Boy, oh boy, it’s a good thing I work out on a somewhat regular basis, because the restaurant experiences we have had in the last few weeks have been nothing less than extraordinary. Training is essential in order to tackle the Naples summer restaurant scene.
Seasons 52 hosted a wonderful Summer Menu Launch on June 19. Upon arriving, we were greeted with BBQ Chicken Flatbread and Artichoke & Goat Cheese Flatbread accompanied by a delightful white wine. Four courses of interestingly combined ingredients followed—first course was a Lobster & Shrimp Spring Roll with a sauce trio. Next was a wonderful arugula salad accompanied by a Summer Vegetarian Tasting (a course I especially loved), which included a soft taco, chile relleno, cedar-roasted tofu and mango chutney. The main courses consisted of Wild Alaskan Copper River Salmon with corn risotto, and Piedmontese Strip Steak with roasted asparagus and mushrooms. Each course was highlighted by wines chosen to complement the specific dish … and all were excellent. By this time, I was too full to sample the selection of mini desserts—sadly, because blueberry cheesecake is one of my favorites. I did manage to find room to sip a bit of the dessert wine—a perfect Moscato. Seasons 52 holds true to its name each season with intriguing uses of the freshest ingredients for each time of year.
The next night, Barbatella on Third Street South presented a special dinner featuring a most impressive array of signature dishes. We started with wine and crostino with roasted chicken salad plus “Puccia”—a Southern Italian pizza sandwich with tuna, arugula and fresh tomato. I thought those were the appetizers, but no. Out from kitchen came fried calamari, roasted bell peppers and artichokes, tomato and mozzarella, eggplant parmigiana and assorted cheeses with fig jam and baby pears.
Orecchiette pasta at Barbatella
By now, Bob and I were both full. Yet there was more. Next came the pastas. Cavatelli with mussels, arugula and cannellini beans, orecchiette with pork sausage and aged ricotta cheese, baked meat lasagna, and potato gnocchi with duck ragu, parmesan cheese and sage. Then came the meats—duck and free-range chicken accompanied by grilled polenta and spinach. Next, the pizzas—Barbatella, with eggplant, sausage, tomato and buffalo mozzarella; and capricciosa pizza, with tomato, mozzarella, artichoke, mushroom, ham and olives.
Pizza at Barbatella
Oh—almost forgot—there was also grilled salmon with Caesar salad. Every bite truly outdid the last—of course, we could not miss a single taste of each dish. And our wine glasses were never empty the entire evening.
Finally—and, by the way, I was sure I could pass this up—the desserts. When I saw the Nutella pizza with caramelized bananas and the gelato sundaes, my will power was gone. That Nutella pizza might be the best thing I have ever tasted in my life.
The entire staff at Barbatella’s made that evening a night to remember—the food and wine, and the service were all magnificent. Barbatella—and it’s sister a few doors down, Sea Salt—have made Third Street South an experience in food and atmosphere not to be missed.
Now, time to get back to training