Naples restaurants: Chef and bartender converge at new Seventh South Craft Food + Drink

A chef and a bartender opened a new Naples restaurant that builds on their decades of experience. Meet Seventh South Craft Food + Drink.

Chelle Koster Walton
Special to Naples Daily News

Is the new Seventh South Craft Food + Drink a chef-driven restaurant with a top-shelf cocktail program? Or a mixologist-driven bar serving well-crafted food?

Chef Adam Nardis and bar director Barry Larkin refuse to take sides. 

Despite different backgrounds and focuses, their visions have fused into one Naples restaurant where food and beverage hold equal importance. The duo opened Seventh South in October. 

Adam grew up in small-town Ohio, gardening alongside his grandfather and making gnocchi at the kitchen table with his parents. In Naples, he honed his craft as executive chef at M Waterfront Grille for eight years and later as corporate chef for it and its sister property in Rhode Island. 

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“My biggest influence on my style of cooking was everything I've ever eaten in my life,” Adam said. “I think everything we eat and enjoy can be rethought or reworked to provide inspiration for menu building.”

Born in Massachusetts, Barry moved to Southwest Florida when he was in middle school and has been bartending and managing since 1996, developing the necessary skills and speed during 11 years at The Turtle Club on Vanderbilt Beach. He spent five years as bar manager for The Continental, which launched on Third Street South in 2014. 

“I was definitely changed the moment I started doing research and development for the opening of The Continental,” Barry said. “That became my ‘aha moment,’ when I realized there was so much more to bartending than slinging drinks. I love the history and culture.”

The bartender and the chef. Their paths converged because of what they held in common: the importance of family, high standards, and a dream of having a restaurant of their own. 

Barry met Adam's wife, Erin Nardis, first. The two tended bar together in the early days of The Continental. As they got to talking, things started to click. 

Seventh South Craft Food + Drink opened in October 2020 in Naples, the result of a chef-bartender collaboration where cuisine and cocktails take equal 

“When I realized Adam had a similar plan, and the opportunity presented itself, I gave him a call,” Barry said. “When we had the opportunity, we also found out we were expecting our second child, so it presented some challenges. Luckily for us, we partnered with Adam and Erin, who are also centered on family. It’s been important to us to keep family involved in this venture. It is a true family affair.”

The Nardis’s have four small children; still Erin plays an important role in running Seventh South.

Seventh South Craft Food + Drink opened in October 2020 in Naples, the result of a chef-bartender collaboration where cuisine and cocktails take equal precedence.

“She is here as often is she is able to be,” Adam said. “I am extremely proud of the effort that she puts forth for this business, and I owe so much of my success to her.”

Erin and Barry's wife, Carolyn, eight months pregnant at the time, were instrumental in transforming the restaurant from the funkiness of the former Seventh Avenue Social into the clean, modern space that has come to define Seventh South. 

No more mismatched tables or ever-watching Anthony Bourdain mural: The new look ushers the cheery comfort of the flowery courtyard inside with the work of local artists and elemental accents of tile, metal and brick.

“We were looking to brighten it up, open it up a little,” said Barry, who was working at Seventh Avenue Social when the opportunity came to buy it. “The place has always had a good vibe, we just wanted to put our spin on it.”

Barry's spin can best be seen on the craft cocktail menu, of course, with inventions such as the "Iceberg Theory" — his take on a margarita but with grapefruit juice, lemongrass and basil syrup.

Chef Adam Nardis of Seventh South Craft Food + Drink. The restaurant opened in October 2020 in Naples, the result of a chef-bartender collaboration where cuisine and cocktails take equal precedence.

“I love creating cocktails for my guests depending on their likes, dislikes, mood,” he said. “I really prefer to go off-list.”

As for the food component, Adam adheres to a sustainable, seasonal formula. With the heat of summer looming, he's shifting to lighter, brighter flavors. 

“Young green vegetables and leaner cuts of meat become prevalent in my approach,” he said.

That doesn't mean his entire approach will shift. Seventh South's popular ahi egg rolls, Patagonian sea bass and Canadian halibut will remain steady for some time. Look for fiddleheads, ramps and asparagus to drive the menu upcoming. A "Dear Dad" cocktail — Why wait for Father’s Day? — brings a summery mix of rums and liqueurs.

“Our focus is on the collaboration of kitchen and bar talent typically found on the East Coast,” Adam said. 

Barry Larkin serves as bar director for Seventh South Craft Food + Drink, which opened in Naples in October 2020.

Seventh South isn't one or the other. It's both, working together. 

“We each have major input,” Barry said. 

Chelle Koster Walton is a freelance writer covering food and restaurants in Southwest Florida. Connect: chellekwalton@gmail.com

Seventh South Craft Food + Drink

Address: 849 Seventh Ave. S., Naples

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Monday to Friday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturday and Sunday

Menu: Starters $10-$17, lunch entrees $17-$28, brunch entrees $14-$22, dinner entrees $24-$46

Contact: 231-4553 or seventhsouth.com

Also: Masked staff, outside seating available