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Darden Restaurants ownership group long has had two of its flagship brands in Southwest Florida. Now, it has two each, following the completion of new Bahama Breeze and The Capital Grille locations that were years in the making. 

On June 24, the new Bahama Breeze opened at Coastland Center mall in Naples, 2088 Ninth St. N. It joins the location in south Fort Myers, which has been at 14701 S. Tamiami Trail since May 2000. 

On the same day, the new Capital Grille opened at 5070 Bell Tower Shops Ave. in south Fort Myers, following the first location at Mercato, 9005 Mercato Drive in North Naples, which opened in September 2008. 

Both new locations took more than three years of planning, design and construction. 

And both new locations are managed by locals who shifted from the already-existing spots, with General Manager Mark Pusateri moving to the new Bahama Breeze and Managing Partner Seth Kooistra moving to the new Capital Grille. 

Kooistra, a 1998 Mariner High School graduate and Fort Myers native, started 18 years ago at Capital Grille as a server in Orlando. He never could have imagined opening his own restaurant in his hometown. 

“It’s incredible,” Kooistra said. “It’s just a full-circle journey. 

“And now to open this beautiful restaurant in the community I grew up in, I’m just blessed and truly honored to have the amazing team behind me and to work with.” 

The new Capital Grille opened with 88 employees and seats up to 388 patrons. 

Most Bahama Breeze entrees are in the $20 range. 

Capital Grille’s entrees are in the $50 to $60 range. It also has a 300-label wine selection, with bottles ranging from about $40 to $1,100, Kooistra said. The vintage years go as far back as 2003. 

Red wines are chilled at 57 degrees, while whites are chilled at 44 degrees. 

The restaurant has 91 wine lockers that must be reserved at $500 per year, plus the purchase of a case of 12 wine bottles. Those already have sold out, Kooistra said. Capital Grille has a $25 cork fee for diners who want to bring their own wine. 

The Capital Grille in South Fort MyersCapital Grille Executive Chef Michael Barone grew up in Southwest Florida, graduating from Naples High in 1991. But he has cooked food at restaurants around the world, including in Italy and Spain. He has a 1,200-degree broiler, which can cook the steaks in 9 to 12 minutes. 

“You’re going to have incredible, personized service,” Kooistra said. “Personalized experience. You’ve definitely got to have our prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella. That’s my favorite appetizer, with a nice balsamic drizzle on top of that. It’s outstanding.” 

In keeping with the elite theme, Capital Grille has working clocks for monitoring worldwide financial markets, displaying the current time in Tokyo, Sydney, Fort Myers, London and Paris. 

The first Capital Grille opened in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1990. This marks the 73rd location and the 11th in Florida. 

The first Bahama Breeze opened in 1990 in Orlando. The chain now has 45 locations, including 21 in Florida. 

Copyright 2024 Gulfshore Life Media, LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.

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