Panko Crusted Grouper Sandwich

Judi Travel Caricature

Warning: Don’t read this post if you are hungry!

Despite Covid-19 restrictions this past winter, one of the nice things about spending a month in Florida was that we could dine outdoors. At the time, my boyfriend L (who is now my ex-boyfriend per my previous post) and I found some great places to eat in and around Naples. Whether we were looking for fine dining, casual fare or takeout – breakfast, lunch or dinner – the culinary offerings were bountiful.

Eating out after almost a year of eating in

It was so nice to eat in a restaurant after spending so much of the previous year cooking at home. Our first dinner out was at Lima, a Peruvian restaurant recommended by a friend. Lima is hidden away on the side of a small shopping strip. We missed the sign and had to circle back. For those new to the area, once you see a Wawa, it’s right next door. I had made reservations in advance for outdoor seating. Lima has plenty of alfresco dining.

It had been a while since we had eaten Peruvian food and our gracious waiter Sebastian explained each dish on the menu, including the drinks.

Lima Chilcano Drink

A Peruvian Chilcano cocktail tastes like a Mojito

Delicious Peruvian food

If you like Mojitos I recommend the Classic Chilcano. It went down easy. While we toasted the evening to celebrate L’s birthday, Sebastian brought out a snack that looked like unpopped popcorn. The kernels were soft and served with a creamy dipping sauce. The soup course, Aquadito Cilantro Soup, was absolutely my favorite. I love, love, love cilantro. That’s why I loved, loved, loved this soup. While Lima’s version is vegan, traditional Aquadito is made with shredded meat, chicken or pork and served over rice for a main meal. I looked up a recipe for this soup when I got home — can’t wait to make it.

Lima’s entrees are huge, definitely worth sharing and even then there is more for a leftover dinner. We ordered Seafood Rice, a mildly spicy seafood stew similar to paella and Braised Grouper with Seafood Stew. Grouper is a popular fish in Florida. Both were yummy.

Lima Seafood Rice

Lima’s Peruvian Seafood Rice is a mildly spicy seafood stew with cream and Parmesan cheese

An old-fashioned Florida fish restaurant

For those on the hunt for a casual weekday fish meal, Mr. Big Fish is a popular spot for fresh-caught varieties. It’s a bustling eatery and they don’t take reservations, so plan accordingly. Our wait for outdoor seating wasn’t too long. The fish is fresh and well-prepared. Sides are pretty standard with veggies, potatoes or rice. We selected grilled Red Snapper and Sea Bass. Both were cooked just right.

Mr. Big Fish in Naples Florida

Mr. Big Fish is a casual seafood restaurant serving fresh catch

Fine dining at The Village Shops at Venetian Bay

When you want fine dining head to the restaurants at The Village Shops at Venetian Bay. Prices for waterfront views are steep in this upscale area but food and service are top-notch. During peak season, aim to make a reservation as soon as you know when you’ll be going – even months in advance if they accept it.

We took a guest to M Waterfront Grille for dinner. M is famous for its New England style steaks and seafood. Tender Sea Bass was my fish choice for the evening served with a goat cheese dumpling. It was so good, so good, so good. Ooh, ooh, ooh, no need to order dessert, chocolate truffles come with the check.

Bayside Seafood Grill Sausage Sampler

Bayside Seafood Grill Sausage Sampler is a filling appetizer

Another restaurant we liked at The Village Shops was Bayside Seafood Grille. It’s Upper Deck Bar is one of Naples’ best waterfront outdoor cocktail and dining spots with live entertainment.  We went midweek for happy hour and stayed to watch the sunset. I almost thought I was in Naples, Italy as I sipped my cocktail and nibbled on the Sausage Sampler of Cajun Andouille, Sweet Italian & Spicy Chicken Sausages.

Best place for a weekend brunch

It’s worth the wait to have brunch at the award-winning Jane’s Cafe on 3rd in Old Historic Naples. Don’t let the crowds scare you away. Jane’s policy is first-come, first-serve and 90% of the seating is alfresco, either in the English Gardens or on the Courtyard Patio. We lucked out and got a table for two in 15 minutes.

The All-Day Breakfast menu features a wide range of savory eggs with omelettes, Benedict and scrambles as well as a long list of scrumptious sweets including pancakes, blintzes, crepes and more. I enjoyed my Smashed Avocado Gluten Free Toast with scrambled eggs and fruit on the side. The chunky avocado topping was blended with a mix of fresh basil and lemon.

Jane’s Cafe on 3rd Naples Florida

Jane’s Cafe on 3rd in Historic Old Town Naples is the place to go for brunch

Jane’s Cafe is only open for breakfast and lunch. There are many more restaurants in Old Historic Naples that I would like to have tried however most were booked during February and March. Next time I’m going to call or go on Open Table before I leave for my vacay.

Meet and mingle for culinary delights at Mercato

OMG, you may not remember so I’ll tell you again, the reason we ended up in Naples for our month-long Florida snowbird stay was because in 2019 before Covid-19 was part of our vocabulary, L and I went to the Whole Foods in the Mercato shopping center and fell in love with the food there. We said we could live in Naples because we liked that Whole Foods so much. It’s a foodie’s delight with every imaginable cuisine on the prepared foods buffet – Indian, Chinese, Italian, vegan, vegetarian, soups and stews, and more and more and more.

Panko Crusted Grouper Sandwich

Panko Crusted Grouper Sandwich at Burntwood Tavern in Mercato was one of my favorites

Beyond Whole Foods, this year we had a chance to sample some of the dining establishments at Mercato. It’s a hip and cool spot for happy hour, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. I found the best time to go to one of the restaurants and find parking was for a late lunch around 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.

My favorite was Burntwood Tavern. I liked Burntwood so much that I went there twice. And I liked the Panko Crusted Grouper sandwich so much that I ordered it twice. It was so good, so good, so good. So was the Tavern Salad that I substituted instead of hand-cut fries. (My salad choices are limited due to my soft fiber diet so whenever I see iceberg lettuce on the menu I get excited.) BTW portion sizes are huge. It will be your lunch and take-home dinner that night.

When craving Italian takeout

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention DeRomo’s Gourmet Market and Restaurant located in Bonita Springs, a short ride from North Naples. My friend A raved about this Italian market. “The fresh mozzarella is to die for,” said A.

DeRomo’s Gourmet Market and Restaurant in Bonita Springs

DeRomo’s is a a gourmet Italian market and restaurant in Bonita Springs right near Naples

L and I went on a Sunday morning to purchase our fare for Golden Globe night. (If you read my blog regularly you know GG night is one of my treasured evenings of the year when I usually have my girlfriends’ get together. I couldn’t have my get together in 2021 due to the pandemic and also — duh, I was in Flo-ree-da! Sadly, GG night will never happen again because the Foreign Press canceled the Golden Globes for the future. Now back to DeRomo’s.)

OMG, this is another foodie’s haven. I didn’t know where to turn first — the Italian entrees in the refrigerated section, the elaborate Italian bakery with rows of different flavored biscotti and other Sicilian desserts, the pizza ovens for mouthwatering pies — my head was spinning.

Biscotti at DeRomo’s Gourmet Market in Bonita Springs Florida

There is a wide variety of biscotti at DeRomo’s

Our grand finale GG dinner that evening included a DeRomo’s arancini rice ball, eggplant parmigiana, Caprese salad with homemade mozzarella, and fresh bread. It was so good, so good, so good.

FYI, I did go back another day to purchase biscotti.

Many more culinary offerings to experience in Naples

Are you hungry yet? Ready to book a flight to go eat in Naples Florida? For sure, I’ll be back in 2022 to sample more of the city’s culinary offerings. Of course, I’ll be flying solo without L. No worries I’m already taking friend and family reservations to dine with me during my stay. Can’t wait!


P.S.: Stay tuned for highlights from my trip home on Amtrak’s auto train. If you missed my previous posts about my month-long stay in Florida you can find links below:

 Nurturing Myself in Nature at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

♥ How I Spent One Glorious Winter Month in Naples, Florida

♥ Highlights From My First-Ever Road Trip To Florida