Best of 2021: The top things we ate from January through June

Will Watts
Correspondent

Like many folks, the pandemic had wreaked havoc on my diet in 2020. And also, like many, I vowed to eat better in 2021. And in doing so, I discovered some of the best dishes Marco Island has to offer.

Here’s the top dishes for the first half of 2021. And a disclaimer for the restaurants who didn’t make the list: The competition was fierce and there’s no shame in not being included, and I think you’ll agree – these dishes offer something special. Also, of note, there’s more restaurants on Marco Island than we can eat in during a given year, so some places weren’t even in the running. For those, we’ll see you in 2022.

The “Quinoa Power Bowl” from Mangoes Dockside Bistro.

January

The innovation award goes to Mango’s Dockside Bistro, Marco Island, for the “Quinoa Power Bowl” ($14). It features fresh avocado, roasted peppers, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, sweet roasted corn, fresh mango and micro greens and finished with a cilantro lime aioli. You can add grilled or blackened chicken or shrimp for $4 more.

What a fresh and amazing offering. Kudos to you, Mangoes. The ingredients work perfectly. Fresh! Tasty! And healthy!

Speaking of healthy, our plan for 2021 was to eat less meat and Su’s Garden, a Marco Island landmark, has one of the largest vegetarian menus on the island. Dishes like the vegetarian spring rolls ($1.75), dumplings (four for $5.75) and lettuce wraps ($8.50), vegetable fried rice ($8.95) and broccoli with garlic sauce ($12.50).

More:Best of January: Here are the top things we ate in SWFL

The jumbo shrimp and diver scallops from Verdi’s American Bistro, Marco Island.

February

Verdi’s American Bistro, Marco Island, offers the exquisite jumbo shrimp and diver scallops ($33) featuring a sautéed, lobster tomato gravy, fresh fettuccine and parmesan cheese. Heavenly. This dish had three jumbo shrimp and two scallops and lots of pasta.

Verdi’s also has a star spinach salad ($4.75 with an entrée, $11otherwise). It features sliced Granny Smith apples, dried cranberries, candied walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, tomatoes, red onions, olive oil and a sweet balsamic reduction. Amazing!

Stonewalls on Marco Island describes itself as a “contemporary order-at- the-counter eatery offering gourmet flatbreads, sandwiches and breakfast fare.” And it was an item from the breakfast menu that impressed us: 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.

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

Vegetarian split pea soup (plated) from Summer Day Market & Cafe, Marco Island.

March

Summer Day Market & Café in Marco Town Center Mall is a unique treasure for Marco Island, offering healthy food items from the store and café, along with a wide selection of smoothies.

Our star item for March is one of the best soups we’ve ever had. It veers from tradition and is celebrated for its simplicity.  

Without further ado, we give you the fresh vegetarian split pea soup. OMG! A terrific blend. If you think it’s not split pea without ham, I challenge you to try this soup. You won’t regret it.

The café’s organic soups are made in house daily.

Another noteworthy dish came from Uncle Micky’s Pizza, Isles of Capri. The “Classy Capri” features goat cheese, spinach, fig and balsamic. Props for an original idea. This pizza is sweet and delicious with a nice chewy crust, like you’d expect from a true Italian pie shop.

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

The "Carciofi Romani" from Osteria Capri, Isles of Capri.

April

Osteria Capri, Isles of Capri offered us a complete and top-notch meal, but they earn recognition as one of the best of 2021 with not one, but two incredible appetizers. One for originality, the other for pure quality.  

It’s the “Calamari Fritti” ($13), fried calamari with a spicy tomato sauce, and the “Carciofi Romani” ($15), oven baked Roman artichoke hearts in a lemon butter sauce.

The calamari arrived coated in a crisp and tasty tempura crust. The sauce was only mildly spicy and a perfect match for the dish. Now for the artichokes. This may have been the best appetizer I’ve ever had. And it’s definitely the best artichokes I’ve eaten. A lemony, salty and savory goodness. My compliments to the chef.

Another dish worth nothing for April, this one from Margaritas on Marco Island. The vegetarian tamales feature a traditional tamale stuffed with sautéed red peppers, green peppers, onions and cilantro with smoked gouda cheese. The dish is topped with an amazing ranchero sauce. The tamales are a must try!

More:Best of April: The top things we ate in SWFLA

The "Melenzana Parmigiana" from Davide Italian Cafe & Deli, Marco Island.

May

May’s top dish comes from Davide Italian Cafe & Deli on Marco Island. It’s the “Melenzana Parmigiana” ($9.95) featuring breaded eggplant thinly sliced, lightly fried with a homemade tomato sauce topped with mozzarella cheese. So good!

On the pizza front, we also pick the “Quattro Formaggi” ($19.95) with tomato sauce and a blend of mozzarella cheese, gorgonzola cheese, parmigiano cheese and provolone cheese. A slice of this pizza is pure heaven. A thin and crispy crust with a beautiful layering technique. Just to look at it you’d never guess the complex, rich and amazing flavor. Bravo!

Another noteworthy dish for May comes from Crabby Lady, Goodland: The restaurant’s “Famous” seafood bisque ($7.99 for a bowl). I usually don’t like seafood- based soups, but this one’s a real winner.

More:Best of May: The top things we ate in SWFLA

June

The “Wild Mushroom Risotto” from Marek's Bar & Bistro, Marco Island.

Marek’s Bar & Bistro in Olde Marco is located in the historic Collier House (the home of William “Captain Bill” Collier, the first postmaster of Marco Island and the son of Marco’s fist permanent settler, William Collier, outside the Calusa Indians). And it’s where June’s top dish comes from and more appetizers. It just proves, you don’t have to wait long to get great food on Marco Island.

The “Coral Reef Calamari” ($11) features a “sun-blushed” tomato sauce and the “Wild Mushroom Risotto” ($14) features a creamy risotto, truffle oil and parmesan shavings. Three things stood out about the calamari. First there were only tubes. Love that! My fav! Second, the light and amazing tempura-like breading and lastly, the incredible sauce. In other words, everything about this dish stood out.

The risotto (it also comes as an entrée) was perhaps my favorite dish of the night. So creamy! So colorful. I savored every bite.

Another noteworthy dish for June comes from The Oyster Society on Marco Island. This place has something for everyone. A raw bar, seafood and pasta dishes and so much more.  

The “Society Scampi” ($39) features king crab and shrimp, a Thai basil pesto, garlic and oil, linguine, spinach, parmesan and botarga (a delicacy of salted, cured fish roe, typically of the grey mullet or the bluefin tuna). So good!

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

Next week, we’ll bring you the second half of this column. And it’s already written, for those of you looking for late-game moves. Until then, happy eating!

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.

If you go

Mango’s Dockside Bistro

  • Located in Esplanade, 760 N Collier Blvd # 109, Marco Island
  • 239-393-2433
  • mangosdocksidebistro.com

Su's Garden Chinese Restaurant

  • 537 Bald Eagle Dr #2700, Marco Island 
  • 239-394-4666
  • susgarden.com

Verdi’s American Bistro

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

Stonewalls

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

Summer Day Market & Café

  • 1069 N. Collier Blvd., Unit 216, Marco Island (in Marco Town Center Mall)
  • 239-394-8361
  • summerdaymarket.com

Osteria Capri

  • 387 Capri Blvd, Isles of Capri
  • 239-970-5721
  • osteriacapri.com

Margaritas

  • 1069 N. Collier Blvd. Marco Island Fl, 34145
  • 239-394-6555
  • www.margaritasontheisland.com

Davide Italian Cafe & Deli

  • Island Plaza, 688 Bald Eagle Dr. (NW Corner Bald Eagle and Collier Blvd.), Marco Island
  • 239-393-2233
  • davideitaliancafe.com

Crabby Lady

  • 123 Bayshore Way, Goodland
  • 239-500-2722
  • crabbylady.com

Marek’s Bar & Bistro

  • 1121 Bald Eagle Dr., Marco Island
  • 239-642-9948
  • mareksmarcoisland.com

The Oyster Society

  • 599 S. Collier Blvd #218, Marco Island
  • 239-394-3474
  • theoystersociety.com