Restaurant Spotlight; Napoli's Italian Ristorante

Article by Jane Claspy Nesmith
Photography by Justin Fox & Jeff Schmatt

Right in the middle of Iowa’s cold and snowy February comes Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate love. Whether you’ll celebrate with your family, good friends, or with your sweetheart you might be considering a special dinner out.

When we stopped at Napoli’s Italian Ristorante in Marion the other day, we asked co-owners Jonny and Gony Qerimi whether Valentine’s Day is a busy day there. “Last year it was probably our busiest day ever,” Jonny told us with a smile. With its European ambiance and menu items with an Italian flavor, Napoli’s attracts many people looking for a special meal--and those people often become regular customers.

It’s no wonder so many people love Napoli’s--the food is made from fresh ingredients, never prepackaged ones. “We start each meal in our kitchen for each person,” says Jonny Qerimi. “And we’ve never had a disappointed customer.” The Qerimi brothers buy the best ingredients they can find for their menu items, and 99% of what they serve is made in-house.

After our discussion of Valentine’s Day, we decided to start out our meal with sparkling wine from France. Napoli’s has a petite bottle of sparkling wine available--it has just enough for two glasses. Sparkling wine is great way to start a romantic meal or celebrate a special occasion. And Napoli’s has a full bar and delightful wines--in bottles small and large--to complement any of the entrees.

Along with our bubbly we had Napoli’s fresh tossed salads with house-made dressing, and of course Napoli’s famous house-made rolls. All the bread--rolls, bread, and pizza crust--is baked in house at Napoli’s. The rolls are served Italian-style, with a dish of seasoned extra virgin olive oil for dipping.

Our entrées also had an Italian flavor. We tried the Chicken and Shrimp Milanese. Sautéed in butter with garlic, the chicken and shrimp were tender and flavorful, and the sherry cream sauce that accompanied them was rich but not heavy. Sautéed red bell pepper and fresh spinach leaves added color and flavor to the sauce. All this was served with linguine. “This is a very popular dish,” Chef Gony Qerimi told us. “Everyone tells us that we have the best shrimp in town.”

The Qerimi brothers bring in the best fresh seafood for their Mediterranean dishes--a challenge in landlocked Iowa. Because we knew it would be delicious, we tried the Seafood Combo, a plate of fresh mussels, scallops, and shrimp, sautéed in butter with garlic, and served with marinara sauce on linguine. The seafood was tender and delicately-flavored, and the sauce made a perfect complement.

Tilapia was also on the menu, and Gomy cooks it right, sautéed in butter with garlic and lemon rind until it’s slightly crispy on the outside but moist and delicious inside. The lemon wine sauce served with it was light and tangy. The tilapia is served with fresh vegetables, lightly seasoned, and linguine.

Every special meal at Napoli’s needs to end with dessert. The Qerimi brothers get their desserts from an Italian bakery, so you’ll get desserts here you won’t see most places. Valentine’s Day means chocolate to me, so we tried the chocolate cannelloni. It’s a plain cannelloni--a little sweet pasta tube--dipped in chocolate and filled with sweetened, whipped ricotta, beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. There’s also a tall, three-layer chocolate mousse cake, light and moist, with whipped frosting and decorated with a curl of dark chocolate.

For something sweet but not chocolate, we tried the limoncello cake, a moist and light lemon cake with frosting and flakes of white chocolate. None of the desserts is heavy, each has a light texture and is the perfect end to a meal with your loved one.

If you think this sounds like a great Valentine’s Day meal, you might want to make reservations. And if you can’t wait, Napoli’s makes a wonderful place for a special meal any time of the year.

Napoli’s Italian Restaurant
500 Marion Boulevard
Marion, IA 52302
(319) 377-2100

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