Best of November: The top things we ate in SWFL

Will Watts

November was a great month for sampling food on Marco island as all the restaurants are running at full steam as the island’s population swells for season.

This month we visited some new names, and places we haven’t been to before. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Arturo’s Bistro, Marco Island

Even before the appetizer arrived, things got off to a delicious start with the complimentary bread at Arturo’s Bistro on Marco Island. Served with both butter and oil on the side, we had high expectations (as the waiter was bragging about how great it was). And it was. And yes, I tried it with butter first, then oil; and finally, both at the same time.

The beef braciole from Arturo's Bistro, Marco Island.

And the appetizer. We selected the porcini mushroom ravioli. It’s served in a creamy wild mushroom sauce and is topped with goat cheese. Once we finished off the ravioli, we dipped the amazing bread into the wild mushroom sauce, claiming every single drop. Yum!

In the entrée category, we sampled the linguine Bolognese; which was amazing! The noodles were served al dente. Nearly every restaurant that serves pasta delivers it overcooked. I was so happy that I almost cried. And the Bolognese, a traditional meat sauce, was the perfect complement to the pasta; along with the giant shavings of Parmesan cheese.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Arturo's Bistro delivers top-notch dinner

Then there’s the beef braciola, thinly sliced beef rolled and stuffed with Italian herbs and pine nuts and topped with marinara sauce and cheese. It is accompanied with Arturo’s baked crepe. This dish was a work of art. Top-notch beef.

If you’re looking for hearty comfort food, Arturo’s Bistro is the whole package.

Petit Soleil, Marco Island

If you’re looking for a buttery croissant, toasted baguette, a variety of Belgian waffles or eggs Benedict, look no further than Petit Soleil in historical Olde Marco

First, we tried the croissant sandwich. It comes stuffed with eggs and your choice of three items. You can pick from ham, mushrooms, cheddar or Swiss cheese, bacon, sausage, onion, green pepper, or tomato. We picked sausage, Swiss cheese and mushrooms. OMG! So good!

Belgian waffle with bananas and caramel sauce from Petit Soleil, Marco Island.

We also tried the quiche Chèvre, a baked quiche with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. While the outside might give you the impression that it is overcooked, the inside was utter perfection. I expected more sun-dried tomato and more spinach, but I can’t argue with the result.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Sunday brunch with a French twist at Petit Soleil

Finally, a Belgian waffle with bananas and caramel sauce. This was my favorite part of the meal. Neither the waffle, the sauce or the combination of the two was too sweet. I was in heaven.

Whether you’re looking for tradition or a twist, there’s something for everyone, Petit Soleil is truly a hidden gem.

The Boulevard, Marco Island

The Boulevard is the upscale rebirth of the restaurant formerly known as Philly Grille on Marco Island. Gone, at least for now, are what I considered to be some of the best burgers on Marco Island and the popular Philly cheese steak sandwich.

Top among our selections for the night, the roasted beet salad: roasted beets with onions, goat cheese and “farm fresh” greens with toasted pecans in a ginger citrus vinaigrette dressing. In addition to being a beautiful dish, the goat cheese took the form of two tempura-like balls that sat atop the dish. This entree comes highly recommended.

Shrimp and scallops pesto from The Boulevard, Marco Island.

The chicken Portofino, chicken breast sautéed with “fresh” tomatoes, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers served over spaghetti, was another beautiful and plentiful dish.

My personal favorite was the shrimp and scallops pesto: sautéed shrimp and scallops in a cream pesto sauce served over pappardelle pasta (a very large, very broad and flat noodle that was perfect for this sauce). Typically, pesto dishes can be a bit overwhelming; and often cream is abused and completely removes the flavor of a signature ingredient. Not here. This was a perfect blend of cream and pesto.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: The Boulevard – rebirth of a restaurant

Both the scallops and the shrimp were high quality, large and plentiful. If this dish exists anywhere else on the island, I highly doubt it could be better than this one.

This is a great effort to move this restaurant up the chain and it should be applauded. But yes, I will miss the hamburgers.

Thai Thai Sushi Bowl, South Naples

At Thai Thai Sushi Bowl on Collier Boulevard in South Naples, things got off to an appetizing start with one of the restaurants featured rolls, the Hawaiian roll: tempura shrimp and cream cheese wrapped in soy paper, topped with mango and mango sauce. Beautifully made and delicious, this roll was a tad too sweet for my liking. But it was constructed to perfection.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Give Thai Thai a try

Also, from the sushi menu, the hosomaki combo features a California roll (magnificent), JB roll (delectable – love cream cheese) and a tuna roll (the weakest of the three) and a spicy salmon martini salad. What made it a martini salad, you ask. Well, it was served in a martini glass.

The Hawaiiian roll from Thai Thai Sushi Bowl, South Naples.

The combo was so beautiful to look at, I almost hated eating it. But I did so anyway. I savored every bite. Thai Thai Sushi Bowl has good service, a great atmosphere and is one of the few signs of life in the Naples Outlet Mall. If you’re looking for great Thai, give Thai Thai a try.

Pilar’s Empanadas Argentinas & More, Marco Island Farmer’s Market

Head to Pilar’s Empanadas Argentinas & More for their namesake dish and you won’t be disappointed.

For $3 each or two for $5, you can pick from Argentinean- style beef, chicken with touch of barbecue sauce, spinach and mozzarella, onions and provolone cheese, blue cheese and mozzarella or sweet corn and provolone. What great combinations!

There are also sweet selections, including sweet potato and cream cheese or quince jam and cream cheese. There’s are also vegan options ranging from $4 to $5, including: Argentinean- style Beyond beef, kale with mushrooms and corn, lentil with potatoes and bell peppers, mushrooms and sesame seeds, spinach and vegan cheese, caramelized onions and vegan cheese and sweet corn with vegan cheese.

More:Food Finds: Argentinian empanadas at the Farmer’s Market

We brought home the Argentinean-style beef and chicken with touch of barbecue. As instructed, we reheated them for six minutes in the oven.

The signature dish from Pilar's Empanadas Argentinas & More.

I’ve had my fair share of empanadas, and Pilar’s are contenders, especially when you consider they are premade and are reheated later.

The beef had olives and raisins in the mix which made for a nice sweet and savory taste. The barbecue sauces are nearly undetectable and serves to just add a little flavor and moisture to the chicken – a plus, especially when making them for later.

Next time you’re at the Marco Island Farmer’s Market, check out Pilar’s. You won’t be disappointed.

SWFL International Gourmet Foods, Marco Island Farmer’s Market

SWFL International Gourmet Foods has a huge selection of breads, desserts and dessert breads.

We took home some cinnamon raisin bread, chocolate chip walnut cookies and some cronuts.

The cinnamon raisin bread was a moist, bountiful delight. We sliced it up and topped it was mascarpone cheese. Yummy!

More:Food Finds: Delicious breads and treats from the farmer's market

The cronuts were the star of the show. I’m not sure how they compare with the famous New York ones, but with the rich chocolate on top and the cream inside, these fresh goodies were an instant favorite for me.

Assorted breads from the SWFL International Gourmet Foods stand.

The stand also featured French bread, ciabatta, sourdough, Italian and twisted batard, kalamata olive bread, walnut raisin bread, sticky buns and assorted Danishes, to name a few.

If you’re looking for a specialty bread or morning pastry, make sure to stop by the SWFL International Gourmet Foods stand.

More:Hey Marco Island, looking for a place to eat?

This newspaper pays for all meals related to dining reviews. We do not solicit or accept free food.

If you go

Arturo’s Bistro

  • 918 N Collier Blvd, Marco Island
  • 239-394-7578
  • arturosbistro.com

Petit Soleil

  • 210 Royal Palm Dr, Marco Island
  • 239-970-6072
  • petitsoleilmarcoisland.com

The Boulevard

  • 1000 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-394-2221
  • theboulevardmarco.com

Thai Thai Sushi Bowl

  • 6060 Collier Blvd. #23, Naples
  • thaithaius.com
  • 239-732-9520

The Marco Island Farmer’s Market

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