Impeccable service. Attention to detail. A sense of passion. The heart and soul of any successful destination depends on this trifecta coming together, in just the right way, to create a certain synergy. Mix the ingredients correctly and you’re bound to yield a legion of adoring fans willing to sing your praises to nearly everyone they know. Miss one step, and your fan base evaporates into the lonely night along with your reputation.
This is the story about a city called Naples, in Southwest Florida. A story about a place that values visitors so much, that the people in this vibrant community came together, like a finely orchestrated, perfectly prepared meal, to ensure quality was and will always be their underlying ingredient.
Top Shelf Here We Come
Imagine visiting a place where every whim you’ve ever had, any request you’ve ever needed fulfilled, was already anticipated before you arrived. This is the essence of the Inn on Fifth located at the epicenter of Fifth Avenue’s celebrated collection of restaurants, sidewalk cafes, upscale boutiques and one-of-a-kind galleries in downtown Naples. This sleek, boutique property offers 119 rooms, including 32 stunningly appointed Club Level Suites, in two iconic buildings, just steps from one another across trendy Fifth Avenue. The hotel screams sophistication and it shows in the nearly $20 million dollar renovation it recently underwent.
Modern luxury is on full display upon entering the Club Level Suites. And it shows in the service. Guests are personally greeted by a VIP concierge then escorted to a private, exclusive, Club Level check-in. Spacious rooms and suites ranging from 516 to more than 1,100 square feet delight and entice.
If luxury came in a bottle, the Inn on Fifth would hold the prized patent. Skimping isn’t in this hotel’s vocabulary. Club Level guests get treated like rock stars with white glove service. A gourmet buffet at breakfast, abundant afternoon refreshments, and top shelf evening cocktails with every name brand you can imagine. In between, guests can nosh on fresh baked cookies that tempt from oversized glass jars, indulge in decadent chocolates and gourmet coffees, or sip on a variety of beverages in chilled in coolers.
Why all the fuss with being so fancy? “Our desire is to have the best club level product on the market,” said Cathy Christopher who directs Sales and Marketing for the property. It was not enough just to have great suites with every amenity and comfort…we wanted to go beyond that.”
Case in point: The fully stocked bar with premium labels.
“Our goal to is to keep the club level bar stocked with the very best liquor available. If we miss something, we want to know so that we can get it right way,” said Christopher.
Added luxuries include an ultra private rooftop retreat with a tranquil hot tub and spacious sunbathing area. For those interested in living large, check out the sprawling Presidential Suite, complete with wrap-around balcony and birds eye view of Fifth Avenue. Guests won’t want to miss the Inn’s newest culinary endeavor aptly named “Avenue5,” which just had its dazzling debut in February.
See and Be Seen
Naples’ Fifth Avenue has a personality all its own. Located steps from the Inn on Fifth, this enviable address boasts some of the areas best places to dine, drink, and shop while offering up the ultimate stretch of road to drive your vehicle down. It’s not uncommon to come across a Rolls Royce, Bentley, or vintage car. In fact, Fifth Avenue is all about style.
One of the main ingredients in this Avenue’s success besides its primo location is the wealth of offerings. From upscale wine bars, to fancy boutiques, eclectic antique shops to food that’s outstanding. Naples and Fifth Avenue are raising the luxury and culinary bar way high when it comes to creating original, tasty, family-owned concepts that speak from the heart.
Two of the Avenue’s best are, ironically, a stone’s throw away from one another. Osteria Tulia (known to locals as Tulia) and its talented, industrious chef have worked hard to earn a robust, well deserved following. Pop into his restaurant on any given night and you’re sure to find a loyal crowd clamoring for the culinary creations of Sicilian-born Chef/Partner Vincenzo Betulia. He’s passionate, personable and wields a razor sharp knack for creating buzz and success. Make no mistake… there are no pretenses here. Betulia’s been at this a good long time…since he was 14 years old and washing dishes back in Milwaukee. Now 38, he’s at the top of his game, calling the shots, and totally on target.
“I change the menu whenever I want,” he said, adding that the music diners hear in his restaurant is actually from his own personal playlist. It’s that same sense of confidence that drives Betulia to make all his own cheeses and pastas, while directing a staff of nearly 70, and updating, uploading, and wowing the masses with his Instagram and YouTube posts.
The look and feel of Tulia isn’t by chance. In fact, in order to bring his vision of an old Italian farmhouse to life, Betulia brought in the wood used to make his tables and chairs, from a nearby Florida city.
“There’s nothing stark or sleek here,” he said. “I wanted to bring a real rustic feel to the place.”
All in the Family
Growing up in Florence, Italy, Maria Furetta, had two great loves: family and food. She would take her passion for both to her own kitchen table in Northern New Jersey and eventually to a small Italian ristorante there. Today, Maria’s creations are the inspiration behind Bellini Italian Ristorante, located on Fifth Avenue in Naples.
Family owned and operated since 1995, Bellini offers upscale, authentic Italian cuisine with an exceptional international staff, expansive outdoor dining patio, and prime people watching.
Maria’s two children, Stefania and Massimo are making sure their mother’s recipes live on, by working side by side with her at Bellini. Italy comes alive in her original recipes like the medaglioni di melanzane appetizer. Lightly breaded eggplant medallions, layered with fresh tomato sauce, melted mozzarella and parmigiano that’s served on bed of mixed greens. Another family favorite getting rave reviews are the greens, fresh mozzarella, local tomato, and sweet basil, dabbled with extra virgin olive oil.
Wine & Dine
Naples is home to a growing number of Chef’s taking the city by storm. Chef Charles Mereday, owner of Mereday’s Fine Dining located at the Naples Bay Resort, is one of those trailblazers. If “making an entrance” were on the menu, diners walking into his impressive establishment would describe it as caviar colliding with the most exquisite bottle of champagne. An open floor plan lets guests get up close with the process of meal making. On most nights, Chef Mereday is working on the line, overseeing his creations to ensure culinary greatness. Mereday’s Fine Dining features contemporary cuisine based on the freshest and finest available ingredients the earth can offer. The menus are innovative and change daily. Diners choose from 3, 4 or 5-course dinner menus, and a 3-course lunch, with a decadent dessert as the finale to all meals.
Warm tropical breezes dance atop a dotted line of palm trees, which seem to sway in a dignified formation as to signify a respectful bow of sorts. Perhaps these palms are paying homage to nature, which happens to be a pretty big deal at this laid-back resort. Nature, after all, has always played an important role at The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club. Every evening, the sunset drops down its proverbial calling card and locals and visitors rejoice. Layers of orange, purple, light blue and a hint of red illuminate the skies over the Gulf of Mexico, providing a front-row view in which to witness nature’s full splendor. A sea of orchids occupies a considerable stretch of space on the property, where over 3,000 of them are cultivated and proudly displayed for guests to enjoy. Nature, art, community and beauty intersect where the bromeliads meet the native plants, lining the tranquil pathways that lead to the resorts 317 newly renovated guest rooms and suites.
A sense of completeness fills the grounds of this family-owned institution that’s been around since the 1800’s. Owned and operated by the Watkins family, the hotel has a long and storied history centered around something you just can’t put a price on — creating traditions. Three things you will find here are the very things that set this place apart: no resort fees, complimentary valet parking, and 125 acres of tropical bliss. The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club is also Southwest Florida’s only beachfront resort with onsite golf, where notable names like Jack Nicholas have graced the greens. A full service spa, offering inventive treatments like the Florida Fruit Fresh Facial, as well as a sprawling Tennis Center, make it easy for the resort to turn first time visitors into repeat guests.
Luxury without Limits
Perfecting something that’s always been, well, perfect is no easy feat, especially when your customer base expects excellence every time. The team at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples knew they had a lofty challenge…refining one of the area’s finest hotels. How would they re-master a resort that already had a bevy of illustrious awards under its hat?
Where should they start? The company’s mission statement would provide the ideal blueprint.
“We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto, which exemplifies the anticipatory style of service provided by staff, came in handy as the resort underwent its first major renovation in 28-years. The project, one of the largest resort renovations within The Ritz-Carlton Hotel portfolio, included a complete overhaul of all 450-guest rooms, suites, and corridors, three dining outlets, the Artisans Ballroom as well as various structural, mechanical and engineering upgrades throughout the property.
On July 24, 2013, the iconic five-diamond, five-star Ritz-Carlton, Naples set out to improve what some already considered immaculate. The result: a jaw-dropping debut that’s fresh and modern, while still staying true to its classic and legendary roots.
Discerning patrons will delight in The Grill’s new design, featuring a soft gray palette, inspired by the Gulf of Mexico after a beautiful summer rain. This community favorite now has a contemporary feel, yet retains the intimate, romantic charm its famous for. Aged prime meats, chops and fresh seafood paired with rare vintages, classically crafted cocktails and an impressive collection of international award-winning wines make The Grill the decided choice for that special occasion.
Two new dining concepts are now gaining momentum for their bold, innovative no-holds barred themes. Stylish, sultry, and “adults only” defines Dusk – located on the lobby level of the Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Soft, muted colors, oversized illuminated lanterns, and cozy, intimate seating pair nicely with a menu brimming with sushi favorites such as fresh sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls. An outdoor patio provides the ideal location to enjoy signature cocktails that blend Asian ingredients with Western influences like the “Green Fan” made with spiced rum, sake, cucumber, water, apple and lime juice, maple syrup and shiso and “Sawtelle,” a combination of bourbon, Japanese plum wine and a hint of honey and Campari.
Terrazza features daring dishes, created with the freshest ingredients sourced from local farmers and purveyors. There’s a Mozzarella bar, touting artisan burrata, fresh smoked mozzarella, and traditional buffalo mozzarella. And a never-ending breakfast buffet that includes all the bells and whistles you’d ever dream of – times ten. Handmade pastas. Homemade breads. Vegetarian dips and spreads. Hungry yet? Chef Anabella Morillo hopes so. She’s created this eatery as the resort’s all-day, family-friendly dining concept. The sleek, modern space boasts floor-to-ceiling glass doors and handsome, decorative, fixtures that reveal warmth while providing the ultimate welcome. An open-air terrace beckons guests to dine amid the warm gulf breezes and lush greenery. Signature offerings like Fettuccine Caprese, Pappardelle Lamb Ragout and Gnocchi with Crab Meat bring a taste of coastal Italy to this Southwest Florida favorite.
Learning what works takes time, sometimes it requires adjusting, and many times, it actually requires starting over from scratch to get it just right. Like a carefully crafted cocktail, all the ingredients in making something successful must be measured, then added or eliminated if the end result isn’t balanced. Naples, Florida gets that. They don’t settle for good, when great is within reach. And this city won’t think twice about taking it all apart to build it all back up so the foundation is set on a cornerstone called quality.
Big Momma’s Bicycle Tours
Inn on Fifth
Mereday’s Fine Dining
Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club
The Ritz-Carlton, Naples