FOOD

'Watts for Dinner': The best dishes of 2022

A New York slice, a classic chicken sandwich and so much more

Will Watts
Correspondent

It was a standout year of dining in and around Marco Island. It was hard to narrow my picks from the restaurants we dined at in 2022. But here goes …

Pizza from Tony's N.Y. Pizza, Marco Island.

Tony’s offers a New York slice and so much more

In February, we visited Tony’s N.Y. Pizza (aka Tony’s Pizzeria) for the first time ever.

With the slogan “a slice of NY in Marco Island,” the restaurant offers pizzas with clever names like “The Brooklyn Meat,” “The Staten Island,” “The Manhattan Deluxe,” “The Bronx,” “The Queens White,” “The Madison Square Garden,” “The 5th Ave. Mushroom,” “The Broadway Chicken,” “The Park Ave.,” “Margherita,” “The Grand Central Eggplant,” “The Greenwich Hawaiian” and “The Buffalo Bill.”

The cozy eatery also offers tempting appetizers, classic Italian subs and traditional Italian dinners.

We decided to go with the “create a pie” where you can pick from mushrooms, peppers, onions, pepperoni, sausage, ham, black olives, pineapple, bacon, anchovies, garlic, spinach, tomato, extra cheese, chicken and eggplant.

MORE‘Watts for Dinner’: Saki opens second location in East Naples

ANDHey Marco Island, looking for a place to eat?

ALSOKnow You Know: Arts Center Theatre presents ‘I’ll Eat You Last’

Part of Tony’s magic comes from the hand-tossed crust cooked on a stone deck. And yes, it does have a strong New York quality about it. Kudos!

For our toppings, we selected garlic, mushrooms, sausage and ricotta. And they made it just like we asked, without question. I really enjoyed this pie, and you will too. I highly recommend it. I will be back, and soon.

We also sampled a couple of Italian dinners. I had the lasagna ($15.95). It comes stacked with ricotta, mozzarella and Romano cheeses served with meatball, a whole sausage and features a house-made tomato sauce. So meaty! So good!

My dining companion selected the chicken parmesan ($15.95). The fillet is coated with breadcrumbs, sautéed, and topped with a marinara sauce, Romano and mozzarella cheese. You can pick spaghetti or penne for your pasta. This dish earned high marks.

We also had tiramisu. Hands down, one of the best I’ve ever had. Thick, creamy and delicious.

The restaurant features a giant New York-themed mural, red and white checkered table clothes and, get this, a variety of pizzas you can buy by the slice! OMG! It’s about time!

The "Classic Crispy Chicken Sandwich" from Stonewalls, Marco Island.

Stonewalls – A double winner chicken dinner

A March standout was Stonewalls on Marco Island. Their motto is “fine food fast” and they live up to it.

The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. We arrived for an early evening lunch.

We started with the pulled pork flatbread ($12). It features barbecue pork, a blend of cheese, bacon crumbles and fresh herbs. Lots of tasty pork on this one. The sauce is sweet and delicious and the crust is crunchy and chewy with just the right amount of cheese.  

The “Classic Crispy Chicken Sandwich” from Stonewalls, Marco Island.

But it’s the “Classic Crispy Chicken Sandwich” ($13) that earned Stonewalls a place on our list. This giant chicken breast fillet was golden brown and beautiful, served with lettuce, tomato, pickle and honey mustard. It was a work of art and earned high marks.

I highly recommend this mega sandwich.

The taquitos appetizer from Zaza Mexican Kitchen, Marco Island.

From ‘Cast-Iron Carnitas’ to unique tamales, Zaza satisfies

Zaza Mexican Kitchen in Olde Marco was one of our April’s dining destinations.

Things got off to an amazing start with the taquitos ($10). This dish includes four small tortillas with a meat filling, in this case tinga de pollo (chicken deep-fried, then topped with guacamole and queso fresca. Yum! So crunchy and delicious. Packed with chicken and a generous amount of guac. I could eat my weight in these bite-sized treats.

For my main entrée, I selected the “Cast-Iron Carnitas” ($16), delicious roasted pork served braised and shredded, with onions in the mix, a side of corn (or flour) tortillas, rice and your choice of beans and salsa (I picked charro beans and salsa verde).  

There’s no better choice for carnitas than green salsa. And for me, the tortillas must be corn. In many places, this dish is served with lots of fat in the mix. I’m happy to report that’s not the case at Zaza. These carnitas are lean and top notch. The beans are quite tasty as well. I highly recommend this dish.

And then there’s the tamales. You can get chicken or carnitas. We opted for the pork. These tamales are unique, prepared with potatoes and tomatoes in the mix. The tomato slice is very visible embedded at the top of the tamales.

Kudos to Zaza for offering something unique.

Lobster salad (rolled and plated) from Paradise Seafood & Gourmet Market, Marco Island.

Paradise Seafood & Gourmet Market – a true island experience

In June we visited Paradise Seafood & Gourmet Market on Marco Island. This is our first visit because, I say with no small amount of shame, I was unaware they had food from a kitchen or prepared dishes. All these years and all these reviews. I guess it’s true you learn something new every day.

There are so many gourmet foods to browse in the market. There were also freshly made seafood salads, frozen desserts, the day’s fresh catch. Speaking of … the smell can overwhelm just a bit for the first few minutes. But the shopping experience is so worth it.

We left with some crab cakes ($6.99 each). They come from the display case, made in house, and with the instructions to sauté for two to three minutes. We did! And they results were both beautiful and heavenly to taste.!

We also bought some Divina giant white gourmet beans ($11.99 pound). Prepared in oil with some seasoning and other ingredients; we served them cold and these were some really great beans.   

We also purchased some lobster salad ($49.99 lb., yes, you read that right, it’s lobster!). The rolls were complimentary, as well as a couple of fresh lemons. This was the best dish of the night.

If you’re looking for a lobster meal that’s more than the main course and some melted butter, this is a real winner. I highly recommend this dish. Worth every penny.

The “Fried Green Tomato Breakfast” from La Tavola, Marco Island.

Brunch at La Tavola

In October we made an earlier-than-usual visit to La Tavola? Why? Because we heard they added breakfast and lunch or brunch to the menu.

We started with the the “Nutty Irishman Coffee” ($10). It features Bailey’s, Frangelico and whipped cream! And it’s amazing! There’s also the “Island Coffee” featuring rum and Kahlua, “Italian Coffee” with amaretto and Kahlua and “Keoke Coffee” featuring Kahlua, brandy and crème de cocoa.

The “BLT E” from La Tavola, Marco Island.

There’s also mimosas, Bellini’s and Bloody Mary’s.

For my breakfast entrée, I selected the “BLT E” ($13). It’s Applewood smoked bacon, arugula, tomato, and two cage-free eggs on toasted sourdough bread and served with the house potato wedges.

There are so many great things to say about this sandwich. What stood out the most was the salt content. Not too salty and not lacking that vital flavor. So many restaurants either go to far or not far enough. But La Tavola has found the Goldilocks’’ quotient.

You don’t necessarily think of arugula on a breakfast sandwich. But that’s another thing that takes this sandwich to another level. The bread was also that perfect amount of buttery and toasty. And you can have the eggs your way! I highly recommend this dish! Absolutely amazing!

My dining companion selected the “Fried Green Tomato Breakfast” ($15). Now that’s a dish you don’t hear about too often, especially in these parts! The dish features two cage-free eggs, lightly breaded fried green tomatoes, baby arugula, Applewood smoked bacon and crispy asparagus.

First off, these were the fluffiest eggs I’ve seen this side of an omelet. And the tomatoes were fried to perfection! He asked for cheese with his eggs and Chihuahua was recommended to him. And it worked perfectly! This dish features a great and unexpected combination of ingredients. And yes, he loved the asparagus. I highly recommend this dish too! Absolute perfection!  

MORE‘Watts for Dinner’: Old favorites and new discoveries from KJ

ANDBookworm: The best books of 2022

ALSOGardening: Extending the life of your poinsettia

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

Tony's N.Y. Pizza

  • 145 S Barfield Dr., Marco Island
  • 239-970-002
  • tonysnypizzamarco.com

Stonewalls

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

Paradise Seafood & Gourmet Market

  • 721 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco Island
  • 239-394-3686
  • paradiseseafoodmarco.com

Zaza Mexican Kitchen

  • 1095 Bald Eagle Dr., Unit 8, Marco Island
  • 239-970-5205
  • eatatzaza.com

La Tavola

  • 961 Winterberry Dr., Marco Island
  • 239-393-4960
  • latavolarestaurantandbar.com