Best of 2021: The top things we ate from July through December

Will Watts
Correspondent

Welcome to part two of our 2021 food adventures. If you missed part one, visit the-banner.com.

As a reminder 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 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 salad from Divieto Ristorante, Estero.

July

Divieto Ristorante in Estero offered an elegant dinner, and some entertainment as well. Standouts?

First, 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!

Then there’s the “Ruota di Parmigiano” ($19.50). 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!

Also noteworthy in July. Naples’ Lamoraga features 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.

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

Kow Soi curry and noodles with tofu from Binto Thai, Bonita Springs.

August

Binto Thai in Bonita Springs, a cozy little spot just off Tamiami Trail and it features our top dish for August. 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.

Next up, Brio Italian Grille at Waterside Shops in Naples. The “Ravioli Di Bello” ($17.99), features portobello ravioli, cremini mushrooms, tomatoes, Grana Padano Zanetti, fresh thyme and a champagne brown butter sauce. It was creamy, salty goodness.

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

The chili lime fried grouper bites covered in a boom boom sauce from Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille, Bonita Springs.

September

Ever since I started writing this feature, I’ve wanted to visit Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille in Bonita Springs. We tried several times during season, but was always met with a full parking lot and a line of cars waiting to get in. No joke. The popularity piqued my curiosity.

The chili lime fried grouper bites are covered in a boom boom sauce ($16.95). The sauce is similar to other booms around town, but the grouper bites were hearty and beautifully deep fried. Delicious!

I also had the special of the night, a panko-crusted grouper ($29.95) featuring an orange coconut sauce and served with yellow rice and sautéed fresh vegetables. The fish was amazing! Perfectly cooked. Very nice breading. And the sauce, pure perfection! Nice and sweet. The rice was good, the vegetables felt more steamed than sautéed, but that’s just splitting hairs.

You got to try the “Happy Tamarind” ($10.50) at Vegan Kitchen, Naples. It features wheat protein, tamarind, peanuts and basil and is served with rice chips. The taste is superb, and all the flavors complement each other. And you’d swear you were eating thin slices of beef. In concert with the chips, it’s pure perfection!

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

The “Tiger Shrimp Saganaki” from Zorba’s Mediterranean Grille & Bar, Bonita Springs.

October

At Zorba’s Mediterranean Grille & Bar in Bonita Springs the The “Tiger Shrimp Saganaki” comes with a show, flambéed tableside. It features shrimp, tomatoes, onions, feta and melted Kefalograviera, which starts as a hard table cheese produced from sheep’s milk or mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk. I really enjoyed the Saganaki. It was a delicious blend of spices and the cheese only served to enhance the flavor.

At Amfora Mediterranean European Restaurant in Estero the namesake salad features wood

oven roasted beets, marinated goat cheese, walnuts, watercress and a honey pomegranate molasses dressing. This dish was a work of art and was super fresh and delicious.

And the fish of the day ($32), grouper, featuring a farro mascarpone risotto, mushrooms, braised fennel and a saffron tarragon sauce. Another beautiful plate.

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

The “Blancs de poulet farcis au chèvre frais” from Tartine & Tartelette, Naples.

November

So often you hear the words “hidden gem.” While often used with too much liberty, I can honestly say that Tartine & Tartelette, is a 100 percent authentic hidden gem.

“Galyna and Sergiy welcome you for lunch and dinner to discover the flavors of French cuisine,” reads the website. These are two very hands on owners.

The food is pure artwork. The flavors are amazing, sometimes subtle, other times dramatic. What’s inescapable is the hard-to-imagine quality of the food. It tastes like it was made

with all the care of someone who loves you. I’m not even kidding here. The food is incredible. The atmosphere is transportive and the attention to service and detail is pure perfection.

The “Brie au four, miel et noix” ($16.50). It’s baked brie with mixed nuts, seeds and honey. This was by far the best warm brie I have ever eaten. Sweet, savory and satisfying.

The “Boeuf Bourguignon” ($35.90) features pieces of slow-cooked beef in a red wine sauce, with mushrooms, bacon and onions. It came with a side of crispy potatoes. Every bite was pure delight. The bacon is subtle but adds depth to this dish. And the beef, not too fatty, not too lean. It was the perfect cut. My compliments to the chef. I highly recommend this dish.

The “Blancs de poulet farcis au chèvre frais” ($34.99). It’s chicken breast stuffed with fresh goat cheese and pistachios along with a centerpiece of beets with a root sauce. This dish earned high marks from my guest.

Also, noteworthy, Maria’s Restaurant in Bonita Springs; specifically on Taco Tuesday.

The line was out the door for $1 tacos. You order and pay at the entrance, then you take a number and wait for your food. And these aren’t some tiny street tacos. These are meaty, full-sized, authentic and delicious tacos.

We tried them all: carnitas (roasted pork), al pastor (adobo marinated spit-grilled pork), chorizo (spicy pork sausage), chicken and steak. OMG! So good. Especially the al pastor and carnitas. All top-notch.

More:Best of the Banner, November: The top things we ate in SWFLA

The “South Fork Meatloaf” from South Fork Grille, Estero.

December

South Fork Grille at Coconut Point in Estero features a full bar, outdoor and indoor dining. There’s lunch and dinner every day and a weekend brunch.

The “South Fork Meatloaf” ($24) features mashed potatoes with roasted vegetables (yum!). There were two large pieces of meat with grill marks on them. It both looked and tasted like an upscale Salisbury steak. And while it didn’t give me meatloaf vibes, I thoroughly enjoyed this hearty dish.

Also worth a mention in December, Michelbob’s Championship Ribs & Steaks.

We ordered a full rack of ribs ($20.99). Dinners come with your choice of baked potato, potato salad or corn on the cob and cole slaw, baked beans and grilled garlic toast. We also added pork sandwiches ($7.49 each) and a chicken breast combo ($15.99).

This food is simply out of this world. Underneath the smoke and sauces, the secret to Michelbob’s success might just be the meat, which is imported from Denmark.

That’s it for 2021. See you in 2022. Happy eating! And happy new year!

More:Best of Banner 2021: The top things we ate the first half of 2021

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

Divieto Ristorante

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

Lamoraga

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

Binto Thai

  • 28811 S Tamiami Trail, Ste. 4, Bonita Springs
  • 239-676-8683
  • bintothai.com

Brio Italian Grille

  • 5505 Tamiami Trail N., Naples
  • 239-593-5319
  • brioitalian.com

Zorba’s Mediterranean Grille & Bar

  • 9106 Bonita Beach Rd.
  • SE, Bonita Springs
  • 239-992-5005
  • zorbasgrille.com

Tartine & Tartelette

  • 11121 Health Park Blvd #900, Naples
  • 239-888-1151
  • tartinetartelette.com

Maria’s Restaurant

  • 27080 Old 41 Rd, Bonita Springs
  • 239-495-1868
  • facebook.com/mariasrestaurantbonita

South Fork Grille

  • 23161 Village Shops Way #113, Estero
  • 239-992-5040
  • southforkgrille.com

Michelbob’s Championship Ribs & Steaks

  • 915 N. Collier Boulevard, Marco Island and 371 Airport-Pulling Rd, Naples
  • 239-394-0302 (Marco, takeout online)
  • 239-643-7427 (Naples, dine in or takeout)
  • michelbobs.com