Naples restaurant review: Fuss-free fine dining & sublime cocktails off Fifth Avenue ‒ JLB
Before becoming this paper’s critic of record, I worked in a restaurant on Fifth Avenue. When VIP guests called asking for recommendations for other places to dine in Naples, I always steered them to Seventh South Craft Food + Drink, a favorite haunt where fantastic cocktails share star billing with equally terrific cuisine.
My usual spot: The farthest left barstool, where watching owner Barry Larkin and his bar team meticulously mix and measure creative libations is like observing a masterclass on cocktails.
Sure, you can opt for traditional choices like Manhattans or martinis, but you’d miss out on a sublime “Iceberg Theory,” a tequila-basil cocktail that goes down quickly. Whiskey aficionados should try the smoky "Foster Avenue" with subtle hints of banana. The mouthfeel with each sip is a revelatory experience.
When dining at the bar, my go-to order was always Seventh South’s elevated riff on mac and cheese topped with luscious short ribs.
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Alas, it’s no longer available so during a recent January visit, I promoted myself to the dining room, affording the opportunity to try a different menu with deeper offerings that showcase chef-partner Jay Schrednitz’s tantalizing fare.
Starters included heavenly roasted oysters topped with gruyere, pancetta and spinach. My only gripe: Five pieces meant my guest enjoyed one more than me. Tender Portuguese octopus is artfully presented and even better to sink your teeth into.
Since losing my kitchen to Hurricane Ian, I often order pasta as a main course when dining out since making it on our outdoor grill would likely result in a mess. Each twirl of house-made tagliatelle in an ample amount of thick tomato ragout tasted like summer; the accompanying meatballs, densely delicious and entirely devoured.
And what would a visit to Seventh South be without ordering short ribs?
The dining room’s rendition is decidedly more elegant and bigger than the version I loved so much at the bar. Though doused in sweet miso glaze, the beef was disappointingly dry this time, a rare yet forgivable misfire after seven visits. The sizeable cheesy-sweet potato hash and resplendent vegetables served with it, delectable.
Although you might feel quite full by this point, it would be a shame to skip the kitchen’s modern interpretations of classic desserts. We tried — and cleaned our plates — on a sweet trio I’ve not seen elsewhere around town: lemon-pistachio creme brulee, raspberry-white chocolate bread pudding and “deconstructed” cheesecake with myriad tropical fresh fruits.
Service is on point too, from a prompt and warm welcome at the host stand to our knowledgeable server, who smiled through all of my annoying questions when ordering and kept our bottle of Italian red at its ideal cool temperature with every pour. Another rarity of late: each course was perfectly paced. We felt well cared for.
Opened in 2020, Seventh South remains a favorite for many reasons. Think of it as fuss-free fine dining with comfortable and casual ambiance. Yes, it’s pricey but the overall experience is a consistently winning formula that remains among the best bites and sips in town.
Jean Le Boeuf is the brand under which our restaurant critics have written for more than 40 years. JLB always dines anonymously and pays for her meals. This article came from staff writer Diana Biederman. Follow our critics as @JeanLeBoeuf on Twitter and Instagram. Connect with this reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seventh South Craft Food + Drink
849 Seventh Ave. S., Naples
Hours: Dinner nightly from 4:30-9 p.m.; Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Tuesday to Saturday, the lounge menu is offered until midnight and the bar closes at 1 a.m.
Etc.: Outdoor dining, happy hour, easy parking, reservations are highly recommended via OpenTable
Crispy lamb ribs, $16
Roasted oysters (5 pieces), $16
Portuguese octopus, $20
Sticky miso short ribs, $38
Miso-broiled seabass, $43
House-made tagliatelle, $24; add proteins for $8-$12
*Hours and prices subject to change
What the symbols mean
$: Average entree is less than $15
$$$$$: $45 and up