More than 75 new dining spots opened for business in 2022 in Collier County, including more than 30 restaurants in North Naples.
Some of the hottest new places in the area launched in North Naples within the last year. The 239 Naples, which draws attention to its local food sources, opened in May at Mercato. Food and Thought 2, an all-organic restaurant, took over the former Founders Bistro site last summer in Fountain Park off Airport-Pulling Road.
Phelan Family Brands launched a new brand, Two Fillets, in Naples Park last March after it relocated Deep Lagoon Seafood a couple of miles south. Nearby in The Pavilion shopping center, Irish Times Bar & Grill opened in December.
Providing something a little different, the Fuji folks introduced Yoko-San Ramen in January next to its Naples Boulevard restaurant, Macanudo Mate started creating Argentinian cuisine last summer with a companion Chinelas shoe store in Bed Bath & Beyond Plaza, and The Boardroom replaced Bella Mia Italian Cafe off Wiggins Pass Road with a charcuterie venue and wine bar in October.
Pizza proved to be popular with new pizzerias opening everywhere. Fresh favorites last summer included Pizzata Pizzeria, whose sourdough crust creations replaced Mangino’s at Piper’s Crossing off Immokalee Road; and Ohio-based Zeppe’s Tavern introduced Florida to its first rockin’ pizzeria in the former Brass Tap space on the corner of Wiggins Pass and U.S. 41.
Zza Baby Pizza Bar debuted at Mercato in February, Rio Pizzeria introduced its Brazilian-style pies at Olympia Park in June, and Nunzio’s Taste of Italy replaced Palumbo’s Pizza on Pine Ridge Road in August. Napoli Pizza opened a Naples Park location in January and a third Collier location for Jet’s Pizza took off in May at Vanderbilt Commons.
Serving Italian favorites, Trattoria Angela opened in November next to the Paragon Theater at The Pavilion shopping center while the longtime Noodles Italian Café & Sushi Bar started transitioning to Giuseppe and the Lion.
New eateries with Asian cuisine include Sushi-Thai Too, which replaced Cirella’s at Vanderbilt Commons in April, and Hanoi Quán, a Vietnamese restaurant that replaced Sun Side Café in the former Patric’s spot off Pine Ridge Road in June.
Mila Bistro brought its Argentine cuisine to Naples Walk retail center in April off Vanderbilt Beach Road. Island Vybz reintroduced Naples to its Jamaican cuisine when it launched a fresh location last month in Pebblebrooke Center on Collier Boulevard.
EJ’s Cafe opened a second location last spring when it took over Meridian Café in Meridian Marketplace. Nectar Lab also opened another spot when it replaced Hello Coffee in the Shoppes at Audubon. Kwench Juice Cafe opened last January in Crossroads Market off Pine Ridge Road and Fusion Bowlz Naples launched in February off Trail Boulevard.
Many more restaurant chains opened new locations, including the first area spots for Bubbakoo’s Burritos and Crumbl Cookies, which opened on Naples Boulevard in January and August, respectively. A Mystic Lobster Roll Co. franchise opened in April in the Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt.
Charleys Philly Steaks opened two more locations this fall, replacing McDonald’s inside Walmart stores in North Naples and East Naples. Chick-fil-A opened a new location on Immokalee Road in February and is reconstructing its longtime drive-thru on Airport-Pulling Road. Burger King also rebuilt a couple of its area franchises.
While not really a restaurant, the chef-driven and foodie-centric Budding Chef cooking studio started cooking this fall in Shoppes at Vanderbilt. Fresh Bowl Kitchen opened last January but closed last fall in Meridian Marketplace.
New restaurants in Naples started strong last year with the Jan. 5 launch of the upscale Nosh on Naples Bay in Naples Bay Resort. The much-anticipated Uncle Julio’s Mexican Grill didn’t disappoint when it opened in September in a new freestanding restaurant built at Coastland Center. Inside the mall, The Dogos and Mango Thai provided fresh food court options.
The city embraced a diversity of cuisines last year. Le Martinique French Cuisine & Bakery launched on U.S. 41 in May, Ichi Togarashi started preparing its ramen and Asian menu on Fifth Avenue South in June, Smyrna Cafe introduced its Turkish-Mediterranean creations on Park Street in September, and the Molto Trattoria team presented Casa Neri just before Christmas in a former Subway shop nearby on Fifth Avenue.
It was a big summer for new foodie destinations at The Shoppes at Dockside near Tin City. The Corner Store joined The Bowl Bazaar while La Bella Apulia Gourmet Market & Apericena imported authentic Italian food and wine in June. Sea Monkey Tavern & Grill opened at the end of that month in the former space of the Parrot Bar & Grill. Last fall, Del’s Lemonade squeezed into that boardwalk on Sixth Avenue South.
Cak’d started baking its vegan and gluten-free goods in August at its new shop in Trinity Plaza at U.S. 41 and Third Avenue North, while Empire Bagel Factory opened its fifth regional location in December on Park Street near Fifth Avenue South.
In October, Le Petit French Café became Black Letter Coffee + Café under new ownership in The Village Shops on Venetian Bay while Alexander’s on U.S. 41 North changed its name after 27 years to Alexander’s Garden Restaurant to highlight its patio dining in the Park Shore area.
Some hot new restaurants opened in 2022 in East Naples. The Naples-based Turco Taco team launched a new concept, Simit Fresh Mediterranean, last January in River Reach Plaza off Airport-Pulling Road. The owner of Hotel Escalante and Veranda E restaurant in Naples purchased the former Sicilia restaurant last spring and opened The Med on Bayshore Drive in October.
New neighborhood places to hangout include K.C.’s Parrot 41 Bar & Grill, a spinoff of the former Parrot Bar & Grill in Naples that opened in April in Courthouse Shadows on the East Trail; and Brookside Market, which followed in May with the new Mangrove Outfitters Fly Shop on Davis Boulevard.
Fresh options for Asian cuisine include TheSen Asian Noodle Bar, which replaced Pei Wei at Restaurant Row near Freedom Square last spring, and Saki Japanese Kitchen, which opened its second location last fall next to Wawa in Naples South Plaza at U.S. 41 and Rattlesnake Hammock Road.
In May, Carole’s House Café & French Bakery debuted in a corner spot at St. Andrews Square in the Lely area along U.S. 41 East. The owners of Eat Smart in Berkshire Commons changed their restaurant’s name and concept to Lobster Rolls No. 1 last January.
Rikat’s Pizza, which claims to have the best Cuban pizza, parked its food truck to open in June inside a BP station’s convenience store on Airport-Pulling Road. Olympia Pizza opened in May in the former Twisted Cheesery unit on Davis Boulevard but it closed last fall.
New franchises of chains last summer included Jersey Mike’s Subs, which opened a third Collier location in Restaurant Row; Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, which launched its second area location in Berkshire Commons; and Rush Bowls, which came to Price Street Plaza on Tamiami Trail East. Publix introduced its only regional location for Pours cafe inside its new supermarket at the former Lucky’s Market in Naples Towne Centre South.
A couple of notable changes occurred last year in Golden Gate. Brasas Steakhouse & Grill, which promotes itself as where the Brazilian steakhouse meets Cuban cuisine, launched in August in the former space of Kingbar Restaurant & Lounge in the Sunshine Ace Plaza at Collier Boulevard and Golden Gate Parkway.
Co-branded franchises of Coldstone Creamery and Planet Smoothie opened a combination drive-thru location in the former longtime space of Dairy Queen Grill & Chill on Golden Gate Parkway.
East of 951
Many new restaurant options came in 2022 to the area east of Collier Boulevard, or 951 as longtimers know it. Most of them opened in the new Founders Square development, which promises many more new places this year on the southeast corner of Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard.
Last January, Naples-based Skillets was the first restaurant to open in The Pointe at Founders Square. It was followed by the first area franchise of I Heart Mac & Cheese in March, the second location of Fuji Sushi Bar & Asian Bistro in April, the fourth location of Tacos & Tequila Cantina in May, the third location in Collier County for Outback Steakhouse on July 5, the first regional location of Crisp & Green in July and the second location of South Street bar and grill in September.
Golden Gate Estates gained additional eateries at the intersection of Everglades and Golden Gate boulevards. In the new Everglades Square on the northwest corner, Antojitos Y Mas opened its third area location in May and Moravela’s Pizza opened another location in June. The center’s anchor, Everglades Food Mart, also opened last year. Directly across the street, 7 Food Mart & Tortilleria recently opened a third location on the northeast corner.
Elsewhere in the area, Oasis, The Kitchen Lounge opened in March in Ave Maria. Comfort Inn & Suites on Collier Boulevard just south of Alligator Alley reintroduced its onsite venue as 3860 Tiki Bar & Grille.
Many more local spots are already opening or getting ready to launch in 2023. Happy new year!
The “Tim Aten Knows” weekly column answers local questions from readers. Email Tim at Tim.Aten@GulfshoreBusiness.com. Follow him on social media: @TimAtenKnows on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.