Best of Banner: The top things we ate in April

Will Watts

April took us to Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach for some of the best food around. It made it very difficult to pick the best of the month.

Figs Grille, Bonita Springs

This was my first visit to Figs Grille, and we started off with the “Papa Rossa” ($9.95), featuring marinated beets, red onion, fresh herbs and topped with goat cheese and walnuts. I love beets, and these were super flavorful without a hint of earthiness. The ingredients combined into a beautiful melody. It may have been an appetizer, but it was one of my favorites dishes this visit.

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

We got another simply irresistible appetizer ($12.50), featuring goat cheese, pan-fried (yes!) and served with arugula, figs and a port wine, lingonberry reduction. These were naughty and nice. Sports bar meets elegant dining.

On to the entrees: The gnocchi ($22.50) featuring potato pasta in gorgonzola cream sauce, oven dried tomatoes and peas; and the vegetable tagine ($19.95) featuring a combination of mushrooms, eggplant, preserved lemon, peas, cubed potatoes and onions stewed in a sauce of garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh tomatoes and served with basmati rice. Both were beautiful and tasty dishes.

One final dish that I must mention: the “Melanzana” ($20.95). This is the very best eggplant dish I’ve ever eaten. Baked eggplant, ricotta and mozzarella in a fresh tomato sauce. The pasta was firm. The tomato sauce was incredible. And the eggplant. Simply the best. My compliments to the chef. Grazie!

Figs Grille has a great staff, plenty of parking and outdoor dining. If you haven’t already discovered this eatery, make a date today!

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Figs Grille does its namesake, and more, justice

Charley’s Boat House Grill & Wine Bar, Fort Myers Beach

We made the trek to Charley's Boat House Grill & Wine Bar the Monday following Easter. While I’m aware that the seasonal crowds thin out after Easter, I’m not sure why I thought it would happen the next day. Thus, my first mistake, not making a reservation. And my second: Assuming there would be bountiful outdoor dining spaces. And my third: Not realizing that much of Estero Boulevard was under construction.

More:Hey Banner readers! Are you looking for a place to eat?

We arrived before sunset and the Gulf views from across the street were stunning and well worth the drive. And the food? Things got off to an appetizing start with the grouper bites ($18), which we ate in the parking lot! What!? We were hungry! The dish features the fish, battered and golden brown, and served with either tartar or remoulade sauce. We picked the latter. The batter was crisp and amazing. The sauce was unique and delicious. These were some of the best grouper bites I’ve ever had.

For my main entrée, I had the “Garden Harvest Sauté” ($24) featuring vegetables sauteed with fresh garlic and tossed in pesto and served over linguini. Just as good as it sounds. I added some mozzarella and parmesan, but it would have been great without it. This dish is a great way to lighten up pasta, even if it’s just a little.

You can get the Chilean sea bass ($41) grilled, blackened, or prepared with lemon pepper or garlic butter. My partner in dine picked the latter. This meal comes with unlimited salad bowl, a season vegetable blend and your choice of baked potato, sweet potato, garlic mashed potatoes, French fries or the starch of the day (excluding pasta dishes). He picked the garlic mashed potatoes and the veggie of the day was green beans. This dish looked amazing and tasted even better. The fish was juicy and cooked to perfection. Both sides were infused with garlic and the green beans still had some crispness. So good!

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Charley's Boat House worth the trip

Bella Mia, Naples

Steps away from the hustle and bustle of South Tamiami Trail, on Wiggins Pass Road, it feels quiet, wooded and peaceful. And tucked away in a quaint complex is Bella Mia.

Although our meal was takeout, I also took a beverage for the road. Bella Mia has a wide selection of coffees, both hot and iced, and my iced-vanilla latte ($5) really hit the spot.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Lapa's Costa Rican delights

There’s also a wide assortment of pastries (and desserts, more on those later). I picked a cronut (croissant + donut) to go with my coffee. It’s layers of bready sugary goodness filled with cream and with a chocolate icing swirl on top. So yummy!

On to the food. I enjoyed a Caprese sandwich ($15) featuring buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and a balsamic glaze on a baguette. It comes with a house salad (with lemon vinaigrette) or fries.

The sandwich was fresh and amazing. I enjoyed every bite. I highly recommend it. My partner in dine had the Bella's salad ($12, large) featuring a spring mix, cherry tomatoes, shaved almonds, chia seeds, feta cheese and avocado with oil and vinegar. This salad was beautiful and earned rave reviews. So, yes, it is as good as it sounds.

We also sampled the “Gnocchi alla Sorrentina” ($16) featuring gnocchi, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, olive oil and basil. It also comes with the aforementioned house salad. The sauce was one of the best I’ve ever had. The gnocchi were fluffy and huge. Another can’t miss dish.

Another interesting find, the vegetarian Keto lasagna ($15) featuring zucchini as noodles, basil ricotta, cremini mushrooms, mozzarella and parmesan cheese in that wonderful tomato-based sauce. Trust me, you won’t miss the pasta. This dish is a healthier take on a dinnertime staple.

The folks that worked there, at least the ones we encountered, were super friendly and helpful. Which is always a plus. I’ll definitely be back!

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Bella Mia a hidden gem

Sushi Thai Too, Bonita Springs

We dropped by around 9 p.m., an hour before closing for our meal at Sushi Thai Too in Bonita Springs. As expected, there was plenty of tables for social distancing, so we ate at the location (but we also took something to go).

We started with a couple of items from the sushi bar, a J.B. roll ($8.95), featuring salmon, cream cheese and scallions; and a Boston roll ($8.95), with shrimp, lettuce, avocado, cucumber, scallions and mayo. There’s nothing like fresh sushi and it has been a long time since I had any. As expected, this was fresh and amazing.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Make some memories at Goodland’s Little Bar

Curry was on the menu for our main entrees (for the dine-in experience). I had the red curry ($19.95) featuring bamboo shoots, bell peppers, basil, red curry paste, Thai herbs and coconut milk and served with rice.

You can add chicken, shrimp, tofu or veggies to your entrée. I added both tofu and veggies. This dish was packed with ingredients, packed with flavor and packed with goodness. A real power pack. I’ve previously had this dish with chicken and with shrimp. The fried tofu was a surprisingly nice change.

My dining companion had the Massaman curry ($21.95) with shrimp. This dish features potatoes, avocado, cashew nuts, onions, curry paste, Thai herbs and coconut milk. This dish earned high praise. The shrimp were huge, and the ingredients plentiful. The shrimps still had their tails intact, which most people prefer. But when you find one without a tail, each bite can become a possible landmine.

Our takeout order, which we ate the very next night included basil shrimp ($15.95) for me and sweet and sour sauce shrimp ($15.95) for my partner in dine.

The basil sauce is sauteed with onions, bell peppers, basil, green beans and Thai fresh chili sauce and your choice of protein. Each Thai restaurant has its own twist to this dish, and I really enjoyed this one. Just look at the photo!

For the other dish, your protein is sauteed with sweet and sour sauce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, scallions, bell peppers and pineapples. Yes, pineapples. So fragrant and so delicious. If you’re a fan of pineapple this dish is for you.

Sushi Thai Too has a super nice staff, who remain masked. And even at closing, there were no side looks. Just kind eyes and great service. Happy eating!

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Sushi Thai Too is too good to miss

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

More:Hey Banner readers! Are you looking for a place to eat?

If you go

Figs Grille

  • 25987 S. Tamiami Trail #109, Bonita Springs
  • 239-390-1700
  • figsgrille.com

Charley's Boat House Grill & Wine Bar

  • 6241 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach
  • 239-765-4800
  • boathousegrill.net

Bella Mia Italian Cafe

  • 808 Wiggins Pass Rd., Unit 104, Naples
  • 239-250-3310
  • bellamiaitaliancafe.com

Sushi Thai Too

  • 25101 S Tamiami Trail, Bonita Springs
  • 239-992-5600
  • sushithaitoo.com