Med restaurant launches on Bayshore Drive in East Naples
The area’s first new restaurant to launch within two weeks of Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Southwest Florida opens for dinner tonight on Bayshore Drive in East Naples.
Le Med, a Mediterranean restaurant concept, transformed the building and backyard vacated last spring by Sicilia Bar, Pizza & Pub, which operated for more than three years in a small space at the corner of Bayshore Drive and Lunar Street which was formerly The Anchor Bar & Grill, Ozzy’s Place, Bayshore Breeze Inn and The Ship’s Inn Tavern.
Naples resident Mary Brandt, longtime owner of Hotel Escalante and her restaurant Veranda E on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South, is behind The Med, which is part of the local revival of the Bayshore Arts District.
“We’re definitely community oriented,” Brandt said. “We know there will be a lot of people walking up to us and golfing at us. We’re just really excited to be here. It’s a wonderful place.
The Mediterranean is expected to support this area of eastern Naples which is still trying to dry out and rebuild after being damaged by storm surge Ian. “You can really tell it hurts,” Brandt said. “So we will be supporting Harmony Shores (a nearby mobile home park that was evacuated after a flood) during this time as well. This will be one of our menu items. People can support them and we will participate in delivering hot meals to them because they have no electricity or water. It’s so sad.
Brandt feels lucky that her hotel and seaside home in Naples suffered only minimal damage from the hurricane. “We are so blessed,” she said. “We are so grateful in so many ways.”
Ian’s storm surge mostly spared the Mediterranean, although it damaged most of the organic greens and herbs planted in the aeroponic garden towers outside the restaurant. “We really got lucky at The Med,” Brandt said. “We had very, very little water. I had my gardens planted in the tower. They were ready to go like the first great harvest. So I had to replant everything. Everything in this tower now, except for a few very large ones that I was able to salvage, are all new plantings.
Le Med, dubbed an ‘artisan restaurant’, will offer an eclectic menu that changes weekly. “The menu is inspired by our favorite dishes from the Mediterranean,” Brandt said, noting that co-partner and longtime restaurant manager Tommy Francavilla is responsible for bringing many dishes to life. “He’s going to be in the kitchen. He also has a culinary background. He puts the finishing touches on everything, which is very exciting.
Francavilla was classically trained in France and worked with Brandt at the Hotel Escalante. He oversees the kitchen at The Med, where many dishes on the menu will be based on recipes from his family who grew up in Puglia, the southern Italian region that forms the heel of the nation’s boot.
“We’re in this together and he’s the inspiration behind the menu and will drive our operational success,” Brandt said. “He lives just around the corner, and we’re also passionate about making The Med a shining star on Bayshore.”
After enjoying his first taste of The Med’s opening week menu, Brandt loved the organic whole roast chickens for two. Boned at the table and served with roast potatoes, the chickens are prepared with black truffles or flavors of lemon and rosemary.
Brandt also recommends the pear-stuffed pasta with gorgonzola béchamel and toasted walnuts as well as the restaurant’s pizzas, making good use of the pizza oven left behind by Sicilia. “The pistachio pizza is amazing,” she said. “I was just in Venice showing the pictures to everyone. It looks exactly like the pizza I had in Venice.
The Med offers three options for pizza rossa (red) and bianca (white). The option mentioned by Brandt is a white pizza with mortadella, burrata and pistachios. Other white options have truffle essence or imported prosciutto. Pizzas with tomato sauce include vegetarian varieties with grilled vegetables and ricotta or mozzarella and basil, as well as a choice of meat with chorizo in three ways: spicy, crunchy and chopped.
The initial menu features a dozen entrees, including gazpacho, seafood carpaccio, scallop crudo, Greek salad, mussels, charcuterie platter and The Med dip platter with hummus, baba ganoush , tzatziki, feta and olives. The Med Bruschetta is topped with toasted garlic Pugliese bread, heirloom tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini and peppers.
The Med offers half a dozen shareable “Land and Sea” options such as chicken souvlaki, lamb chops, whole branzino, and eggplant parmigiana. The brief menu also offers pasta choices, sides and desserts.
Although definitely different, The Med shares some similarities with its sister restaurant, Veranda E. “Great food, great service — it’s similar,” Brandt said. “Trying to be unique, to have a unique character. Also, I think some people will see when they walk in that it has a bit of the same look, a bit of an eclectic design side. Lots of gardens, gardens of tower are there as they are in Escalante.”
The Med, 3929 Bayshore Drive, is open for dinner only from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and closed Monday. “We don’t make reservations until later, so it’s just first come, first served,” Brandt said. “That’s probably what we’re going to do for the next two weeks. On November 1, we will be on Resy for reservations.
For more information on the Southwest Florida business community’s recovery from Hurricane Ian, visit gulfshorebusiness.com