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Chef Todd Johnson launches his new waterfront restaurant, Nosh at Naples Bay, tonight at Naples Bay Resort & Marina.

Johnson follows fellow accomplished chefs Art Smith and Charles Mereday in opening Nosh in an upscale space that previously hosted restaurants 1500 South, Mereday’s Fine Dining, L’Orient and Olio on Naples Bay. Nosh joins Bonefish Grill, Blue Water Grill and Cafe on the Bay also operating at the local resort.

“I always thought this location was great and underutilized,” Johnson said. “It was actually presented to me five years ago, but it would have been too hard to do to split up my time between Rumrunners and give this the attention that it needs.”

Until recently, Johnson was executive chef and co-owner of Rumrunners, which closed last month after operating 18 years at Cape Harbour in Cape Coral. Because he grew up in and lives in Naples, Nosh provides a new hometown venture for the local chef.

“I knew that if this was my only restaurant that we could do something really special here, so we’re excited about it,” he said.

A graduate of Naples High School and Johnson & Wales University in Miami, Johnson has been known for his restaurant and culinary creations in Southwest Florida for nearly 30 years. He previously was executive sous chef at Chef’s Garden, now Ridgway Bar & Grill, in Naples; worked alongside Chef Tom Colicchio, co-founder of the Gramercy Tavern in New York City; and he launched the kitchens of the former Bistro 41 at Bell Tower in south Fort Myers and Aqua Grill at Waterside Shops in Naples.

Since taking possession of the Nosh space in October, Johnson and his wife and business partner, Dana, renovated the waterfront venue to create a modern, sophisticated vibe. The 160-seat restaurant includes an open kitchen, a full bar and a 32-seat private dining room where Johnson plans some wine dinners. About 40 seats outdoors won’t be available until mid-February, after the expected approval by Naples city officials.

Nosh is serving only dinner for its first few weeks. “We want to do lunch. So, as soon as we have more staff, then we’ll do lunch too,” Johnson said.

Nosh’s globally diverse menu does not repeat items from Rumrunners. “Honestly, out of the whole menu, there’s not one item on there from Rumrunners,” Johnson said. “This is all food I’ve been doing for the last 15 years but it’s usually doing in-home charity dinners or maybe an occasional special. But this food was just too hard to do at Rumrunners because we had 350 seats.”

The menu leans heavily on appetizers and small plates for sharing. These “Nosh” selections feature sections for meat, seafood and vegetable options. Expect choices such as miso caramel pork belly steam buns, savory warm stone crab bread pudding, pastrami cured salmon and duck fat tri-colored potatoes. 

Nosh also has grilled steaks, pastas, salads and large plates such as Deconstructed Waygu Beef Tenderloin Wellington, “Everything Bagel” Crusted New Zealand Ora King Salmon and Chianti Lacquered Niman Ranch Beef Short Rib.

Nosh at Naples Bay, 1490 Fifth Ave. S., Unit 101, is open 5 to 9 p.m. daily. 

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