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Best of August: Here are the top things we ate in SWFL

Will Watts
Correspondent

We continued the “Takeout Edition” of “Watts for Dinner” in August to free up tables for those who choose to eat inside island restaurants (with limited seating because of social distancing).

This month we added a couple of first-time visits to our collection, plus we stopped by an Island favorite for lunch and we put a pizza place to the test to serve up a satisfying meatless meal.  

Napoli On The Bay, Marco Island

First up, the appetizer. We ordered the mozzarella sticks ($5.95), five traditional deep fried cheese sticks; crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. While not the best cheese sticks I’ve had, these were less greasy/oily than most. So that’s something.

We also shared a veggie Stromboli ($11.95), with sauce, mushrooms, sweet green peppers, onions, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. A huge dish, the tomatoes tasted like they were from a deli sandwich, not like they were inside a Stromboli. I’m not sure how they achieved this, but it was an unexpected nice touch.

We also partook of a large artichoke pizza ($18.95), with artichokes, mushrooms, black olives and onions. An amazing pizza with a nice chewy crust. The texture of the artichokes makes a great substitute for meat.

We also ordered the stuffed shells ($10.95), classic ricotta stuffed shells with flavorful three cheese ricotta filling and marinara sauce, covered in cheese. These stuffed shells are huge and perhaps the best part of our meal.

For our final round we ordered the toasted almond dessert ($5.95). It could best be described as a tiramisu, minus the coffee. Delicious!

More:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Napoli on the Bay serves up an Italian veggie delight

Let’s Eat Asian Fusion, South Naples

There’s something new in the South Naples neighborhood. Let’s Eat Asian Fusion recently opened in the Eagle Creek Shopping Center at 951 and 41.

If you’re like me, and your aim is takeout, you can order online and pay at letseatasian.com. One note: check your cart before finalizing your order. I discovered that my fried rice turned into chicken lo mein at checkout. Fortunately, if you click on chicken lo mein, it adds fried rice. Problem solved.

Let’s Eat is a modern twist on tradition Asian takeout. In addition to ordering online, its LED monitors as a menu board and bright green paint, tiles and chalkboard create a “today” feel; and the food we got exceeded our expectations.

We ordered enough food to cover a few nights of dining. My first meal started off with the spicy wonton soup ($4.95). Indeed, it is spicy. And I enjoyed every drop.

My partner in dine also picked something not often seen on the menu, a “Mashed Garlic Cucumber” dish ($7.95). For the record, the cucumber wasn’t smashed, it was diced. I’m guessing the smashed refers to the garlic. Light, refreshing and super tasty, this appetizer comes highly recommended.

My entrée was another dish that was new to me; so new that I haven’t seen it on the menu before, the “Asian Style Twice Cook Chicken” ($10.95). Billed as a “classic dish from the Far East,” the chicken had the same spicy hue as my wonton soup.

My partner in dine picked the shrimp with fresh vegetable ($11.95) for his main dish and gave it high marks. With huge shrimps, an amazing sauce and tons of veggies, including mushrooms, peas, carrots and onions, this is a hearty, yet healthy option when ordering takeout. This meal comes with a side of white rice.

For my second night of dining, I picked two noodle dishes to sample.

Let’s Eat Asian Fusion is a nice addition to the neighborhood, offering traditional favorites along with some creative new takes. Give them a try, you won’t be sorry.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Let’s Eat Asian Fusion comes to South Naples

Big Al’s, Marco Island

Fresh soups, huge sandwiches and wraps and friendly, smiling faces. Who could ask for more!?

For this visit, I ordered the large turkey breast hoagie ($9.50). First and foremost, the bread is always fresh and amazing. Made with Boar’s Head freshly-cut meats (my favorite deli cuts), this sandwich is a monster. For my toppings and dressings, I picked mayo, mustard, Swiss cheese, lettuce,

tomato and pickle. All fresh and delicious. This is one of my favorite sandwiches anywhere. I also sampled the buffalo chicken wrap ($6.75). The buffalo-infused meat comes customed-made from Boar’s Head. I added lettuce, tomato and feta cheese. The seasoned meat adds a subtle kick to the wrap. I highly recommend it.

My dining companion ordered the large chicken salad hoagie ($9.50). Made in house, with all white-meat chicken, the mix is so popular that you’re lucky if they still have any when you order. He added only lettuce for a topping, so he could enjoy the full flavor of the chicken salad. Perhaps not a tradition choice, this sandwich is yummy to its core and will leave you wanting more.

For another meal, I had the trio salad ($6.99). You can pick from the chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad or “krab” salad. I picked the tuna, chicken and egg. Don’t make me pick a favorite, I’d be hard pressed. But I can tell you that the egg salad mixes well with either of the meat salads. The trio is severed over a traditional veggies salad, and with a side of dressing (balsamic in this case). I ate the trios first, then added the dressing to the greens. We all eat our own way, don’t we? Yummy!

Big Al’s serves up quality deli favorites that keep people coming back for more.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Forget Arby’s, Big Al’s has the meats!

Island Cheese, Marco Island

You can customize your very own charcuterie board in one of three different sizes. At $155 the large platter serves up to 20 people; the medium serves nine people at a cost of $115 and the small serves four people for $55. All charcuterie must be ordered 24 hours in advance and you can order online, by phone or in person.

We ordered the medium and selected a dill Havarti, a triple cream brie, the herb goat cheese and paired it with the green pitted olives and the dried apricots. The platter also contained cornichons, Marcona almonds, fig spread and a balsamic glaze with crackers and a French baguette.

The triple cream brie was my favorite. Do you remember those packages of cream cheese and crackers you consumed as a kid? Well, they grew up and educated themselves, just like you. And this pair was Ivy league all the way.

The herb goat cheese was a close second. Even if you’re not crazy about goat cheese, I dare you not to love this herb-crusted variation. Yummers!

And the Marcona almonds; I bet you can’t eat just one. These are not your typical almonds. They are a sweet, gourmet almond from Spain; the texture is closer to that of a macadamia nut. They are round, plumb, salty and delicious.

We also ordered and sampled several panini’s from the ICC menu.

I ordered the “MOB … Marco Onion and Beef” ($10) featuring roast beef, steakhouse onion cheddar, mayo, Schwartz spicy pickles, kosher salt and ground black pepper.

I was surprised just how high the meat was stacked. And the taste was phenomenal! All those flavors combine into a masterpiece on rustic Italian panini bread. So crunchy, ooey, gooey and delicious.

My partner in dine picked the “Tigertail Kicked Up Turkey” ($10) featuring turkey, provolone, mayo,

kosher salt and ground black pepper. You can also choose from the cranberry horseradish or zesty honey mustard. He chose the cranberry. And while it wasn’t the cheesy melted Thanksgiving he expected, the sandwich did earn high praise for the generous amounts of turkey and unique flavor.

In addition to the platters and panini’s, you’ll find a nice selection or prepackaged artisanal cheeses from around the world, mustard, fruit spreads, chutney and honey, wine and craft beer and gourmet gifts.

If variety is the spice of life, then Island Cheese Company adds a lot of flavor to the Marco Island landscape.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Island Cheese adds a lot of flavor to Marco

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

If you go

Napoli on The Bay IV

  • 910 N Collier Blvd, Marco Island
  • 239-642-5662
  • napolionthebayiv.com

Let’s Eat Asian Fusion

  • 12683 Tamiami Trail East, Naples (Eagle Creek Shopping Center)
  • 239-963-9836
  • letseatasian.com

Big Al’s Deli (aka Big Al’s Sub Shop)

  • 715 Bald Eagle Dr, Marco Island, inside Pelican Plaza
  • 239-642-8080
  • facebook.com/Bigalsdeli/

Island Cheese Company

  • 740 N. Collier Blvd., Suite 112, in the Esplanade, Marco Island
  • 239-259-0561
  • islandcheesecompany.com

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