NAPLES — Looking back at the many local restaurants that opened or closed in 2012, the spotlight remains on a few old-timers that turned out the lights this year.
Similarly to how Andy Griffith and Dick Clark will be remembered by fans, many Neapolitans will have lasting memories of the old Dairy Queen and St. George and the Dragon in downtown Naples.
The landmarks may be best recalled as gathering places of a time past as much as for what they served. St. George offered a cool, dark, paneled-wall escape from the Sunshine State, while the DQ’s red, A-frame roof provided families an instantly familiar welcome sign.
Dairy Queen's more than 50-year-old store closed Sept. 3 when the franchise was relocated to the new DQ Grill & Chill a few blocks away. St. George closed July 23 after more than 40 years in business. Owner Marilyn Ginos left the door slightly ajar for reopening in early 2013, but that remains doubtful.
A few chains surprised regular patrons when they closed longtime franchises in Naples this year.
McDonald’s suddenly closed its Coastland Center mall location in late January after operating there for more than 25 years. Burger King soon will be having its way with that food court space.
In early February, Perkins Family Restaurant & Bakery closed its Park Shore Plaza location after operating there for more than 25 years. Nearby, KFC shuttered its 20-year location on U.S. 41 on July 1.
A few other longtime restaurants in North Naples made news when they permanently closed. Erin's Isle on Collier Boulevard in East Naples was forced to close its doors this summer after serving customers for nearly 30 years. Sam Snead’s Tavern in North Naples closed in March after a 12-year run, the BeiJing Chinese Restaurant closed April 17 after 10 years, and Naples Tomato closed April 28 after operating for eight years. Also gone are Absinthe, GreekElicious, Latitude, Patric’s, The Island Pub, Sweet Mama’s Island Cuisine, Tropical Palm Café, and Teri’s Summer Breeze Cafe.
Among the local eateries with the shortest recent runs opened last fall and closed in early 2012 after operating for about six months each. Pate’s House of Prime Rib closed March 25, followed by L’Etoile in May.
Some area pizza places, seemingly simple operations to average eaters, were topped with complexities behind the scenes.
Dropping the 15-year Aurelio’s franchise in Naples was a hot one this summer for the folks at the newly named Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub after the pizza chain exercised a non-compete clause in its contract. Meanwhile, a new Aurelio’s franchise opened this month at the mall, a mile away from the original.
Truly Organic Pizza opened a Lee County location in Hemingway’s Island Grill at Coconut Point, but it closed a few days later after competition complaints from another pizzeria in the mall. Truly Organic’s North Naples location opened earlier this year and remains open. At year’s end, Gatsby’s Pizza hadn’t opened its new digs in Bonita Springs, although a telephone recording still says it’s opening Sept. 1.
Many other pizzerias and Italian restaurants actually did open this year: Alberto’s on Fifth, Café Portofino and La Villa Pizzeria in Naples; Il Nonno Pizza in East Naples; Café Alfredo, Pizzeria PiccoBello and Trattoria Abruzzo Cucina Italiana in North Naples; Bellissimo Ristorante in Bonita, Ristorante La Piazza on Marco Island, and Milano’s Pizzeria & Eatery in Ave Maria.
A few that closed in 2012 included Piola and Anthony’s Trattoria in North Naples, and Vapiano in south Lee.
Ristorantes or pizzerias adding a second location or additional venues included Jet’s Pizza, L’Appetito III Pizza and Deli, and Naples Flatbread & Wine Bar in North Naples, as well as Olive Garden in south Lee.
Other local eateries or franchises doing double takes included Larry’s Lunchbox, Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes, Senor Tequila’s Fine Mexican Grill, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and Dunkin Donuts.
Some places just changed names. Rossopomodoro became L’Angolo 5th ave, Lindburgers and Bottles is now Brooks Gourmet Burgers & Dogs, Nana Vetta’s changed its name to R’s Diner, Bamboo Café transitioned to Chez Boet French Home Cooking, Bellini Cocktail Club is the new name for the bar at Bellini on Fifth Italian Ristorante, and Pavilion Ice Cream Parlor changed to Pavilion Royal Scoop.
Other local eateries kept the name but changed locations. Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro moved from North Naples to downtown Naples, Jaegerhaus moved from Naples to North Naples, Parmesan Pete’s Italian Kitchen relocated from Bonita to North Naples, La Bamba Mexican Restaurant moved across the street in North Naples, Dunkin’ Donuts relocated in Bonita, and Chinatown, Cibao Grille and Moe’s Southwest Grill moved to new spots in their same shopping center strips in the Naples area.
New “better burger” joints continued to be popular in the area. Gyrene Burger and Five Guys opened new locations, and Naples saw the arrival of Elevation Burger and The Counter Custom Built Burgers.
Enjoy a frozen dessert with that at the new SweetFrog, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt or Artisan Gelato by Norman Love in Naples; Let’s Yo, Frozen Yogurt Cloud or Jack & Rita’s Homemade Ice Cream in North Naples; Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt in Bonita, and Tropical Sno in Estero.
Wait, there’s more!
More local restaurants opened than closed, but this list so far barely scratches the surface of all the places that came and went in 2012. To get a better idea of all the places coming and going this year, enjoy viewing two annual photo galleries:
Next Wednesday, get a sneak peek of local restaurants that we know are planning to open in 2013. Happy New Year!
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"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News. Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.