Cote d'Azur, which has won many accolades — including several Zagat best restaurant awards — is a charming place. Little awnings over each table and bright colors with little mirrored windows are meant to evoke images of dining in sunny, southern France. It's just fun, and when you walk in, seeing the décor is a little surprise.
All of the wines by the glass are relevant to the cuisine, but of special note, the Château D'Aix en Provence Rose and the Château Roc Levraut Bordeaux Superieur were delightful. At $10 each, you can afford to have one of each. Another layer of fun when dining in a French restaurant is to have a Champagne cocktail — a Kir Royal or Bellini Champagne and peach nectar ($15).
The shaved young fennel salad is made with zucchini, cucumber, cauliflower, celery leaves, chives, mint leaves, goat cheese, lots of yummy fleur de sel and black pepper ($12). Such a gorgeous, fresh dish — no wonder chef and owner Claudio Scaduto and his wife, Seda, have received so much play on plating.
After we annihilated the beautifully structured salad, I reverted back to type and went for the foie gras with toasted brioche, figs, pear and port wine reduction ($17). Cote d'Azur's veal sweetbreads are prepared with morel mushrooms, green peppercorns, and a chardonnay veal stock reduction ($12). Said my friend in giving her stamp of approval: "moist, cooked perfectly and flavorful." I adore fungi, so for me, the mushrooms and sauce were the standouts of the dish.
Other notable appetizers include baby octopus with shaved garlic, Nicoise olives, roasted red sweet peppers, parsley and Alziari olive oil ($12), mussels with garlic, shallots, basil pesto and white wine ($12), risotto with shrimp and calamaretti in a bouillabaisse reduction ($15) and crispy polenta with agrodolce (Italian sweet-and-sour sauce) and eggplant caponata ($12). The pâté de campagne, or country pate, is served with crunchy cornichons, cipolline onions, olives, peppers and delicious Bourgogne mustard ($12).
Where: 11224 U.S. 41 N., North Naples
When: 5 p.m. to closing, Tuesday-Sunday
Prices: $12-$17, starters; $30-$41, entrees
Information: 239-597-8867; cotedazurrestaurant.com
If you love salmon, and also love carpaccio, don't miss the flavorful le saumon maison — Chef Claudio's own cured Scottish salmon carpaccio. Served with capers, shallots, chives, micro greens, truffle oil and lemon ($14). Roasted marinated artichokes ($12) and roasted golden and red beets salad ($14) round out the appetizers.
And the "beet" goes on in one of Cote d'Azur's most popular entrees — seared scallops with roasted beets, basil coulis, butternut squash and micro greens ($32). Cote d'Azur's Maine lobster dish is roasted in a clay pot, shelled and prepared with sunchokes, root vegetables, porcini mushrooms and fresh herbs in a Champagne caviar truffle sauce ($39).
Fresh whole fish (market price) at Cote d'Azur is roasted and filleted tableside. The lamb chops are roasted with rosemary and thyme with a Shiraz black currants wine reduction ($38).
Chef Claudio — who perfected his culinary craft in the French Riviera and then New York City before Naples — is a phenomenal saucier. Case in point: The Sancerre white wine sauce on the filet of snapper Monegasque with sun-dried cherries, capers and shallots ($30) is especially tasty.
The stuffed quails dish was prepared and served with foie gras, figs, apricots, morel mushrooms, glazed quince and a black currant cassis Cote du Rhone reduction ($34) — but it worked. The crispy lardons are a welcome addition.
Next time, I want to try the crispy roasted duck in the green peppercorn port wine sauce ($34). For peppercorn fanatics, the filet mignon au poivre is served with cognac flambé ($41). Ooh la la!
The desserts are infallible — we had a scrumptious profiterole vanilla gelato with hot Belgian chocolate sauce ($8), but Cote d'Azur also offers a refreshing assorted berry coulis with a Sauternes zabaglione ($10), crème brûlée ($8) and several other choices. A glass of the expressive Sauternes Château Myrat is a must-have with dessert ($16).