Out of Season? Not Really

Though the snowbirds are up north, out west or somewhere else, this summer season, activity in Naples is percolating more than in previous years.

   Let’s start with the Fourth of July. The traffic was heavy, hotel business was brisk, and the fireworks and festivities—no matter where you went—were packed to the gills. Then there are all the restaurants.

Summer in Naples - dining in Naples during the summer - things to do in Naples

   I am amused, for lack of a better term, by all the hype about the poor restaurants in and around Naples and how they must struggle for business just to stay afloat. Please do not misunderstand; I know that some really do languish. But one would think those folks who open new restaurants just as summer begins should be aware that there is a quieter period of time in paradise and they need to plan accordingly. Some restaurants simply close for the summer months, such Alexander’s and the Chapel Grill. But having said that, the restaurants where my husband Bob and I have been dining are surprisingly busy. Last week, for example, we were at the lovely Bleu Provence in Old Naples to celebrate Bastille Day. (We are not French, but what the heck—it was yet another good reason to dine at Bleu Provence.) Owner Jacques Cariot offered a special menu for the occasion. The food—all three courses—was delicious, and the restaurant bubbled with activity.

   A week or so ago, we were guests at the new Rusty Bucket in Mercato, and there was not a seat to be had anywhere. In fact, all of Mercato was humming with business and continues to do so.

Grilled Portobello Sandwich - Weekend Willie's, Naples

   We have been dining on Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South, and every restaurant we visited has been busy—Café Lurcat, Sea Salt, Avenue5, Barbatella and HobNob, to name a few. Our regular Tuesday night destination, Weekend Willie’s, is the most surprising success of all. It’s a sports bar, after all. But since Rick and Willie took over the place, they improved the food 1,000 percent and kept the great music coming night after night. Weekend Willie’s has been breaking records and summer nights are no exception. On Tuesday night, when our favorite band, Mudbone, plays terrific funky blues, there is not a seat to be had.

   What about the theaters, you may wonder. Bob and I went to the brand new Paragon Theatre in the Pavilion Shopping Center to see Jersey Boys (what a great movie) on a Saturday afternoon; all of the theaters were packed and Jersey Boys was sold out. At Silverspot at Mercato, we went to see America last Saturday afternoon and our theater, again, was full, and people were lined up to get in the other movies as well. Where are all these people coming from? Perhaps there are more folks living here all year. Perhaps there are more tourists. All I know is that this summer season is busier than any summer since we moved here.

Mangrove Bay - Rendering of home
Rendering of a Mangrove Bay home.

   Then there is the real estate market. I heard from a number of folks that they were sure the market would quiet down. It has not. Naples Square, which is just across Goodlette Frank Road from Bayfront, is set to break ground any day now, having received all their permits to proceed. Mangrove Bay, which will consist of new single-family homes just north of Bayfront and will have water access, has already broken ground. Plus, there is fairly new company in town called Naples Redevelopment and these folks are involved in at least four big projects. This company is the one that bought the former St. George & the Dragon and seems to have big plans for that location on Fifth Avenue South. No one is saying yet what those plans are, but based on its other projects, like the construction it has under way called Finally in Naples just south of Central Avenue on U.S. 41, I am excited to see what is in store.

   I so love being in Naples in the summer, when folks think the town folds up like Brigadoon. Those of us who remain know that just the opposite happens.

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