Restaurants: 5 new, 1 re-opening, chef moves, events, $2,100 in fine-dining for $25

Diana Biederman
Naples Daily News

The new year is ringing in delicious opportunities to eat somewhere fun. Read on about four recent openings, one re-opening and one that’s sort of new-ish. We also have a scoop about the new executive chef at one of Naples' most talked about venues.

This week’s wanderings around town also led to Park Street just off Fifth Avenue South, where a new location of my frequent breakfast destination opened. I hope this local chain’s regional co-general manager doesn’t think I’m a stalker: In the past six weeks, I’ve been spotted more than once at locations in North Naples, East Naples and Marco.

Dinner and a show? We have just the ticket. Or consider a cooking class with Naples' nationally-known celebrity chef. If that's not enough, what about dinner downtown with a winemaking cardiologist?

Seed to Table's new Michelin chef

Mike Ellis, Chef de Cuisine at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen when it was awarded a Michelin star in 2006, is Seed to Table's new executive chef overseeing a culinary team boasting more than 100 employees. Ellis started his new position Jan. 4. Most recently, he led the kitchen at The 239 and will maintain his decades-long work ties to owner Steve Sinchek by serving as consulting chef.

More:New & best 2022 restaurants: 9 spanning Naples, Marco, Ave Maria & Chokoloskee ‒ JLB

And:Restaurants: In Naples, a Michelin-recognized chef is making luxe comfort food — JLB

New restaurants & cafes

Andrea and Francesca Neri opened Casa Neri on Dec. 21 transforming what was Subway into an intimate rustic-chic setting for lunch and dinner. The kitchen is helmed by consulting chef Marco Nitride from that other Naples (Italy). Exquisite lunchtime salads are priced $18-$19 and there are many other tempting dishes to consider. At dinner, primo pasta courses range $24-36; secondi mains from $35-42. The Neris also own and operate Molto Trattoria next door and La Pescheria. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

(382 Fifth Ave. S.; Naples; 239-963-9060; find them on Instagram at casaneri_naples)

Casa Neri's consulting chef Marco Nitride with co-owner Francesca Neri.

Co-owners Ciaran Mosley and Gerry McGovern opened the stunning Irish Times at Pavilion Shops on Dec. 28. Flattering lighting, spacious seating, bold decorative accents and faux biophilia adorning the walls add lush pops of green to surround guests at every touch point. McGovern commissioned local artist Marcus Zotter to paint Celtic letters on the ceiling's enormous drum shades; the result is spectacular. "The installation was quite an undertaking," said Zotter. It's also the first time he's viewed his work upside down.

Though open through the wee hours, lunch is served 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and dinner 5-9 p.m. For kids 10 and under, there’s a $12 menu that includes dessert.

(8939 Tamiami Trail N., Naples; 239-350-1900; irishtimesnaples.com)

Inside Irish Times in Naples which opened Dec. 28, 2022

Nestled in Galleria Shoppes, Nautical Bowls opened Jan 5. This is the second location for franchise owners Bill and Katie Archer; their first opened last year in Estero. General manager Bill Beck said a third spot is planned at Stock Plaza on Collier Boulevard in late spring replacing what was ECO, my dry cleaner. With a sunny beachy vibe and tables crafted from glossy surfboards, the chain’s specialty is fruity bowls with frozen bases in cleverly named cup sizes including dinghy ($11), cruiser ($14) and yacht ($17).

(2355 Vanderbilt Beach Road, North Naples; 239-431-5180; nauticalbowls.com)

Nautical Bowls sweet "Sunrise" variety is topped with granola, banana and strawberries.

Empire Bagel Factory recently opened its fifth location Dec. 22 just off Fifth Avenue South. Co-general manager Tyler Carl shared that its best-selling item is bacon-egg-cheese on a toasted everything bagel for $7.25. My pick is usually a hefty lox deluxe ($10).

(534 Park St., Naples; 239-228-5340; empirebagelfactory.com)

Tyler Carl is co-general manager at Emprire Bagel Factory's 5 locations. 524 Lake Ave. is the newest store.

A few doors down from Empire (and new to me) is Smyrna Café whose chef-owner Salih Acik hails from Izmir, Turkey. It’s quite busy with an international crowd lining up for aromatic coffees and hot teas plus a small but substantial menu offering Levantine delicacies ($7-$22) comprising boreks, soup, doners and sweet or savory pastries. Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; Friday-Sunday 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

(520 Park St., Naples; 239-331-4237; find it on Facebook)

Salih Acik owns Symrna Cafe

Fifth Avenue South re-opening

Chef-owner Michael Mir’s Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro re-opened Jan. 1 following damage incurred by Hurricane Ian. Always one of the city’s prettiest restaurants and consistently ranked among TripAdvisor’s top 10 in town, the renovation is subtle and stunning with new seaside-colored upholstery adorning the front room’s banquettes. New finishes, furniture and flourishes too. Dinner runs 5-10 p.m.

(865 Fifth Ave. S., Naples; 239-594-5557; bhabhabistro.com)

Review:Bha! Bha! in downtown Naples fascinates with bold Persian flavors — JLB

Bha Bha on Fifth Avenue South re-opened Jan. 1, 2023.

You gotta be in it to win it

TheatreZone’s fine dining gift certificate raffle is the organization's 2023 fundraiser. The grand prize: $2,100 in certificates at six restaurants. Second prize is $1,700 at five restaurants; third scores $1,300 spread among six spots; fourth prize is $900 at three.

Participating restaurants include Alexander’s Garden Restaurant, Baleen, The Bay House, Bleu Provence, Capital Grille, Chops City Grill, The Dock at Crayton Cove, The French, Fleming’s Steakhouse, M Waterfront Grille, Ridgway Bar & Grill, Ruth’s Chris Steak House plus five Phelan Family Brands restaurants: Pinchers, Texas Tony’s, Deep Lagoon, Two Fillets and Phuzzy’s Boat Shack.

One ticket is $25 or $100 for five. The drawing will be held May 7. To enter and for details on what each prize entails, visit theatre.zone.

Culinary calendar

On Jan. 14, Chef Asif Syed hosts a vegan cooking class at 21 Spices. Tickets are $75 per person and include lunch items prepared during the demonstration (vegetable samosas, homemade chutneys, biryani and coconut rice pudding) plus non-alcoholic drinks; gratuity and tax are added day of. Reservations required.

(4270 Tamiami Trail E., Naples; 239-919-8830; 21spicesdining.com)

More:Naples celebrity chef to appear on Food Network's 'Beat Bobby Flay'

Join Chef Asif Syed in his 21 Spices kitchen for a cooking class.

Sea Salt hosts vintner Dr. Madaiah Revana Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m. for a four-course wine pairing dinner featuring Revana Family Vineyard's selections from Napa, Willamette Valley and Uco Valley in Argentina. Fun facts according to the doc's website: Dr. Revana is a Houston cardiologist. Another: He's the only immigrant from India to own three wineries earning acclaim from Wine Spectator magazine. Reservations are required; $195 per person before tax and tip.

(1186 Third St. S., Naples; 239-434-7258; seasaltnaples.com)

Dr. Madaiah Revana is a cardiologist and winemaker. Dine with him at Sea Salt Jan. 20.

Diana Biederman is the food + restaurant reporter at Naples Daily News. Send scoops, deals and culinary events for editorial consideration to dbiederman@gannett.com.