Q: What’s going on with Noodles? — Maggie D., Naples
A: Noodles Italian Cafe & Sushi Bar on Pine Ridge Road in North Naples is being transformed into Giuseppe and the Lion. This new restaurant will continue to serve Italian cuisine and sushi.
Noodles owners, brothers Matt and Seth Berman, sold their longtime restaurant business in September to Joseph Sutherland and Leo Hertzog, Sutherland’s retired father-in-law. The new owners tried to keep their plans under wraps during renovations. Still, the big cat was out of the bag when new carpets with the lion head logo and the Giuseppe and the Lion name were recently unfurled at entrances to the restaurant.
Operating for more than 30 years, Noodles’ highly visible spot in Mission Square is the third location for the local dining concept. The independently owned and operated Italian restaurant previously was farther east on Pine Ridge in North Naples and on Trails Boulevard in Bonita Springs, where Chinatown of Naples and the new MareTerra Ristorante are today, respectively.
“We had two locations simultaneously at one point,” said Seth Berman, who ran the kitchen while older brother Matt ran the front of the house. “We opened in December 1991 behind the Hess gas station on Yahl Street. Matt opened Noodles in Bonita in 1997. Then, in 2004, we moved to the current location from the smaller location on Yahl Street. Then, we sold Bonita in 2005.”
Brothers Berman LLC purchased the Mission Square condominium unit at 1585 Pine Ridge Road for nearly $1.4 million in July 2004, Collier County property records show. The brothers retain ownership of the 6,309-square-foot commercial condo but have sold the restaurant business inside it.
Now they are its landlords.
Nevertheless, selling the family restaurant was a five-year process that included a pandemic bracketed by hurricanes Irma and Ian rather than a spur-of-the-moment decision, Seth Berman said.
“We didn’t take the decision to sell lightly,” he said. “Thirty-two years was a huge legacy and it was like raising a baby, you know. Obviously, there’s a ton of pride there and happiness and joy, but 32 years is a long time and conditions were right and the opportunity to pursue other avenues in life besides making a dollar.”
The Bermans didn’t announce the sale when it occurred because they didn’t know how to address it exactly and saying goodbye is difficult, of course, especially after such a long run.
“It was a pleasure to put our heart into the industry and our passion into helping people over the years. For us, it was more than just a restaurant. It was a family, a home, a home for the community and hundreds of fundraisers over the years,” Seth Berman said. “We feel, in one sense, kind of bad about selling it and letting it go but, on the other hand, we know it was important and the right thing to do, especially for me to pursue the spiritual life a little bit.”
After working in restaurant kitchens since he was 13 years old, Seth Berman is following a new path. “I just decided to do this one-year Bible ministry program,” he said. “It helps people live a better life through the study and use of the Bible and then explaining to them the good news that is coming soon under God’s kingdom.”
The brothers don’t have immediate plans for another local restaurant. “We have a non-compete clause for a radius for a few years anyway,” Berman said.
Negotiations for the restaurant to change hands began this spring after Hertzog saw a real estate listing for Noodles. After months of back and forth, the business deal finally closed this fall, Sutherland said. Since then, the dining spot has continued to operate with the same name, concept, menu and staff, but its signage will change soon to Giuseppe and the Lion.
“My mother-in-law came up with the name,” Sutherland said. The restaurant’s name is a nod to the first names of both of its owners, of course. Joseph is Giuseppe in Italian, while Leo the lion is legendary.
The new restaurant is not related to the popular Giuseppe’s Pasta Pizza Plus, which had a 30-year run in East Naples by the late Giuseppe Loduca until closing more than a decade ago. Nor is it any relation to San Giuseppe Pizza, which chef-owner Michael Buonsante launched Aug. 16 for takeout and delivery from the industrial park on Rail Head Boulevard in North Naples.
The new owners have spent a half-million dollars remodeling and making many physical changes at the former Noodles, including fresh painting, landscaping, patio furniture, a quartz bar, wine coolers and kitchen appliances. “There’s not much I haven’t touched,” CEO Sutherland said, noting that a new stage and beer cabinet are still coming. “I’ve just classed it up. In the summer, I’ll do all the bathrooms and the floor.”
A stage is being built for live bands to perform Saturday nights, building on the success of the Friday dance nights. Sutherland hopes to create a weekend supper club with well-known national acts from various genres. “It’s going to be good once I get it done,” he said.
Although he has retained the sushi and Italian favorites menu, Sutherland has made a few changes to the food. “I’m going to go a little hard-core Italian, but I am going to keep the sushi,” he said.
For instance, the meatball recipe and tomato sauce were changed on the Italian side. Marinara has been replaced with traditional Italian Sunday gravy. “Now, I’ve got the true Sunday gravy,” Sutherland said. “My initial plan was to get rid of the sushi, but it has a big following, so I’m keeping it.”
It’s not the first restaurant for Sutherland, who is something of a Renaissance man with experience in hospitality, finance, marketing, professional tennis and at least two decades in the optical industry. “I’ve opened up 583 optical stores,” he said, including Eyeglass World on Naples Boulevard.
Sutherland and his brother previously operated a French restaurant for three years in Newport, Rhode Island. His culinary roots are Italian, though. All the relatives on his mother’s side of the family are from northern Italy.
Q: It looks like something is brewing where Bounce was located. Can you let us know what’s happening there? Hopefully, a new location for kids! — Linda A., Golden Gate Estates
A: ProScan NCH Imaging is launching a new location in the North Naples space where the Bounce trampoline sports franchise operated for five years until permanently closing in 2020 because of social distancing and sanitation concerns created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bounce opened in July 2015 in the more than 20,000-square-foot space that previously had been The Picture Factory on Vanderbilt Beach Road just west of Airport-Pulling Road.
ProScan recently moved local administrative offices into the adjacent Olympia Park space previously home to Restoration Church. The new imaging center is being built next door in the former trampoline center.
“We have started construction and hope to be in by quarter 2 (of 2023),” said Deanna “Dee” Myli, executive director of radiology for ProScan Imaging LLC. “We are facing some challenges with construction labor as most of Southwest Florida is these days.”
Headquartered in Cincinnati, ProScan is a national organization for medical imaging and reading services, providing comprehensive radiology services to several hundred medical centers nationwide. ProScan radiologists and support staff work with physicians to interpret medical imaging examinations.
In April 2021, Naples-based NCH Healthcare System announced a joint venture with ProScan that combines ProScan’s 30 years of experience nationally and 20 years in Naples with NCH’s infrastructure and investment in imaging technology. This venture combined the outpatient imaging services of NCH with the ProScan outpatient services to create 10 locations in Collier and Lee counties. The outpatient locations created by the partnership are managed by ProScan.
The weekly “Tim Aten Knows” column answers local questions from readers at GulfshoreBusiness.com. Follow Tim Aten on social media: @TimAtenKnows on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.