Overlooking the blue water and white sands of Florida’s Gulf Coast, The Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla., is perched on its own slice of paradise. As soon as you arrive, white-gloved doorman will whisk you inside the hotel’s luxe lobby with impossibly high ceilings. And this is where the culinary journey begins.
The Ritz-Carlton hosted me and four other travel writers for a two-day sampling of the resort’s culinary offerings. One our first night, we gathered at Bites — The Ritz’s small plate and cocktail bar. It’s located in the lobby on a raised area, but nonetheless feels like its own separate space. As an added touch, there were even live musicians playing classical tunes in the background.
The food here is familiar with a creative twist. Expect to find crabcake hush puppies with cream corn, baked Brie with fig jam and candied pecans, and short rib sliders with balsamic onion Taleggio. I can vouch that the Manchego cheese and olive plate was fresh and tasty as was the spiced-just-right with an extra pop of flavor curried chicken meatballs with peanut sauce. The dynamic cocktail menu features creative offerings like the Jade Nectar — green tea-infused Ketel One vodka, yuzu, cucumber, and honey — and the sweet, but not cloying Dawn Awakening — Maker’s Mark, Campari, raspberry purée, and freshly squeezed orange juice.
After Bites, we previewed the menu for the hotel’s newest restaurant, Terrazza, which opened Nov. 4. This new eatery was part of a multimillion dollar renovation of the property that was unveiled on Oct. 1. The restaurant menu is filled with casual Italian fare and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We sampled the dinner menu in the Beach House — the resort’s separate event space that overlooks the ocean. Watching the sunset dip into the water as we ate was a pleasant reminder that we were at the beach.
Terrazza’s food is what a good Italian meal should be: tasty, filling, and unforgettable. For starters, we sampled traditional Italian antipasto dishes like mozzarella and prosciutto. The mozzarella was excellent — rich, creamy, and never chewy. The grilled octopus was the standout starter dish for many. Although I wasn’t crazy about it (octopus is too fishy for me), it did have a nice charred aftertaste to it. The two other appetizers included a hearty shrimp risotto plate and warm melt-in-your-mouth mushroom-stuffed ravioli. We even got to eat more of these two dishes the next day and let me tell you, it was mind-blowing. I’ve been to Italy before and that pasta dish and the risotto made me reminisce about my time in Florence. For my main course (yes, there was more), I opted for grilled salmon. And as a salmon fanatic, I can say it was the smoothest piece of fish I’ve ever had. As part of our final course, we were served about half of the restaurant’s desserts. My two favorites from the bunch were the tiramisu and a vanilla-pudding dish. Both were very sweet, but offered different flavor profiles. I could see many guests enjoying the dynamic dessert options.
And this being The Ritz, service was impeccable. If The Ritz-Carlton had a theme, it would be that no detail is too small. I’m somewhat allergic to cherries, and I loved how two different servers told me that one dessert contained them. I also appreciated how the servers replaced plates and poured wine almost magically without ever getting in my way as I was talking to others. I left my seat for a moment and when I returned, they had even folded my napkin again. It’s those little touches that can elevate a good meal to a great one, and The Ritz-Carlton doesn’t miss even the smallest detail.
With its fine, yet approachable cuisine, Terrazza is set to become a casual and refined restaurant where hotel guests go to enjoy a hearty, delicious, and comfortable meal. I know I’ll be dreaming of Terrazza’s luscious risotto and the rolling waves of Naples for some time now.