Q: What is the latest with the Chicago restaurant opening on the corner of Airport and Davis?
— Katie D., Naples
Q: I go by Taste of Chicago twice a day (to and from work). I think they’ve done a great job turning an eyesore into a beautiful piece of property. But when in the world are they opening?
— Nancy Jutras, East Naples
A: Augustina’s Bistro A Taste of Chicago, 3300 Davis Blvd., finally opened Tuesday on that southeast corner of Airport-Pulling Road and Davis Boulevard in East Naples.
“We’re ready to get open, that’s for sure,” owner Rick Berec said Friday.
The local project has been nearly two years in the making, transforming a busy corner that hosted a service station for nearly 30 years into a full-service restaurant and bar. Originally planning to hire only 20 employees, Berec ended up hiring 34.
“It was a little bigger monster than I thought it was,” he said.
Those hired include longtime Naples restaurateur Richard Amador, who will be executive chef for the new restaurant. Amador most recently operated Amador’s Bistro Italiano in Plaza Walk on U.S. 41.
Rather than try to hide the fact that the renovated building once housed automobiles and mechanics, the old garage bay doors and expansive gasoline pump canopy were incorporated into the design of the new business.
The three bay doors still can open to bring the outside in. The bistro seats about 65 inside and 100 outside, Berec said.
The canopy over the outdoor bar features Chicago’s skyline, and an impressive tribute to the Windy City has been rendered in a detailed montage on an inside wall. A piece of sheet music for the blues standard “Sweet Home Chicago” is painted on another wall.
The real tribute to Chicago, of course, is on the menu, which features both deep-dish and thin-crust pizza, Vienna Beef hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and kielbasa. The recipes for the bread, pizza, pasta, sausage and most other menu items are from Berec’s grandmother, Augustina, who is honored in the restaurant’s name.
The bistro is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Phone: 239-777-7676.
Augustina’s A Taste of Chicago also will continue to operate out of the red wagon a couple of blocks away on the corner of Airport-Pulling and Estey Avenue, said Berec, who was born and raised in Chicago.
Q: I would like to know if Jason’s Deli has any plans for another location in the Estero area. It’s the best. Thanks.
A: Estero is a good possibility for a future Jason’s Deli location.
“We are on the lookout in the Estero area,” said regional franchisee Diana Willis. “We are also looking at expansion in Sarasota.”
Willis and her husband, Scott, operate five Jason’s Deli franchises in Southwest Florida. In addition to their North Naples location off Immokalee Road in Uptown Center, the Willises own franchises in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Port Charlotte and Sarasota.
After being loyal customers of Jason’s Deli since 1978 and former franchisees of McDonald’s for years, the Willises opened their first area deli location in 2001. The Willises’ last location opened two years ago in Sarasota.
Jason’s Deli’s extensive menu of sandwiches, soups, subs, wraps, panini, pasta and muffalettas includes its popular salad bar with several organic items.
The Texas-based fast casual chain is a privately owned company that was started in 1976 by an Italian family. Today, Jason’s Deli has more than 200 locations and operates in 28 states.
More local restaurant news
■ Gallo Fino Café, a Cuban sub shop, opened Monday at 318 9th St. N., the former Trinity Plaza location of Leoni’s Pizza, which closed its downtown location last summer. The exterior sign is not up yet, but Gallo Fino is ready for business, said Cuban-born Maria Elena Canete, who opened the new local restaurant with her husband, Angel Arturo Canete. The Canetes’ menu features the Gallo Fino Cuban and Cubano Americano pressed sandwiches, cream of black bean soup, and café con leche, of course. In addition to a variety of 12-inch pressed sandwiches, the cafe serves soups, salads, milkshakes and slushes. On a dare or to share, try the café’s Super Cuban, a 24-inch, 5-pound sandwich with a pound each of pork, ham and Swiss cheese, as well as 50 pickle chips, 6 ounces of mustard and lettuce and tomato. The new cafe is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 239-330-7695
■ The Keys Bar & Grille opened Feb. 20 in Gulf Coast Town Center off Interstate 75 in San Carlos Park. Until closing this summer, the local entertainment venue operated for more than a year in The Pavillion shopping center in North Naples. The bar, which continues to feature dueling pianos and live entertainment, includes college night on Thursdays. The restaurant opens at 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. Friday through Sunday. 239- 433-3323
■ L’Orient, a local family-owned Asian restaurant, opened Feb. 29 at Naples Bay Resort, 1490 Fifth Ave. S., in the former location of Olio on Naples Bay, which closed in late 2010. L’Orient is open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily for dinner, and will open for lunch in about a week or so, said manager Chris Thretipthuangsin.
Both Thretipthuangsin’s chef brother and mother are behind the food prepared in L’Orient’s kitchen. Eddy Thretipthuangsin is a classically trained graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, and his mother, Pat, was the personal chef for the royal family in Thailand. Reservations may be made to dine at the Chef’s Table. L’Orient’s menu includes a Thai crab cake, salmon miso, Kobe Wagyu flat iron steak, and a five-spice Muscovy duck. Unique to Naples is the restaurant’s “Cocktail Lab,” where alchemists scientifically measure the elements to create “perfect” cocktails, including a specialty list based on the Chinese horoscope. 239-530-5122
■ Three60 Market opened March 5 at 2891 Bayview Drive in the former location of the Tipsy Seagull Bar & Grill off Bayshore Drive in East Naples. Available for purchase to take home or to dine on tables inside or outside the waterside venue are meats ground on premises, fresh pastas and salads, tomato pies, homemade macaroons, gourmet cheeses, wine and more. The new shop/eatery is open 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day but Wednesdays. 239-774-3038
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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.