When someone mentions the name Tony Newton, people usually associate his restaurant Fred’s in North Naples. Fred’s is named for Newton’s beloved dog Fred and the restaurant remains one of Naples most fun dog-friendly dining and music destinations.
But what most of Naples may not know about Newton is that although he owns a restaurant named after a dog and is a massive music lover, he is a world renowned chef. Fred’s casual, jovial and largely musical atmosphere belies Newton’s gourmet nature. Newton is launching a new menu that will continue in his quest to pair music and food selections that discerning foodies and music lovers can tap their feet to.
Newton has owned his restaurant for five years. The emotional tie to Fred’s for many Neapolitans is of course, Fred the dog. Tragically, Newton lost his best canine friend when Fred was just 2 years old to a form of canine cancer.
“We called the place Fred’s because we have the patio and we wanted people to come eat with their dogs,” says Newton, who was struck by the loss of Fred just days after his diagnosis. “We almost actually closed, we were so devastated — we are a family owned business and dogs are part of the family.”
Back in the day, Newton operated a breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant. But the experienced chef now is open seven nights a week from 5 to 11 p.m. He wants to connect the music with the dining and that has required some changes.
“We are in a shopping center so I can’t cook the food I used to cook for $50-60 a plate — but the food is still amazing,” says Newton, who is 41 and has been cooking for more than 20 years. “My whole concept here is food and music and my menu changes four times a year.”
People who know Newton’s cooking and history are excited to try the changes. Newton apprenticed under a Japanese master chef for seven years and traveled the world with him. The experience connected him to one of the best chefs in history, Chef Paul Bocuse (yes, that Paul Bocuse) and by proxy he also got to meet and learn from other such masters like Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.
During his tenure in various kitchens, including the Ritz-Carlton, he has cooked for two presidents George Bush, Jr. and Sr., celebrities like Michael J. Fox, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Jennifer Lopez and Mohammed Ali among many other celebrities.
Newton’s new menu will feature miso marinated Chilean sea bass, Key West black grouper with saffron tomato broth, yellowtail snapper and bone-in filet mignon.
“This new menu will be more upscale and also include items like tuna, fresh ceviche, plenty of salad options — and of course, music,” says the music lover. “Thursday I will go back to my dinner theater with Compton and Bennett and Fridays we’ll feature bluegrass — while Saturdays will feature blues and doo wop and Latin.”
Featured acts include Little Eddie and the Fat Fingers, the Blu-Tones and West Side Tropico.
“Most musicians are off on Sundays and they just want to come out and have a beer and play some music, so these nights often turn into impromptu jam sessions,” says Newton of the evening many regulars have come to relish. “The leader of the Sunday night band the Notorious Band of Misfits has played on The Tonight Show.”
The Stu Shelton trio appears on Wednesday nights while the Dan Heck trio appears on Tuesday nights. On Monday nights, guests can celebrate with the Jebry Jazz Jam.
“Picking the right entertainment is like picking the right food — and it has taken us five years to get to this point,” says Newton. “I always say to people, don’t let my logo fool you — it may be of my dog Fred, but diners can come in and have beef carpaccio and listen to great music.”
FRED'S FOOD, FUN AND SPIRITS
Where: 2700 Immokalee Road, Naples
Hours: 5 to 11 p.m. Monday-Sunday
Information: 239-431-7928, www.fredsdiner.com