Best of February: Here are the top things we ate in SWFLA

Will Watts
Correspondent

In February, we visited four restaurants with definite and differing themes. What they all have in common is quality, uniqueness and attention to detail. It was a great month of eating!   

21 Spices, East Naples

21 Spices by Chef Asif is just a short drive from Marco Island and its celebrity chief and restaurant namesake spent a decade as the executive chef of the Marco Island Hilton.

For an appetizer, we loved the Mazedaar samosas ($8) feature spiced potato with green peas served with tamarind-date chutney.

In the salad round, the standout was the spicy shrimp and peanut mung salad ($15). It features shrimp, lightly spiced peanuts, sprouts, cilantro, lemon and olive oil. This is perhaps the best salad I’ve ever eaten from a restaurant and in the top five dishes of all time from a restaurant, competing with appetizers, entrees and desserts. It looked like a piece of art and the taste was heavenly. You must try this dish!

In the entrée category, the Aloo Gobi ($18), features cauliflower, potatoes, green peas and ginger in a tomato concasse. It looks like a hearty stew. And it kind of feels that way when eating it. A perfectly spiced comfort food.

The Nizam's Kofte ($20) features vegetable and cheese dumplings simmered in a rich saffron reduction and is finished with lemon and coriander. The dumplings were as amazing as they sound. The lemon is not strong; I would describe it as delicate. My compliments to the chef.

All entrees are served with an amazing saffron basmati rice which is a perfect pairing. But honestly, this rice is delicious enough to eat on its own.

Visit 21 Spices by Chef Asif today. You won’t be disappointed. Whether you’re a fan of Indian food, like me, or not, you’ll love these dishes that speak the language of satisfaction.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: 21 Spices speaks the language of satisfaction

Stonewalls, Marco Island

Stonewalls on Marco Island describes itself as a “contemporary order-at- the-counter eatery offering gourmet flatbreads, sandwiches and breakfast fare.”

From the breakfast menu, we picked the Greek omelet ($10), featuring spinach, tomato and feta cheese. It comes with seasoned potatoes and your choice of bread. This omelet is stuffed with ingredients. The spinach tasted fresh and not canned or frozen. The feta was amazing and plentiful.

We also had the equally amazing egg and cheese sandwich ($8) which comes on your choice of bread (we picked the everything bagel), American cheese and seasoned potatoes.

The star on both of our breakfast plates were the seasoned potatoes. At first glance, you might think these are traditional skillet fried potatoes. But they were so soft and moist. And the seasoning was so good with a spicy edge. I suspect these potatoes may have been boiled, then seasoned and baked. Whatever Stonewalls does, it’s brilliant. I couldn’t get enough. You must try these taters!

From the lunch menu, we shared a couple of flatbreads, the veggie ($9) featuring extra virgin olive oil, blended cheeses, broccoli, black olives, diced tomatoes and fresh herbs; and the Margherita ($8), smothered in marinara sauce, mozzarella, garlic and tomatoes. Both were fresh and delicious, but of the two, the Margherita was the real standout with an amazing sauce.

For dinner, I ordered the cheese ravioli ($12). It comes with either alfredo or marinara sauce. I picked the latter. It featured that same amazing sauce that

made the flatbread a star. The ricotta was creamy and dreamy. Amazing!

At Stonewalls, you can eat inside or out or, like us, take it away. For orders to go, you can call or use the restaurant’s online ordering form which also allows you to pay in advance.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Stonewalls offers fine food fast

Frankie’s Authentic Italian Deli, South Naples

Frankie's Authentic Italian Deli’s name is quite the boast, and for the most part, it lives up to it.

From the vast selections of pizzas, we ordered the “White Pie” ($19.95), featuring mozzarella, ricotta, and Romano cheeses, garlic, olive oil and your choice of broccoli or spinach. Can’t decide between the last two ingredients? No worries. Just do half and half, like we did.

I liked the broccoli a lot. It’s never better than when it sits atop a pizza. But the spinach side was even better. The crust is thin and crispy, and the cheese is piled high. We’ve never had a bad

pizza from Frankie’s.

We also ordered a couple of sandwiches. First up, the eggplant parm ($12.95), featuring eggplant, provolone, mozzarella and marinara sauce. Yum! So good! This sandwich is so hearty, it’s hard to believe it’s meatless.

We also ordered a half tuna, technically not on the menu. But they sell tuna and bread and they were happy to make this sandwich for us. We asked for it with the works. It was simply amazing! A little wet, but a delicious treat. Thank you!

We ended the meal with one of the best tiramisu’s on this coast of Florida. Who would have guessed!?

Frankie's Authentic Italian Deli is full of surprises and rarely disappoints. It’s worth the short drive over the bridge.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Frankie's has pizza, subs and more

Verdi’s American Bistro, Marco Island

Not to boast, but this is my third official visit to Verdi’s American Bistro on Marco Island – but the first time I’ve taken it to go. Verdi’s makes it easy to order. No need to call in and risk being put on hold. You can order online from their website (verdisbistro.com).

This was one of the best takeout orders we’ve received; and only fell short when comparing it to the dine-in experience at Verdi’s.

In the appetizer category, we had the “Wiki Wiki Shrimp” ($11), crispy tempura shrimp, toasted and served with a sweet and spicy chili sauce and topped with diced tomatoes. I love a good tempura crust, but the dipping sauce was the star of this rodeo. I even dipped the tomato pieces in it.

We also partook of the warm baked brie ($12) featuring roasted shallots, roasted garlic, toasted walnuts and mixed greens with a balsamic drizzle. I’ve had this dish before, and even though it was good this time, it did not reach the heights of past efforts.

From the entrees, we selected the wild salmon ($30) which is supposed to be served blackened and with a risotto, baby bok choy and a succotash sauce. While I found the salmon to be exquisite in flavor and texture, I’m not sure I would classify it as blackened. I added a Caesar salad ($4.75 with an entrée, $10 otherwise) and it had that nice garlicky take on the dressing that I adore.

My dining companion had the jumbo shrimp and diver scallops ($33) featuring a sautéed, lobster tomato gravy, fresh fettuccine and parmesan cheese. I must admit, I was jealous of both the look and smell of this dish. Heavenly.

This dish had three jumbo shrimp and two scallops and lots of pasta. That might not sound like a lot of protein, but he couldn’t finish it. That also might have something to do with the salad he added, which also made be jealous. It was a spinach salad ($4.75 with an entrée, $11otherwise), but no ordinary one. It features sliced Granny Smith apples, dried cranberries, candied walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, tomatoes, red onions, olive oil and a sweet balsamic reduction. It was practically a meal all by itself.

With Verdi’s, the quality is consistent, the prices are reasonable, and the staff is friendly and accommodating.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Verdi’s – Efficient, consistent and artful

Until next time, happy eating!

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

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If you go

21 Spices by Chef Asif

  • 4270 Tamiami Trail E #21, Naples
  • 239-919-8830
  • 21spicesdining.com

Stonewalls

  • S. Collier Blvd, Marco Island
  • 239-389-1995
  • marcostonewalls.com

Frankie's Authentic Italian Deli

  • 6654 Collier Blvd #106, Naples
  • 239-304-9033
  • frankies-authentic-italian-deli.business.site

Verdi’s American Bistro

  • 241 N Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-394-5533
  • verdisbistro.com