Fluent flavors flourish at Flava

Flava’s decadent Barolo braised beef short rib is served with Gruyere mashed potatoes.

Flava’s decadent Barolo braised beef short rib is served with Gruyere mashed potatoes.

Sometimes the best-kept secrets exist right in front of you, but somehow you keep missing them. In the case of Flava Restaurant in Old Naples, I’ve been missing a hidden gem.

Flava is nestled in a somewhat unexpected business complex just down the street from the lovely Trianon Hotel. I’ve lost count of how many times I’d driven by this place on Seventh Avenue South and wondered if it was any good. But I was always on my way somewhere and never made it through the doors until this past weekend.

Co-owners Petr Pipek and Jerry Ifka, who opened Flava in December 2011, are of European descent, and the cuisine reflects that. Flava’s menu is a mixture of Swiss, Austrian, Italian, German and French dishes with daily specials created by Naples native Chef Jay Schrednitz. The original menu was crafted by Chef Phillippe Rosette, a longtime fixture in the Port Royal culinary scene.

Chef Schrednitz joined Flava after a long stint at the Turtle Club and is clearly enjoying the chef-driven restaurant. Both Pipek and Ifka allow him to be creative.

There are several romantic places in Naples — with flowering vines draped over fountains and lovely outdoor lighting. Flava is also romantic, but falls more on the sensual side of the spectrum. Lower ceilings make it feel warm and cozy, with colorful local artwork on the walls suggesting a personal atmosphere.

The simplicity of the food means things are cooked well and flavorful. Beside inventive items, diners find several dependable dishes they call their favorites.

On the lighter side of the menu and at the top of the list of favorites is the superb Mediterranean salad ($12). This salad has so much flavor going on it could be an entree. A layer of edamame hummus is the foundation for a stack of Boston bibb lettuce, Tuscany artichokes, olives, hearts of palm, tomato and cucumber. This salad stands on its own without dressing, but don’t miss the sweetly tart lemon extra-virgin olive oil dressing that comes with it.

If you go

Flava

Where: 849 Seventh Ave. S., Suite 101, Naples

Hours: 4 p.m. to close daily. Early dining specials from 4 to 6 p.m. and happy hour in the bar from 4 to 6:30 p.m.

Prices: $12-$18 starters; $20.90 early dining special; $19-$42 entrees; $8-$10 desserts

Information: 239-331-7829 or www.FlavaNaples.com

Fennel fans will relish the fennel, lemon-seared rare tuna and fava bean salad with balsamic wasabi ($14). Other notable appetizers include beef steak tartar with grilled bread ($18), crab and Gulf shrimp avocado martini ($16), black mussels with Spanish chorizo, white wine and shallots ($12) and an Angus beef carpaccio with arugula and roasted shallots ($15).

A light and simple cantaloupe with prosciutto De Parma, fresh mozzarella, grape and a balsamic drizzle is $14, while the fried calamari with Peppadew peppers and a spicy rémoulade is $12. The wild mushroom ravioli appetizer topped with a slice of grilled foie gras with cremini morelle sauce ($16) is also available in a dinner portion for $28.

From the light to the rich, the soup star at Flava is the house-made cognac scented lobster bisque (cup, $9, bowl $14) and it’s worth every cent and calorie.

On the entree portion of the menu, two major standouts are the decadent Barolo braised beef short rib with Gruyere mashed potatoes ($29) and healthful grilled salmon with Tuscany artichoke and dill sauce with sunset rice ($26). The short rib meat is impossibly tender and the Gruyere mashed potatoes a rich and refreshing change from plain or garlic mash. The salmon was cooked perfectly with a lovely sauce the perfectly complemented the side dish of wild rice. Mushroom lovers can try the seared pork tenderloin, which is prepared with a mushroom sauce ($26).

Dedicated European influences include the Bolognese-style pappardelle pasta ($19), sautéed chicken Francaise with capellini pasta ($22), Wiener schnitzel with German potato salad ($27) and veal with spaetzle ($26). The seafood offerings include a Gulf red snapper ($29), Mediterranean shrimp and sea scallops with pasta ($34). Chef Schrednitz also prepares a sautéed veal liver with caramelized onion and bacon ($24). Steaks on the menu include a hanger steak au poivre with pomme frittes ($25), aged beef filet mignon with Béarnaise sauce ($32) and grilled bone in ribeye ($42).

Specials can include myriad ingredients. Chef Schrednitz loves working with scallops and heirloom tomatoes and includes a foie gras special each night. And on special occasions, such as Mother’s Day, for example, Flava will serve a special menu.

As for Flava’s wine list, Pipek and Ifka are long time oenophiles and have amassed a unique collection of wines. The two have carefully collected the wines they serve, and each one has its own personality.

Several desserts include a refreshing limoncello sorbet, chocolate dream cake with raspberry sauce, pear William cake and various flavors of gelato (all $8). The New York cheesecake and gluten-free chocolate mousse meringue are $10. But the Flava apple strudel with cream Anglaise ($8) takes the cake. Not overly sweet, the delicate pastry surrounds a lip-smacking apple mixture topped with a scrumptious cream sauce.

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