Best of Banner: The top things we ate in July

Will Watts
Correspondent

From Coconut Point in Estero to Naples, we traveled all over Southwest Florida in July to find some incredible and unique dishes.  

Divieto Ristorante, Estero

We started off with a couple of salads. I had the quinoa salad ($14.95), featuring tricolor quinoa mixed with chickpeas, cucumber, peppers, cherry tomatoes, beets, and Italian dressing and topped with two huge triangles of feta cheese. What I liked: This salad is different. What I loved: The huge amount of tasty feta. This salad is a real winner. Tops!

My dining companion had the “Divieto Pear” ($14.95) featuring mixed greens tossed in a citrus dressing, and served with carrots, candied walnuts, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and, yes, fresh pear. This salad earned high marks and was beautiful to behold.

For my main entrée, I selected the “Ruota di Parmigiano” ($19.50). This dish is dinner and a show, as it features a tableside experience. It’s a creamy fettuccine alfredo tossed in a Parmigiano- Reggiano wheel to give it “an extraordinary and rich flavor.”

The wheel is said to be 90 pounds before use. And each one costs the restaurant around $2,000. You can add chicken ($6), shrimp ($7), steak ($8) or salmon ($9). I added the latter. The salmon was nice. The pasta, extraordinary. The show: fun!

My partner in dine stayed in theme with his salad and selected the “Fiocchi di Pera” ($18.75). It features pasta stuffed with pear and Italian cheeses, in a four cheese cream sauce and topped with fresh arugula, cherry tomatoes and candied walnuts. Beautiful to behold and with an exception and unique flavor.

We also took home a pizza, the “Bianca” ($16.50). It features a blend of mozzarella and mascarpone cheese, sautéed mushrooms and ham and is drizzled with white truffle oil.

We held the ham. And I must say, this pizza was amazing. A very thin and crispy crust and lots of cheese.

This was my first visit to Divieto Ristorante, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Estero’s Divieto serves up Italian bliss

Seasons 52, Naples

Seasons 52 offers “seasonal cooking and 52 wines by the glass.” The restaurant’s menu changes with the season “to feature 100 percent fresh produce, and we oak-fire grill and brick oven roast (without a fryer in sight) so everything we prepare is full of flavor and naturally lighter.”

We started with the stuffed mushrooms ($11.50, 240 calories). This dish features lump crab and shrimp-stuffed portabella mushrooms, creamed spinach and panko breadcrumbs. Absolutely amazing. A beautiful dish that tastes just as good as it looks. I highly recommend this dish.

We also had the grilled artichokes with preserved lemon hummus ($12.50, 540 calories), with roasted celery hearts, radishes, crispy lavash and green olives For my main entrée, I had the “Brick-oven Vegetable Gnocchi” ($18, 400 calories) featuring tomatoes and zucchini in a tomato-basil sauce. The dish looked more appealing in the promotional picture I saw, while researching this restaurant online. I enjoyed the taste, but the visual appeal was lacking.

My partner in dine had the “Brick-oven Roasted Chilean Sea Bass” ($34, 520 calories) and featuring roasted mushrooms, wild rice pilaf, snow peas and a ginger-sesame glaze. Unlike my dish, this dish had enough visual appeal to be a centerfold. And it earned high marks for taste as well.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Enjoy Seasons 52, any time of the year

Lamoraga, Naples

Things got off to an appetizing start with the “Dancing Eggplant ($12). It’s a blooming eggplant topped with mirin honey- soy sauce, sesame seeds and katsuobushi flakes. And yes, bits of the dish are moving, as in dancing, when served.

This dish is so original. I’ve never seen it severed anywhere else. And the taste is amazing. I highly recommend it.

For my salad, I chose the tomato and burrata ($11). It features heirloom and cherry tomatoes with burrata, baby arugula, pine nuts, a basil pesto drizzle and a lemon vinaigrette dressing. This flavor combination is a real winner. I loved this salad. Beautiful and delicious.

My partner in dine picked the “Fattoush” salad ($11). It’s fresh cucumber, ripe tomatoes, crisp romaine lettuce with a dried pita bread and a sumac vinaigrette and mint. This salad was also a work of art and earned high praise.

For my main entrée, the grilled mahi mahi ($27). The fish comes topped with an orange-ginger-chili sauce, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy and a mango salsa. It also comes with a lemongrass rice. This dish feels very Thai inspired. And it delivers on flavor. You won’t be disappointed.

My dining companion had the vegan paella ($20), featuring a variety of fresh seasonal vegetables and a house made vegetable stock prepared with saffron rice. Another winner. The taste both surprises and delights.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Lamoraga’s summer menu is a success

Noodle Saigon, Naples

We started with two amazing dishes. First up, the fried tofu ($11.50) featuring shredded green cabbage, herbs, pickled carrots, onion and the restaurants “special seasonings” and topped with peanuts. You can pick variations of this dish with grilled chicken, pork or rare beef. This was a great start. Light and flavorful.

Our other starter was a pan fried crepe ($13). For your protein, you can have shrimp, pork, chicken or tofu; we picked the latter. The crispy crepe comes with herbs and lettuce to fill and a clear, sweet dipping sauce.

I just can’t say enough good things about this dish. Very addictive! Every bite was sheer pleasure. It will leave you lying awake at night, wondering when you can have more. I highly recommend this dish. 

For my main entrée, I selected the rice noodles egg cake ($16). There are the little crunchy squares of pan fried rice noodles floating in this stir fry of mixed vegetables (zucchini, carrots, celery, bell peppers, broccoli, onions and snow peas). You can also add a protein. I picked tofu. So satisfying.

My partner in dine had the tamarind soup ($17.50). You can add salmon or shrimp. He picked the latter. This dish earned high marks. Although, a tamarind flavor was nowhere to be found. Don’t read too much into the name, I suppose.

If you’re always searching for “something new” or “different” this place won’t disappoint. It’s utter perfection for the palette.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Noodle Saigon is utter perfection for the palette

This newspaper pays for all meals related to dining reviews. We do not solicit or accept free food. Not all dishes are featured in print, but you can find a gallery of all reviewed dishes online at marconews.com.

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

If you go

Divieto Ristorante

  • 23161 Village Shops Way #101, Estero 
  • 239-390-8002
  • divietoristorante.com

Seasons 52

  • 8930 Tamiami Trail N., Naples
  • 239-594-8852
  • Seasons52.com

Lamoraga

  • 3936 Tamiami Trail N., Naples
  • 239-331-3669
  • lamoragarestaurant.com

Noodle Saigon Restaurant

  • 13500 Tamiami Trail N # 11, Naples
  • 239-598-9400 
  • noodlesaigon.com