1500 South by Chef Art Smith
1500 Fifth Ave. S., Naples, (239) 530-5105, 1500southnaples.com
Why We Love It: If anyone doubts Naples is experiencing a dining renaissance, the proof is in the (bread) pudding at this new restaurant in the Naples Bay Resort. Art Smith, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and national presence with restaurants in Chicago, D.C. and Atlanta, has carved a niche for himself far and wide, artfully elevating the Southern recipes of his childhood. Here, in what he calls the American Riviera, most of them take on an Italian accent, like freshly baked biscuits infused with chopped rosemary.
Ideal Meal: Order the fried chicken, no question. To Smith, it’s “the most comforting thing,” and he serves a version of it at all his eateries and when he prepares dinners for diplomats and dignitaries abroad as a member of the State Department’s chef corps. Treat your coworkers or clients by getting it to start—it’s technically an entrée but perfect to share. There are plenty of main dishes to go ’round, enough for everyone to have no repeats. And if you’re a particularly tightknit team, plan on taking bites of them all: It’s hard to go wrong with macaroni ‘n’ mascarpone; hot-sauce drenched grits with grilled shrimp and octopus; pork shoulder alongside warm peaches and wilted arugula; and a zesty pizza dotted with ricotta and lamb and fennel sausage.
Vibe: The dining room is modern and striking, adorned with intricately patterned paintings by Smith’s husband, artist Jesus Salgueiro. It’s the kind of place where you can take someone you want to impress, yet be comforted at the same time. If you can avoid fixating on the staff’s nametags, you won’t remember you’re in a hotel—which is why we locals feel right at home.