A Charming, Casual Italian
Osteria Celli, 15880 Summerlin Road, Fort Myers, (239) 267-1310, osteriacelli.com
WHY WE LOVE IT: This charming spot, one of Gulfshore Life’s Best New Restaurants in 2016, features the authentic cuisine of chef-owner Marco Coricelli’s Italian upbringing—and has proved to have true staying power. Part of the appeal stems from how Coricelli is always on site, greeting guests and often pouring them glasses of his latest finds from Sardinia or Sicily, explaining with gusto in his staccato accent why he’s fallen for the robust reds. But what puts dinner here at the top of nearly every Fort Myers food lover’s list is the attention to detail and craftsmanship with which he prepares dishes inspired by family recipes.
IDEAL MEAL: Selections at Osteria Celli barely touch standard Italian-American fare, although the eatery is known for an excellent fettuccine Bolognese. There’s no Caesar in sight; instead, there is cavolo nero dressed with a tangy lemon-garlic emulsion, balanced by nutty pecorino shavings and golden raisins. Every pasta except one is handmade each day. Many are surprisingly light, belying complex flavors, such as his grandmother’s cavatelli tossed with sautéed cauliflower, garlic, red pepper flakes and local shrimp. You can as easily order a tomato-crusted branzino with Castelvetrano olives or a Cornish hen with bacon-laced cannellini beans.
VIBE: The restaurant puts the “casual” in upscale casual. There’s ductwork overhead, a large blackboard in the kitchen with the day’s specials and rattan café chairs—yet it’s also a place for serious food. The off-season is ideal to take advantage of Coricelli’s full range, with one of his monthly wine dinners that run into the fall. The prix-fixe menus explore different areas of his homeland through multiple courses and desserts, each paired with a unique pour.