Taverna Wood Fire Kitchen in Cape Coral
This Southwest Florida restaurant is the ultimate low-key place.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Despite the fact that T-shirts and khaki shorts—or Under Armour shorts, for that matter—are the norm, this restaurant could give you one of the most sophisticated dining experiences around. This cozy spot on a relatively quiet street in the South Cape may teach us not to judge a book by its cover: What appears to be a humble pizza joint has killer crisped- till-charred thin-crust pies, as well as tendrils of octopus grilled over a wood-burning fire and paired with tender fingerlings and a berry compote. It also boasts some of the finest pastas and carefully layered sauces around, bursting with bouquets of fresh thyme and rosemary.
IDEAL MEAL: It feels odd not recommending pizza, which is definitely a house specialty that’s worth sinking your teeth into, but there are other unique thrills to be had. The aforementioned octopus should be an epiphany to almost anyone who orders it. It arrives in a glass terrarium that allows a cloud of smoke to infuse the firm flesh, and the presentation alone draws ooohs and aaahs. In fact, every plate is a work of art, from a sea bass delivered blazing in flame on a rustic cutting board to a not-so-simple carbonara perked up by emerald-green caramelized Brussels sprouts and ruby radish disks.
VIBE: It’s the ultimate low-key place for a bite to eat—or something oh-so-much more. There are quite a few booths, if you want a private chat with a coworker after logging long hours at the office. Or, for a shared experience, the spacious live-edge wood bar is both a focal point aesthetically and an ideal spot to catch up with fellow diners and the friendly wait staff.