Best of August: The top things we ate in SWFLA

Will Watts

One final full month of Summer eating in Southwest Florida. And while it may be hot and wet outside, things are cooking up nicely in the great chilled indoors.  

Joey D’s, Marco Island and Naples

We dined at the Marco Island location and things got off to an appetizing start with the fried ravioli ($9.99) and the garlic bread with cheese ($5.99). The ravioli is filled with ricotta and comes with an amazing marinara dipping sauce. The cheesy garlic bread is unexpectedly huge for the price, and delicious.

On the entrée side, if you like subs, try the eggplant parmigiana ($10.99) from the hot subs menu. The bread was chewy and amazing, the sauce was tasty and delicious, and the eggplant was nice and crisp and covered with melted cheese. I highly recommend this dish.

As pizzas go, I recommend the 16” white pizza ($20.99) featuring mozzarella, ricotta and fresh garlic. This pie had lots of garlic and the crust was sublime.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Joey D’s makes food art with bread and cheese

Snook Inn, Marco Island

All of Southwest Florida has heard the jingle. “Come by boat, come by car.” As there’s parking for both. The Snook is located right on the Marco River, a playground for dolphins and visitors alike.

Visiting the historic Snook Inn in Olde Marco, we started with the chilled shrimp cocktail ($15.99) and the Wisconsin cheese curds ($9.99) from the “Island Time Snacks” menu.

The cocktail features six white gulf shrimp served over ice, cut lemon and the Snook’s house made cocktail sauce, which is pure perfection. Light, refreshing and delicious. The curds are flash fried and served with a tasty marinara sauce. I bet you can’t eat just one!

Then there’s the seafood chowder ($8.99). It features the chef’s selection of fresh-caught seafood, Maine lobster stack, roasted corn, potatoes, onions and celery. It’s so good. You’ll never go back to plain old clam chowder again.

You might also like the “Snook Inn’s Famous Grouper Sandwich” ($18.99) from the craft sandwiches menu. It’s served on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomatoes and onions. The bun was soft and fresh. The fish fried to perfection. And the onion rings, some of the best on the island.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Snook Inn offers fresh seafood without the fishing

Binto Thai, Bonita Springs

Binto Thai in Bonita Springs, a cozy little spot just off Tamiami Trail.

Start with the cheese Rangoon ($7.95), featuring cream cheese and shredded crab in a tasty deep fried triangle; and vegetable spring rolls ($5.50). The Rangoon were crunchy on the outside, sweet and salty inside. Love this dish. The spring rolls were also very tasty, especially the sweet chili dipping sauce.

The Tom Kha soup ($6.95), features galanga and Thai herb coconut milk, mushrooms, scallions and cilantro. You can have it with shrimp, veggies, chicken or tofu.

The Kow Soi curry and noodles ($18.95) features curried coconut milk, turmeric, shallots, bean sprouts, cabbages, carrots, scallions, cilantro, egg noodles and is topped with crunchy noodles and lime. Choose vegetables, tofu, chicken, beef or shrimp (there might be a slight upcharge depending on your selection).

This dish is a work of art. And with crunchy noodles on top and soft noodles below, you can make sure every bite is a little different. Fun and delicious.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Bonita’s Binto Thai is a cozy, quality café

Sale e Pepe, Marco Island

Dine from a second floor balcony overlooking Marco Island’s beautiful sandy beaches as the sun sets, at Sale e Pepe at the Marco Beach Ocean Resort.

Start with the “Crudi” ($21), local raw seafood, combined with slices of Florida citrus and Sicilian extra virgin olive oil with sprigs of saffron and other spices (so wonderfully delicious) or the “Fritto Misto” ($22), which consists of light and crispy calamari and shrimp along with a Calabrian chili aioli dipping sauce. It features lemon, lime, saffron sprigs and other delicate spices. So good!

As entrees go, I recommend the “Porcini” ($28), which features fresh agnolotti filled with pecorino and wild pepper and porcini mushrooms. This dish creates an unusually delicate, yet bold flavor. Just a joy to eat.

Or if you’re craving seafood, the “Passera” ($44). It’s a flounder “Meunière,” with grilled asparagus and Amalfi lemon. So, what does meunière mean? Just that it’s cooked or served in lightly browned butter with lemon juice and parsley. A beautiful dish to behold with another gentle, yet appealing flavor. My compliments to the chef.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Sale e Pepe's sunset dinners in Paradise

Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar, Naples

Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar located in the Strada, North Naples.

Start with the elotes ($6). It’s grilled Mexican street corn, topped with cotija, a chipotle aioli, spices, cilantro and crema. This is one of my favorite Mexican dishes that you won’t always find on the menu. So good!

You can also have guacamole, made right at your table, and served with tortilla chips ($14). Lots of guac that will take you through your entire meal.

I also recommend the chili rellenos ($18). The dish is battered and fried poblano chilies, stuffed with chihuahua and goat cheese and topped with salsa roja, lime crema, cotija cheese, yellow rice and black beans. Delish.

Or go for the tacos! We tried “Hongos” ($4.75 each). These are vegan mushroom tacos marinated in tequila and seasoned with jalapeños and garlic. You can have them with flour tortillas, hard corn or gluten free handmade corn tortillas. We also tried the vegan al pastor. It features a plant-based protein, pineapple salsa, onion, cilantro and lime. All the tacos are super good and very hearty. You won’t miss the meat.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Rocco’s Tacos – Mexican with a twist

Brio Italian Grille, Naples

Next up, Brio Italian Grille at Waterside Shops in Naples.

We started with some crispy calamari ($12.99), featuring pepperoncini, with arrabbiata for dipping on one side and lemon aioli on the other. Amazing! We also partook of soup on this rainy evening. I had the soup of the day ($7.99), a lovely minestrone. My dining companion had the lobster bisque ($7.99) featuring Maine lobster with a light cream and a touch of sherry.

On to the main course, grilled salmon pasta ($24.99), featuring grape tomatoes, broccolini and garlic in a white wine and scampi sauce. The dish was beautiful, like a piece of art. The fish was cooked and seasoned to perfection and was perfectly complimented by the pasta and other ingredients. I highly recommend this dish.

Or go for the “Ravioli Di Bello” ($17.99), featuring portobello ravioli, cremini mushrooms, tomatoes, Grana Padano Zanetti, fresh thyme and a champagne brown butter sauce. It was creamy, salty goodness.

Happy eating!

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Brio’s seasonal offerings seal the deal

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 July: The top things we ate in SWFLA

If you go

Joey D’s

  • 701 Bald Eagle Dr, Marco Island
  • 2356 Immokalee Rd., Naples
  • 3300 Davis Blvd. Naples
  • joeydsnaples.com

Snook Inn

  • 1215 Bald Eagle Dr., Marco Island
  • snookinn.com

Binto Thai

  • 28811 S Tamiami Trail, Ste. 4, Bonita Springs
  • bintothai.com

Sale e Pepe

  • 480 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • sale-e-pepe.com

Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar

  • 9123 Strada Pl. #7135, Naples
  • roccostacos.com

Brio Italian Grille

  • 5505 Tamiami Trail N., Naples
  • brioitalian.com