10 Best New Restaurants 2018
December 26, 2017
Not only did we have a great year, but Collier County—like the straight-A student it has proven to be—claimed a particularly precocious class of newbies (so much so I wished for more spots on the list). Per usual, my magazine foots the bill, so I can imbibe to share the full scoop (no special treatment from servers, managers or owners). And while food creativity and execution were my main concerns, I also factored in service, ambience and other intangibles. I have once again stayed focused on independent eateries, which led to some hand wringing—two chains still deserved recognition (see our honorable mentions). To be technical, there are two lists here: one for Collier and one for Lee. Because, really, raise your hand if you tend to stay in a 20-minute comfort radius—let alone drive an hour-plus on the interstate. But perhaps you should. Read on, get hungry and dig in.
- The French Brasserie Rustique
365 Fifth Ave. S., Naples; 239-315-4019, thefrenchnaples.com
There’s no beating around the bush: Vincenzo Betulia’s venture into Gallic cuisine was by far the best new restaurant to hit all of Southwest Florida. His latest effort expanded beyond the rock-solid Italian base he has built with his Osteria Tulia and Bar Tulia, just steps away on Fifth Avenue.
You could dine à la parisienne outside on the sidewalk, in a café chair on the sea of mosaic tiles blanketing the floor or on a stool at the bar. (The fact that you need to elbow your way in says something.)
Anything Betulia touches turns to culinary gold, but his calling cards here are savory, herb-laden braises and roasts, in tune with his self-professed mission to elevate and refine rustic food. He gives it soul—I know I felt a personal connection to my half chicken with a multiple-mushroom cream sauce, and a lamb shank that was simmered with rosemary, thyme and a potpourri of vegetables.
Desserts are simple but satisfying. Betulia delivers the wow-factor plate after plate, time and again, just like the cuisine he takes inspiration from. Photo by Erik Kellar.