NI’s 2017 Dining Awards: The Dishes

Royal Scoop’s Better Butter Pecan.

Best Frozen Treat: Ice Cream, Royal Scoop

This hometown, homemade ice cream has made its way to various shops and restaurants in the region. Royal Scoop bases its strong reputation on fresh ingredients. Out of more than 100 flavors the operation has produced in its long life, relatively new creations such as Death by Peanut Butter and Bonita Beach Bum win current favor.

Honorable mention: Gelato, Norman Love Confections

Available in both his Estero and Naples shops plus a couple of downtown restaurants, Love’s artisan gelato uses age-old Italian techniques and recipes in Italian and American flavors, all made fresh daily.

Cafe & Bar Lurcat’s Warm Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts.

Best Dessert: Warm Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts, Café & Bar Lurcat

Made minutes after you order a dozen, these miniature donuts arrive warm and sugary with the right touch of cinnamon and—ta-da!—a side of rich chocolate sauce for dipping. Enjoy them after dinner in the café, at weekend brunch, or for a late-night sweet-tooth snack in the bar.

Honorable mention: Sopapillas with mangrove honey and cinnamon, Tacos & Tequila Cantina

T&T’s take on a classic Mexican dessert involves fried pillows of dough rolled in sugar-cinnamon, then drizzled with local honey.

Best Sushi: Sushi-Thai

Sushi-Thai’s Sushi Boat. (Photo by Michael Caronchi)

Sushi-Thai offers sushi lovers infinite choices for ordering sushi, sashimi, makimono and temaki (hand-rolled) rolls, and combination platters. From by-the-piece options to the popular Spider Roll filled with fried soft-shell crab, asparagus, and avocado, its three locations throughout Naples and Bonita Springs have something for everyone.

Honorable mention: AZN Azian Cuizine

The sushi rolls menu describes an ambitious 26 selections, including unusual specialties such as the spicy lobster Kamikaze Roll and Surf & Turf with blue crab, tuna, beef filet carpaccio, and cucumber.

Best Steak: The Continental

The Continental’s Piedmontese Tomahawk Rib Eye.

The Continental touts steaks from four prestigious producers from the United States, Italy, Australia, and Japan. Its top-of-the-line Japanese Wagyu A5 is priced by the ounce. Go classic or have your steak topped with peppercorn, verte, béarnaise, or house steak sauce, or the blue cheese-onion butter.

Honorable mention: Jimmy P’s Charred

As part of one of Naples’ longest running and most-respected butcher shops, Charred gets top-quality beef right from the source. Its cuts range from the baseball sirloin to an 8-ounce Japanese Wagyu A5 strip steak.

Best Salad: Apple, cheese, and chive, Café & Bar Lurcat

Cafe & Bar Lurcat’s Apple, Cheese, and Chive Salad. (Photo by Michael Caronchi)

The pyramid-shaped signature salad at Lurcat stacks manchego cheese and apple sticks sprinkled with chives and dressed with a simple blend of extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. The contrasting textures and tastes create a sensation that has long resided on the menu’s permanent “Traditions” section.

Honorable mention: Cauliflower with currants, Marcona almonds, and scallions, Bar Tulia

A longtime favorite at Bar Tulia, it tosses together raw cauliflower florets, hand-sliced Marcona almonds, currants, grated piave vecchio cheese, and scallions with a dressing of honey, lemon juice, white Champagne vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon mustard.

Best Tacos: Tacos & Tequila Cantina

Tacos & Tequila Cantina’s array of tacos. (Photo by Vanessa Rogers)

In addition to traditional tacos such as al pastor and chorizo, Tacos & Tequila has invented its own. The signature taco, for instance, stuffs a tortilla shell of your choice with fried chicken, tequila-pickled jalapeños, tomato, lettuce, and queso blanco. The Backyard Taco throws on barbecued pork, grilled onions, fried pickles, and a Maker’s Mark bourbon sauce.

Honorable mention: Masa

Masa’s dinner menu gives you a choice of three finely crafted tacos with cilantro-lime rice and beans: fish with slaw and pickled carrots, grilled sirloin with guacamole, and pulled chicken in chipotle crema with cotija cheese.

Best Burger: Jimmy P’s Charred

Jimmy P’s Charred’s U.S. 41 Burger: Kobe beef, seared foie gras, triple cream brie, black truffles. (Photo by Michael Caronchi)

The burgers in this restaurant are so popular that it expanded within little over a year to a second location: Jimmy P’s Burgers & More in North Naples. Purists go for the naked Wagyu burger on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle. The Butcher Blend adds ground Berkshire pork to the Wagyu, which Jimmy P’s grinds fresh daily.

Honorable mention: The Continental

If you experience a bit of sticker shock with this burger, rest assured, it is justified. The Continental makes it with the trimmings from the restaurant’s fine Wagyu, Piedmontese, and Creekstone Farms steaks—ground, grilled, and served on a brioche bun.

Best Pizza: Campiello Ristorante & Bar

Campiello’s Fennel Sausage Pizza. (Photo by Michael Caronchi)

Wood-fired to crisp perfection in a custom-made oven using Florida white oak, the pizzas at Campiello range from a classic margherita of simply tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella to unique combinations such as speck with crimini mushrooms and smoked mozzarella, fennel sausage with pepperoncini, or capicola with pickled peppers.

Honorable mention: Osteria Tulia

Local orange blossom honey with watercress on a pizza? That’s the Sergeant Pepper, also with pepperoni and onions, at Tulia, where things get creative in the pie department. Fried meatballs and pickled sweet peppers top the Little Italy.

7th Avenue Social’s Key Lime Pie.

Best Key Lime Pie: 7th Avenue Social

Savor something entirely original with 7th Avenue Social’s reinvention of Key lime pie. Instead of graham cracker crust, there’s sponge cake. Upon that, the kitchen builds a tower of three layers of filling and sponge cake topped with a glaze and shaved white chocolate. “The filling is a little sweeter than most, and creamier like marshmallow fluff,” says restaurant manager Matt Minten.

Honorable mention: Fish Crazy Restaurant & Seafood Market

Homemade by local Key lime pie guru and Fish Crazy partner Randy Essig, it wins its love with a unique, fluffy filling that perfectly balances sweet against tart.

Best Pasta: Campiello Ristorante & Bar

Campiello makes most of its pasta from scratch in-house. Then the kitchen compounds that goodness with authentic homemade sauces, ragouts, and other ingredients such as in the spaghetti with Maine lobster, serrano chile, and tomato; and pappardelle with braised veal and tomato sauce. Check out the monthly regional menu for pasta specialties from specific regions in Italy.

Honorable mention: Osteria Tulia

Fresh-made pasta plus unique house-made sauces is the winning formula at this real-deal Italian restaurant. For instance, braised lamb neck sugo tops garganelli in one signature dish.

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