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The annual reflection on local restaurants that permanently closed in Southwest Florida was more difficult to compile this year because damage from Hurricane Ian left so many properties in limbo.  

Longtime Gulfshore favorites such as The Turtle Club in North Naples and Baleen at LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort were badly damaged in the historic storm but their local partners vow to rebuild and reopen them in the new year. Baleen is planning a phased reopening in late January and February, while the Turtle Club is not scheduled to reopen until next summer or fall. Also, in the Vanderbilt Beach area, the dining spots at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples will be shuttered until the beach resort reopens next June.   

The Continental and Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro are some of the few restaurants that have not relaunched yet in downtown Naples but they are busy renovating and targeted to reopen soon. Bonefish Grill at Naples Bay Resort and Grand Buffet at Gulf Gate Plaza on U.S. 41 also still have remediation work before they can reopen. Doc’s Beach House and Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille remain shuttered at the year’s end because of serious damage from Ian but both Bonita Springs coastal restaurants and watering holes are working to make repairs and reopen next year.   

Waterfront classics in Naples such as Kelly’s Fish House, The Dock at Crayton Cove and Buzz’s Lighthouse Restaurant were able to reopen this fall after repairing flood damage from storm surge, but some coastal destinations were not as fortunate. Ian led to the last call at Jack’s Lookout at the end of October after it operated for 38 years at a Marco Island marina. Pinchers Beach Bar & Grill at the Wyndham Garden hotel on Fort Myers Beach also was lost in the storm, as were many other eateries from Dairy Queen to Hooters on the barrier island. 

Many dining spots on Lee County islands were destroyed by Ian but some of these restaurants are planning to reopen elsewhere. For instance, Liki Tiki BBQ on Fort Myers Beach is expected to reopen nearby soon on San Carlos Boulevard while Hooked Island Grill on Matlacha is regrouping much farther inland and coming soon to the former Famous Dave’s location at Gulf Coast Town Center. Popular classic restaurants such as the Bubble Room on Captiva Island, The Mucky Duck on Sanibel and Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill locations on Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel remain in limbo and under reconstruction three months after being devastated by Ian. Doc Ford’s on Captiva is closed indefinitely, though.  

Two local restaurants had to close and were demolished for The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Naples, a Stock redevelopment project on the corner of Vanderbilt Beach Road and Gulf Shore Drive in North Naples. Beach Box Café had its last bash at the end of April and DaRuMa Japanese Steakhouse closed its original restaurant there in August after operating for more than 30 years. 

Other longtime restaurant brand names that were retired this year included Mama Mia’s Pizza in Naples and Noodles Italian Cafe & Sushi Bar in North Naples. Mama Mia’s closed in February after operating for 47 years. Noodles was sold in September after more than 30 years and is being renamed Giuseppe and the Lion.   

Additional longtime restaurants calling it quits after extended runs include Siam Thai & Sushi, which operated for 20 years in Naples until closing post-season, and Sasse’s Restaurant, which closed in August after 30 years of success in Fort Myers.  

While perhaps not directly closing because of the hurricane, the culmination of the storm following higher operating costs, staffing issues and the pandemic contributed to the demise of some local restaurants this fall. The 485 Degrees eatery in East Naples closed in late October after operating for nearly four years and Red Lobster closed its longtime location in Naples in November. Araya Sushi Asian Grill permanently closed the day before Thanksgiving in North Naples but its owners continue to operate their Yoko-San Ramen and Fuji Sushi Bar & Asian Bistro locations in the Naples area. 

Other Naples favorites that closed shop this year include Meridian Café and Bill’s Cafe, which closed in January and March, respectively. More area pizzerias that folded this year include Pizza Fusion in Fort Myers, Sharky’s Pizza Pub in Bonita, Mangino’s Pizza in North Naples and Valento’s Pizza & Hoagies in Naples. Other Italian dining spots throwing in the towel included Mastello Ristorante and Dolce Gusto Italian Market & Pastry in Fort Myers, Sicilia in East Naples and Bella Mia Italian Café in North Naples. Buca Di Beppo closed in August after operating for more than 20 years in North Naples.   

Two North Naples burger joints, The Counter Custom Burgers and Bobby Yanks Burgers, closed in May and September, respectively. Other local venues that closed include T42 in Estero and Twisted Cheesery and Naples Beach Brewery in East Naples. The Great Foodini Mobile Bistro and Pit Commander food trucks also moved on this year. 

Vampire Penguin Shaved Snow and Desserts closed both its North Naples and Coconut Point shops in 2022. Bokamper’s Sports Bar & Grill closed its last Southwest Florida location in North Naples this May but still has locations on the east coast. A few other concepts with multiple locations closed one of their restaurants this year.   

Slicers Hoagies closed its sub shop at University Village near Florida Gulf Coast University at the beginning of the year but its original spot still operates in Naples. Nawty Hogg Backyard BBQ closed in February on Collier Boulevard but its location in the Shoppes at Vanderbilt is still open. Three local concepts specializing in Italian cuisine permanently closed one of their locations this year but still have other locations in the area. Joey D’s closed its Davis Boulevard restaurant in March but has remaining locations in North Naples and on Marco Island. Cirella’s shuttered its second location this March in Naples but its original continues to operate in Bonita Springs. Palumbo’s Pizza sold its original location in August on Pine Ridge Road but kept its second location on Collier Boulevard.  

Many of the restaurants that closed in 2022 already have been replaced by another restaurant or business or they will be in 2023. In the coming weeks, we’ll look back at restaurants that opened this year and ones coming next year.  

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!  

The weekly “Tim Aten Knows” column answers local questions from readers at Follow Tim Aten on social media: @TimAtenKnows on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.  

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