The red tomato has turned the corner.
Rossopomodoro, the first U.S. franchise of the Italian pizza chain, is now L’Angolo 5th ave, an independent restaurant in downtown Naples. The local owners are the same, but the restaurant’s name and menu changed Oct. 8. Although Rossopomodoro means “red tomato” in Italian, L’Angolo means “the corner,” an appropriate name for the authentic Italian restaurant on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue South and Eighth Street South.
Francesca Neri and her brother, Andrea, opened Rossopomodoro in early 2010 at the location of one of Naples’ first businesses, the Rexall Drug Store. The corner site was a pharmacy for more than 50 years before the restaurant opened.
The restaurant owners, the kitchen crew and their specially designed wood-burning pizza oven came from Italy, but a desire to better serve their American customers led to the severing of direct ties to the Naples, Italy, company. Because of international cultural differences, the Neris sought to make menu and décor changes but said they initially found it difficult to do so in a major chain with corporate mandates.
For instance, they had to get permission to add white tablecloths to tables that simply sport bare wood tops in other locations, Francesca Neri said. It was difficult to deviate from preset menu items and specials and even the computer system. They found additional flexibility and compromise were necessary to be more successful in the U.S.
“That’s why we went independent. Now we can manage and create our own menu,” said manager Domenico Bosco. “We have some dishes that are similar, but 50 percent is completely new.”
L’Angolo has kept the most popular Rossopomodoro dishes, and modified others, Bosco said.
“It was better off to go our own way. We can already see the difference,” he said. “We are trying to build a relationship with our customers, trying to make them feel more like home and appreciated for coming in.”
L’Angolo is open for dinner every night from 5 to 11 p.m. at 800 Fifth Ave. S. Lunch service, discontinued for the summer, resumes this week from noon to 3 p.m. daily. 239- 692- 8480.
PATIO CAFÉ TO OPEN
Patio Café is opening Thursday in the former home of L’Etoile, a French restaurant that closed in early May after operating for only six months at 10711 U.S. 41 N. in North Naples. The Naples Park spot kitty-corner from Trader Joe’s is best known as the location for the old Heidelberg Restaurant, but it also more recently hosted Mr. G’s Italian Restaurant and Rudi’s European Cuisine.
The stucco wall that previously all but hid the 3,500-square-foot building has been halved to reveal the new restaurant and its outdoor tables with umbrellas. Inside, the restaurant has been repainted, and booths and new carpeting have been installed, said Ilias Tsangouris, who co-owns Patio Café with Taulant Lako of Naples.
Expect the new cafe to be another local economical eatery from Tsangouris, who owns Blueberry’s Café in Naples and co-owns Mel’s Diner in Golden Gate.
“It’s moderately priced. It’s not going to be expensive,” he said, estimating that entrees will be priced $9.99 to $15.99.
Similar to Blueberry’s, Patio will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, but the menu will be slightly different and it will have a full bar, said Tsangouris, who was born and raised in Greece. In addition to Mediterranean-influenced dishes and tapas, expect steaks, ribs and seafood.
Only breakfast and lunch will be served during the restaurant’s soft opening this week. Dinner service will begin Monday. Patio Café will be open every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Happy hour is 3 to 5 p.m. daily. (239) 260-1075.
MORE AREA RESTAURANTS OPENING
■ The Basin opened Friday in the former location of Absinthe in the Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt, 2355 Vanderbilt Beach Road, suite 200, North Naples. The new local restaurant is hosting Halloween extravaganzas tonight from 4 to 10 p.m. and Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight. Children are welcome to tonight’s party, but only real estate and other professionals to Friday’s event. The Basin’s grand opening celebration will be Friday, Nov. 9. The restaurant operates similar to buffet-style dining, but it’s not an all-you-can-eat venue. Diners pay $9.99 for all they can fit on a small plate, or $16.99 for all they can fit on a regular-size plate. Hours are 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
■ The Big Red Food Cart is hoping to open Friday at 1225 Airport-Pulling Road on the corner of Estey Avenue in East Naples. The red wagon will offer Chicago-style hot dogs and Maxwell Street polish sausage sandwiches, as well as foot-long hot dogs, chicken and beef fajitas, and meatball and chicken parmesan subs. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
■ Bellissimo Ristorante opened July 27 in the former Bonita Springs home of Brooklyn Oven Pizza, 26251 U.S. 41 S, in Bay Crossings plaza. The new owners kept the pizza for lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday and carryout from 2 to 10 p.m. nightly, but perfected some of the ingredients, said co-owner Ed Falcone. The local restaurant is also open for dinner 5 to 10 p.m. every night. (239) 405-8957.
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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.