After 18 years as chef/proprietor of Rumrunners in Cape Coral, Todd Johnson has come home to Naples.
“Rumrunners was very successful,” he says, “but it was also very big—350 seats and almost 10,000 square feet, so I was never able to do the food I loved doing. I wanted something smaller, and I also wanted to return to Naples, where I’ve lived since 1979.”
When his landlord failed to renew the lease, Johnson was able to take advantage of an opportunity at the Naples Bay Resort & Marina. Nosh on Naples Bay opened in January, and it provides a comprehensive view of Johnson’s evolved cooking style.
“I love small plates,” he says. “Ordering a lot of different items and sharing them is much more fun than the standard appetizer/entrée/dessert experience.” The bulk of the menu is divided into Meat, Seafood, and Vegetable Noshes, with highlights such as braised Niman Ranch pork cheek, pastrami-cured salmon, deviled eggs with Osetra caviar, and sweet corn with cotija cheese. Many of the entrées are also suitable for sharing. Johnson is partial to his duck cooked two ways (a crispy-skinned breast and confit leg). He acknowledges that his menu takes risks by omitting such popular dishes as shrimp cocktail and calamari, but thus far those gambles have been well-received.
A graduate of Naples High School and Johnson & Wales University’s culinary school, Johnson worked at local restaurants including The Chef’s Garden (now Ridgway Bar & Grill) in downtown Naples, Bistro 41 in Fort Myers, and Aqua Grill at Waterside Shops. His most influential mentor was celebrity chef Tom Colicchio of New York’s Grammercy Tavern, where Johnson worked briefly before opening Bistro 41.
Nosh on Naples Bay has also given him the opportunity to collaborate with his wife, Dana, who supervised the renovation and design of the interior, and his brother Matt, who manages the front of the house. His goals for the future are simple: “I just want to please Naples and try to be one of the best restaurants in town.”