Dining In the 239: Discover PiccoBello, a quaint Italian bistro secreted from rest of world

A signature antipasti selection, pizza focaccia stella is a heaping portion of diced tomato and mozzarella with black olives, shaved parmigiana cheese and balsamic drizzle served atop crispy triangles of house-made focaccia.

Photo by JEAN AMODEA // Buy this photo

A signature antipasti selection, pizza focaccia stella is a heaping portion of diced tomato and mozzarella with black olives, shaved parmigiana cheese and balsamic drizzle served atop crispy triangles of house-made focaccia.

Finding Ristorante Pizzeria PiccoBello is like discovering a treasure waiting to be explored.

Known simply as PiccoBello and open for 18 months in the location formerly occupied by Gatsby’s Pizza, the eatery is situated on the left corner of the back tier of Wiggins Pass Crossing Shopping Center (behind Walgreens) in North Naples.

Look for thick green foliage at the restaurant’s entrance and envision stepping into a quaint Italian bistro secreted from the rest of the world.

While the name PiccoBello, which means “small pretty,” may aptly describe its coziness and décor, it belies the scale of its largeness in the creativity and perfection employed in the execution of its cuisine.

With ample seating for 77 indoors or on the charming outside patio, the casually upscale restaurant features an assortment of dark metal wall hangings and lighting, beige-colored walls, dark woods and brown table linens that lend to the warm ambiance.

Owners Carmelo and Manuela Piazza — he serves as chef and she, front of house — have imported a lifetime of experience in the restaurant business and await locals and visitors alike to sample their authentic Italian culinary dishes.

Born in Palermo, Carmelo Piazza relocated to Germany at age 9. As he aged, he began working in the restaurant trade, learned the language and met his German-born wife. For 35 years, Carmelo Piazza refined his restaurant chops and operated a successful German Italian restaurant.

After moving to Southwest Florida in 2007, the couple opened, then sold Naples’ Jaegerhaus, which featured German food. The Piazzas have since opened PiccoBello and have been dazzling the most discriminating palates in search of dishes prepared with genuine Italian panache.

Ristorante Pizzeria PiccoBello

Where: Wiggins Pass Crossing Shopping Center (behind Walgreens) 13510 U.S. 41, North Naples

When: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. lunch and 4:30 p.m. to close Monday-Saturday (open Sunday in season)

Prices: $6-$18 antipasti; $4.70-$11 salads; $6.25-$6.50 soups; $20.75 seafood and veal; $15.25-$15.75 chicken; $11.75-$16.50 pasta; $6-$7 desserts (carryout available)

Information: 239-260-5161 or pizzeriapiccobello.com

Ask Naples residents and customers Jan and Jim Parker, who have been dining in the area since 1968.

“PiccoBello is a hidden gem and has absolutely the best Italian food in Naples,” said Jan Parker. “And, Carmelo and his staff are so personable and accommodating. They are the nicest people.”

The diners recently enjoyed the summer special “Two for $29.29”that is packed with value. From 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.,select a cozy table and choose from 11 menu items that include tilapia piccata, pork tenderloin alla Carmelo and penne Gorgonzola.

All entrees are served with choice of a generous bowl of soup — the minestrone has large chunks of vegetables like zucchini and mushroom floating in a flavorful house-made broth — or a well-crafted green salad that is a step up from the ordinary iceberg and tomato offering.

If you still have room, order an espresso or cappuccino with the gelato misto or tiramisu ($3) that is made with Piazza’s special touch. Adding chocolate and Nutella gives a nutty, smooth taste and light brown color to the popular confection.

If visiting later in the evening, take a seat at one of a dozen leather stools at the wine and beer granite topped bar and enjoy a glass of house wine for $4.75.

Or find your perfect table and start your meal with a wine from a full list of Italian varietals priced comfortably from $29 to $99. The house favorite Lamuri, a Sicilian wine that pairs well with dinner ($35).

Peruse the regular menu that offers pastas ($11.75-18.75) like fettuccine al salmon, pasta Quattro formaggi and pasta salsiccia and funghi (pasta with sausage and mushrooms).

Both veal and chicken dishes ($15.25 -$20.75) come alla cacciatore, pizzaiola, Gorgonzola, parmigiana or piccata in generous, mouthwatering portions.

Daily specials that change weekly also add diversity to PiccoBello’s offerings with items like a tomato salad ($5.50) to start and entrees like ravioli with spinach and mushrooms ($17.60) or pork tenderloin Bolognese ($18).

“We like to make unique dishes prepared unlike anywhere else, like our fettuccine with spinach in a light pesto sauce topped with a duo of jumbo shrimp, our signature dish, pasta baccala (cod fish) or our popular antipasto, pizza focaccia stella,” said Carmelo Piazza.

The latter starter course is enough to delight four people with heavy taste and visual appeal. Large triangles of crisp focaccia are arranged in a star pattern and topped with diced fresh tomato, diced mozzarella, black olives and shaved parmigiana cheese ($18).

If real deal pizza is what you crave, choose from one of a dozen personal ($10-$18) or 14 inch pies ($14-$22). The flavorful and heavily topped discs are crafted from house made dough, as are the square, perfectly baked panini served a tavola before each meal.

Choose the Siciliano, made with mozzarella, anchovies and black olives or quattro stagioni, a Margarita pizza divided into four quarters, topped with ham, artichoke, mushroom and red peppers, with a sunny side up egg in the middle.

Gluten-free, 12-inch pies are also available.

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