink called the Miami Vice, a mix of piña colada and strawberry daiquiri. It’s a decadent way to drink your cares away.

Ciao Bella, Marco Island

Stuffed mushrooms covered with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. Sounds good, right?

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Not the last goodbye for Ciao Bella

Shrimp scampi from Ciao Bella, Marco Island.

How about shrimp scampi in a white wine, garlic and butter and served over linguini. Then there’s the veal saltimbocca a la Romana; thinly sliced veal sautéed with prosciutto and fresh herbs, served over a bed of spinach. 

Ciao Bella will leave you saying hello, again and again.

The French, Naples

There’s dining; an evening of fine dining; then there’s a dining experience. That’s The French Brasserie Rustique.

I loved the Soupe a L’oignon: baked onion soup, gruyre cheese and a toasted baguette. The cheese was so amazing and the broth; there was sherry or white wine in it; I’m sure. Such a delicious bouquet.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: The art of fine dining at The French Brasserie Rustique

Then there werethe roasted beets, featuring French feta, almonds, radicchio, mandarin oranges, poppy seed and dill. The dish was as beautiful as it was tasty. 

Soupe a L'oignon from TThe French Brasserie Rustique, Naples.

And the roasted pork tenderloin with speck – a pork-product very similar to prosciutto – featuring brussels sprouts, roasted apples, cauliflower crème and calvados glaze. This may have been the most tender pork I’ve ever been served. 

Paradise Found, Goodland

The historic, landmark waterfront restaurant and bar provides panoramic views of the Marco River and Goodland Bay from the outside decks or inside the renovated air-conditioned building.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: ‘Paradise Found’ in Goodland

The star of our meal was “Caribbean Seafood Platter” which comes with your choice of blackened mahi-mahi or snapper, served on a bed of black beans and rice, topped with Pico de Gallo and tortilla strips.

The "Caribbean Seafood Platter" featuring mahi mahi at Paradise Found, Goodland.

We picked the mahi mahi. The presentation was beautiful. The plates match the atmosphere and this dish had a lot of color and was presented well. And it tasted as good as it looked.

Molcajetes, Golden Gate

If you’ve ever eaten at El Rincon De Mexico in Naples, the former Maria’s at 951/41 or the Bayshore Drive location of Molcajetes, the menu and food here might seem familiar to you. And that’s a good thing.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Molcajetes adds even more Mexican flavor to Golden Gate

On this Saturday, tacos were being served out front, the music was festive and included moments of karaoke bliss. I had tampiqueña, which includes refried beans, rice, three cheese enchiladas with your choice of green or red sauce, and your choice of meat – chicken, pork or steak. I picked the skirt steak and green sauce.

Pazole, left, and chicken flautas from Molcajetes, Golden Gate.

The tender thinly sliced meat featured strips of roasted onions. Fans of skirt steak know if is easy to overcook; but this was grilled to perfection. In addition to the green sauce, the top-notch cheese enchiladas had even more cheese on top, and crema. 

We also sampled the pazole, which means hominy, a traditional stew from Mexico. It is made with its namesake, meat (in this case pork) and is garnished with lettuce, radishes, raw onion and lime.

This entrée also comes with your choice of tacos or flautas. 

More:Best of March: The top things we ate in SWFL

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

If you go

Frankie’s Authentic Italian Deli

  • 6654 Collier Blvd., Suite 106, Naples
  • 239-304-9033
  • site/

Stan’s Idle Hour

  • 221 Goodland Drive, Goodland
  • 239-394-3041

Ciao Bella Ristorante Italiano

  • 1000 N Collier Blvd, Marco Island
  • 239-970-0505

The French Brasserie Rustique

  • 365 5th Ave S, Naples
  • 239-315-4019

Paradise Found

  • 401 Papaya Street, Goodland
  • 239-330-7773


  • 12275 Collier Blvd unit 6, Naples
  • 239-778-8473