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Two brothers from Romania who have lived in North Naples for many years launched a local restaurant this month that pairs American and Romanian cuisine. Tableside Restaurant opened in the 2,225-square-foot space that most recently was Alpine Restaurant for more than 10 years and, initially, was Bajio Mexican Grill in the Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt on the corner of Airport-Pulling and Vanderbilt Beach roads.  

What comprises Romanian cuisine? “A lot of meat dishes. A lot of vegetables, as well,” said Chef-manager Gabriel Ilie, who co-owns the new local restaurant with his brother, Daniel.  

Romanian dishes are influenced by Austrian and German cuisines as well as other foods in the Balkan region. Romanians use a lot of garlic to be safe, joked Daniel Ilie, making light of Romania’s famous fictional vampire, Count Dracula of Transylvania, a central region in the European country.  

A traditional garlic sauce is an integral part of mititei, a Tableside signature appetizer that provides a taste of traditional Romanian street food. The grilled pork and beef sausage links are served with yellow mustard.  

“It’s fresh—salt, pepper, garlic, paprika—it’s nothing very spicy,” Gabriel Ilie said.   

“It’s simple ingredients with lots of love,” said Daniel Ilie, noting that some of their authentic recipes are their mother’s legacy. “We were raised in a family where everybody was at the table for dinnertime.”  

The restaurant’s entrees include comfort foods such as Romanian Cabbage Rolls, spiced minced meat wrapped in cabbage leaves and slow-cooked in a savory tomato sauce; Rustic Romanian Pork, a robust stew featuring tender pork chunks slow-cooked with herbs and vegetables; and Peasant’s Pot, a traditional Romanian vegetable stew brimming with seasonal produce and simmered in a savory broth.  

“This is like a lot of vegetables like eggplant, carrots and potatoes all mixed together in a tomato sauce—kind of like a ragout, but it’s done vegan,” Gabe Ilie said.  

A signature Tripe Soup—said to be Romania’s ultimate cure for a hangover—is described as being rich and creamy “simmered to perfection and served with a sprinkle of fresh herbs.” Romanian “Wedding” Soup is “a hearty broth enriched with hand-rolled meatballs, garden-fresh vegetables and aromatic herbs, blending Romanian tradition with a touch of modern refinement.”  

Although the Ilie brothers were both born in Romania, they each have lived in the U.S. for many years and have been influenced by American cuisine, which also is on Tableside’s menu, which includes lobster bisque, mussels, chicken Alfredo, Buffalo-style chicken drumsticks and steak choices. The restaurant also features selections of American and Romanian wines.  

“I like to try new things. I like to challenge myself,” said Gabe Ilie, who has been in the U.S. nearly 20 years and has worked in the front of the house at local restaurants such as The Boathouse on Naples Bay, The Continental, M Waterfront Grille and Ridgway Bar & Grill.   

Daniel Ilie, a local residential real estate professional who started in the kitchen at Outback Steakhouse, has local restaurant experience at The Capital Grille, L’Angolo 5th Ave, M Waterfront Grille and The Turtle Club.  

Of course, it was always a dream for the brothers to have their own place. “It’s, basically, the American dream,” Daniel Ilie said.  

Tableside Restaurant, which has a wine bar and about 60 seats inside and 32 outside at umbrella tables around a large fountain, is open daily for happy hour 3 to 5 p.m. and dinner service 5 to 9 p.m. The new restaurant at 2355 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 158, is between Poached and Mojo Thai & Sushi restaurants.  

“I believe our restaurant is going to be a destination for a lot of people,” Daniel Ilie said.  

“We want to share our food with everybody,” his brother said. “It’s great food. It’s made with great ingredients, lots of love, and this is what we want to share. We want to share our vision, our service, what we do and what we learned, our food and everything.” 

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