Best of October: The top things we ate in SWFLA

Will Watts

October started with some of the best Italian on the island – and that’s saying a lot – and also included sushi, fresh seafood and two new entries into the market.

Da Vinci’s, Marco Island

Da Vinci Ristorante Italiano is located in the Marco Walk Plaza, Marco Island.

The “Linguine Nere All’Aragosta” from Da Vinci Ristorante Italiano, Marco Island.

Things we loved: the “Rollatini Di Melanzana” ($17), featuring eggplant, ricotta, mozzarella and a light marinara; the “Linguine Nere All’Aragosta” ($35), featuring a squid-ink black linguine, Maine lobster meat and a cognac pink sauce; and the “Gnocchi Da Vinci” ($24), featuring potato dumplings (gnocchi), a tomato basil sauce and topped with burrata; the “Linguine Nere All’Aragosta” earns top praise. The squid ink adds a dark sheen and a slightly briny flavor to this dish and is a perfect base for this dish. I expected only a small amount of lobster but was surprised. This dish had as much meat as your best Bolognese. And the sauce, delectable. I highly recommend this dish.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Da Vinci’s paints a colorful, serene dining experience

Cocomo’s Grill, Marco Island 

Cocomo’s Grill is the “home of the hogfish,” on Marco Island.

Things we loved: the buffalo shrimp ($12), served with blue cheese and the “Drunken” shrimp ($12, half pound or $23 for a full pound);  the “Grouper Luis” ($29). It’s blackened grouper topped with one of Cocomo’s homemade crab cakes, then finished with a chipotle and key lime beurre blanc sauce; the portabella sandwich ($10) with sweet potato fries; the chocolate cake ($7) and the the fried cheesecake ala mode ($8).

"Drunken" shrimp from Cocomo's Grill, Marco Island.
The portabella sandwich from Cocomo’s Grill, Marco Island.

The cheesecake part was more like blintzes, but overall, this dessert earned rave reviews.

One last thing worth noting, it was noticeably fresher in Cocomo’s than your standard restaurant. On my way to the washroom, I noticed a sign, “Notice to all customers: We have installed a Triadaer air purifier system that covers 3,000 square feet. Cocomo’s Grill welcomes you to a healthy space where air and surfaces are actively sanitized against viruses and bacteria.” Why isn’t everyone doing this? Way to go Cocomo’s.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Cocomo’s Grill – Fresh air, ‘Drunken’ shrimp and more

Island Chicken, Marco Island

The newly opened Island Chicken is located on Collier Boulevard on Marco Island.

This is a carry out restaurant. And the menu is simple. The only meat is chicken. And it comes one way, as deep-fried fingers. As a sign on the wall explains: “Island Chicken fingers are the most glorious incarnation of handheld fried chicken. They’re heftier than nuggets, simpler than wings, ideologically purer than boneless wings.”

Chicken fingers from Island Chicken, Marco Island.

It’s hard to argue with that logic. The fingers are huge all-white meat chicken fried to a golden brown. But they don’t come alone, you can have slaw, Texas toast or crinkle-cut fries. And let me tell you, these are some of the best fries around. Salted to perfection!

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Island Chicken, Jersey Mike’s open their doors

Jersey Mike’s, East Naples

Ready for a taste of New Jersey that isn’t pizza? Jersey Mike’s is the latest Southwest Florida challenger to the Subway on every corner. Unlike Subway, which usually is staffed with one or two people, there were like six people behind the counter on this day.

Everything on the menu is assigned a number for quick reference. You can have it as a wrap, a mini (actually a regular- sized sandwich but more bun-like) a regular submarine or a giant submarine sandwich.

Veggie sub from Jersey Mike's, East Naples.
A wrapped submarine sandwich from Jersey Mike’s, East Naples.

You can select from three different types of breads, white, wheat or rosemary parmesan.

We shared a “#10, Tuna Fish” ($14.99 for the giant, four servings) on the rosemary parm (delish and crunchy). Mike’s makes the tuna salad on site with freshly chopped celery, mayo and a dash of pepper. We took it Mike’s Way, as recommended.

What is Mike’s Way? Sliced onions, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, oregano, salt and spices and “The Juice” —a mixture of red wine vinegar and olive oil. So good!

We also had a “#14, The Veggie” ($7.25 for the regular, two servings). It features layers of Swiss and provolone cheese, green bell peppers and all the veggie toppings you want.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Island Chicken, Jersey Mike’s open their doors

2Shea’s Salty Dog, Marco Island

2Shea’s Salty Dog is located in Marco Walk Plaza.

The “Ahi-mazing Tostada” from 2Shea's Salty Dog, Marco Island.
The “Tijuana Taco Salad” from 2Shea's Salty Dog, Marco Island.

Things we loved: The “Ahi-mazing Tostada” ($14.95) featuring ahi tuna with avocado, cucumber, cilantro, onions and toasted sesame seeds with a house made soy ginger sauce, served on crispy corn tortillas; the “Tijuana Taco Salad” ($11.95) featuring Romaine lettuce tossed with corn, black beans, cilantro, avocado, tomato onions cheese with a house made ranch dressing. You can add chicken ($4) or shrimp, ahi tuna, mahi or grouper ($6); and the fried grouper basket ($15.95). It features lightly breaded and golden fried fish and a house made tartar sauce.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Fresh seafood from 2Shea's Salty Dog

Thai Sushi By KJ, Marco Island

Thai Sushi By KJ is located on Collier Boulevard on Marco Island.

Things we loved: the “Big and Giant Roll” ($19.99), featuring salmon, tuna, white tuna, white fish, krab, cream cheese, avocado, scallions and asparagus; the avocado salad ($6.99), featuring the namesake, as well as mandarin oranges, cucumbers, a vinegar dressing and topped with sesame seeds. It tastes super sweet and looks amazing; the sushi/sashimi/shrimp tempura combination platter, it comes with three pieces of sushi, nine pieces of sashimi, a California roll and a selection of shrimp and vegetable tempura;  and the shrimp with garlic sauce ($18.99), featuring assorted vegetables in an incredible garlic sauce. You can add tofu, chicken or shrimp. It also comes with rice.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Fresh and fantastic – Thai Sushi By KJ

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 September: The top things we ate in SWFLA

If you go

Da Vinci Ristorante Italiano

  • 599 S Collier Blvd, Marco Island
  • 239-389-1888

Cocomo’s Grill

  • 945 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-394-3600

Island Chicken

  • 905 N Collier Blvd, Marco Island
  • 239-228-2100

Jersey Mike’s Subs

  • 5040 Tamiami Trail E Suite 200, Naples,
  • 239-359-6077

2Shea's Salty Dog

  • 599 S Collier Blvd., # 105, Marco Island
  • 239-970-5363

Thai Sushi By KJ

  • 317 N Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-970-2625