Thank heavens for Chapel Grill

Co-owner Stephen Fleischer, center, visits with patrons of the Chapel Grill's Chapel Tavern area of the restaurant on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Naples.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Co-owner Stephen Fleischer, center, visits with patrons of the Chapel Grill's Chapel Tavern area of the restaurant on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Naples.

In the Bible, gluttony is frowned upon. So it's a good thing Chapel Grill is located in a beautifully restored church, because you will need all the forgiveness you can get after eating there. The highly creative menu makes it impossible to say no to anything that tempts your taste buds. Before you know it, you've spent your car payment on risotto and lobster bisque.

There are so many aspects of Chapel Grill that make it a graceful place to dine. For starters, owner Stephen Fleischer is a hands-on foodie. And, if I could, I would ordain executive chef Jorge Nolasco. "Wow factor" doesn't even begin to describe the divine mind that could conceive of a sweet corn saffron risotto this good.

But, let's begin first with something that's so simple, yet can sink a meal — bread. Good bread and presentation of said bread can be a harbinger of things to come. Chapel Grill's pretzel rolls are pillow soft on the inside, a welcome surprise when so many pretzel rolls are hard and chewy. The adorable little rolls bode well for the evening which would turn out to be a somewhat spiritual experience.

As far as appetizers go, this is probably the first menu in Naples on which every appetizer was, well, extremely appetizing. It was agony to choose among them, and I wound up succumbing to the rapture of the apps rather than focus on the entrees. This was a real sin, because the entrees are deserving of just as much praise.

If you go

Chapel Grill

Where: 811 Seventh Ave. S., across from Cambier Park, Naples

When: 5 p.m. to closing Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Tavern open 2 p.m. to closing Monday-Sunday. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Information: 239-206-4310 or www.thechapelgrill.com

The first sight of the lobster bisque at Chapel Grill ($8.30) suggests it could have used more cream, as the color is much deeper than most other lobster bisques in Naples. However, it was soon apparent that to add anything to this dish would be sacrilege. It is a complex layering of flavors, and the rich presence of lobster peeks out between each of them. It's not overpowering — delicate, yet still hearty.

The French 3 Onion soup ($7.40) is also worth a try — the garlic crostini and Gruyère cheese gratin was the yummy star of that dish.

Chapel Grill's tuna tartare appetizer ($13.40) with a touch of seaweed salad and crispy wonton chips was a little mountain of Asian flavors — and with a side of soy sauce, made for a great opener to the main courses.

My favorite appetizer, though, had to be the beef Bourguignon risotto ($11.90). It's a purposefully heavy appetizer meant for sharing, but could be an entree. It's challenging for any chef to get risotto just right, but Chef Nolasco is the risotto whisperer. It was perfectly cooked — creamy deliciousness — and then to have that savory beef Bourguignon with tender beef and mushrooms on top was above and beyond delightful.

Other wise choices include Chef Nolasco's porcini-dusted Florida snapper with sherry-braised leeks ($29.30). He also nails the sweet corn saffron risotto that serves as the base for the snapper.

The Chapel Grill's Tuscan herb-seared chicken breast ($23.50) comes with a Tuscan bean and prosciutto cassolette. Like so many other dishes at Chapel Grill, it was hearty, and the cassolette unexpected.

For our table, what made the salads stand out was how fragrant they were. The Chapel Grill salad ($8.40) is deceptively simple with a few assorted greens, carrots, onions, Roma tomato and Bosc pear. Perfumed with an herb Dijon white balsamic vinaigrette and sunflower seed praline, the flavors grabbed us as soon as our very able and kind server, Ralph, set it down for us to share. (The service is also fantastic, by the way.)

Standouts from the Chapel Grill Tavern include the powerful Roquefort dressing on the baby iceberg and apple-smoked bacon salad ($8.90), the "Big Guy's" Maine lobster roll made with citrus old bay aioli and spring onion ($14.30), and the Tavern Kobe burger ($15.30) — the blue cheese and smoked bacon combo being the standout on that dish.

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