Sea Monkey Tavern & Grill bringing Keys vibe to Naples

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Sea Monkey Tavern & Grill plans to channel the pulse of the Florida Keys in downtown Naples. 

“My tagline is now: You don’t have to go to the Keys anymore,” said Massimo “Max” Puglielli, who is planning to launch Sea Monkey in December in the former space of The Parrot Bar & Grill in the newly rechristened Shoppes at Dockside on Sixth Avenue South. Puglielli also will continue to own and operate Mino, which has served authentic Italian cuisine at Dockside Boardwalk near Tin City for more than five years.   

Sea Monkey is moving into the large space where The Parrot operated for about 11 years. The Parrot closed in early September after an unsuccessful attempt to extend its lease another five years. The new landlords, who purchased the four-building rustic waterside destination this spring, asked Puglielli if he would be interested in taking the longtime restaurant and bar space. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I put my hat in that day,” Puglielli said. “They like the concept. They love the menu. They love how I operate here. And they said, ‘This is a pretty simple thing for us. This is a pretty easy decision.’” 

The Sea Monkey name is nostalgic, harkening back to the 1960s when hatching kits for sea monkeys, actually hybrid brine shrimp, were advertised for sale in the back of comic books as novelty aquarium pets. The magical beings remain a part of popular culture. The new venue’s logo, perfect for T-shirts and koozies and other merch, features a sea monkey wearing sunglasses, flip-flops and a tropical shirt while sipping an umbrella drink beneath swaying palms.

Sea Monkey Tavern & Grill will be operated by Massimo “Max” Puglielli, center, who also owns and operates Mino with his sons, Dino, left, and Jake.

After visiting the Keys, Puglielli assembled a menu that is almost as far as he could get from his Italian restaurant’s roots. The only nod to his native Italy can be seen in a few sandwiches: a prosciutto, provolone and fried pepper sandwich; a chicken cutlet, mozzarella and arugula sandwich; and a Caprese sandwich with vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. 

“I put together what I felt was an awesome menu, something that’s just fun,” he said. “It’s heavy on the appetizers because that’s what you do when you go to places like that. It’s going to be a fun place.” 

Sea Monkey’s menu will include conch fritters, sushi-grade ahi tuna nachos, shrimp scampi served with garlic bread, jalapeño poppers with shrimp, coconut shrimp, clam chowder, seafood gumbo and frozen drinks. Entrees and handhelds will feature deep-fried hogfish, steamed mussels, shrimp tacos, steamed crab legs and burgers. 

“It’s going to be very comfortable as far as the plating. It’s not going to be what we have here [at Mino],” Puglielli said. “The silverware is not going to be what we have here. It’s going to be something simpler. Extremely casual. That’s what the Keys is all about.” 

Puglielli extended his hand to offer employment to all the people who used to work at The Parrot, but his new local business will no longer be a late-night industry bar. Instead of a bar with a restaurant, Sea Monkey will be a restaurant with a full bar. “The focus will not be alcohol. The focus is all-encompassing. Everything is important, the food and the beverages,” said Puglielli, who plans to offer a variety of draft and bottled beers and a few wines. “I’m going to elevate the food. The food is going to be really nice. I’m also going to make it affordable.” 

Work is underway now to rebuild the bar and refresh the space top to bottom. Expect an Old Florida decor with nostalgic memorabilia adorning the walls. “It’s creating an atmosphere,” Puglielli said. “The décor is beautiful. It’s a pretty cool concept how we’re changing it up. It’s going to be a little bit classier. The lighting will be pretty awesome. We’re are going to have like eight TVs so we will have the NFL games and stuff like that. But I want to make it a nice family atmosphere.” 

The 150-seat Sea Monkey will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. The hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday with live music planned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “Sunday for lunch I’m going to have some steel drums,” Puglielli said. 

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