Napoli’s Italian Ristorante
Article by Shannon McGraw
Photography by Justin Fox
Brothers Johnny and Gony Qerimi were raised in the kitchen, cooking and creating specialty dishes handed down through the family for generations. Their father and grandfather in Italy were talented in the kitchen and passed those secret traits to them. When the brothers came to America from their hometown of Sicily, they stepped right into the family business: cooking Italian food. With culinary school degrees from both Italy and the United States, they share their authentic Italian cuisine at their Marion restaurant, Napoli’s Italian Ristorante (pronounced NA-po-lees).
Napoli’s quickly became one of my absolute favorite places to dine when craving Italian. Now that they have become a designated Blue Zone restaurant, I feel like I can indulge even more. Napoli’s now offers a lighter lunch menu to give patrons even healthier options. The Blue Zones Project is a community improvement initiative designed to provide healthy choices to consumers. I appreciate the thought, and after the holidays I needed the healthier choice.
I stopped in recently for lunch with a couple of friends and tried out one of the new menu items. We started with Napoli’s warm, house-made rolls and a fresh mixed green salad. All of the bread--rolls, bread, and pizza crust--is baked in-house. The rolls are served Italian-style, with a dish of seasoned extra virgin olive oil for dipping; a much healthier and flavorful option over butter.
From the light and fresh lunch menu I ordered the Penne Pasta Primavera. The Penne pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and mixed with broccoli, sliced carrots, and black olives with a drizzle of olive oil and topped with crumbled feta cheese. It is a delicious and heart healthy dish that was packed full of flavor.
With so many options to choose from it can be difficult to decide on just one entrée. The Three of Italy appeased the appetite of one of my lunch guests, a trio of Chicken Parmigiana, lasagna, and Alfredo. The Chicken Parmigiana is a wonderful breaded chicken breast, slightly crispy on the outside but moist and delicious inside, topped with mozzarella and zesty marinara sauce. Their lasagna is a filling, meaty dish full of Italian herbs and spices and topped with mozzarella. The Alfredo is one of my favorite dishes. The sauce is luscious and creamy and incomparable.
As a seafood lover, one of my friends always orders the Seafood Combo. Each time we have lunch she raves about how she can not find this dish any place else that matches Napoli’s. The Qerimi brothers bring in the freshest seafood possible for their dishes--a challenge in landlocked Iowa. The Seafood Combo is a beautiful 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. “This is a very popular dish,” Chef Gony Qerimi told us. “Everyone tells us that we have the best seafood in town.”
It’s really no wonder why so many people love Napoli’s--the food is made from fresh ingredients, never prepackaged ones, and 99 percent of what they serve is made in-house.
“We start each meal in our kitchen for each person,” says Jonny Qerimi. “And we’ve never had a disappointed customer.”
Since I felt like I had chosen such a healthier lunch option than my usual, sharing a couple of desserts was in order. The Qerimi brothers get their desserts from an Italian bakery, so you’ll get desserts here you won’t see most places. The chocolate cannelloni was delicious. The cannelloni is a little sweet pasta tube, dipped in chocolate and filled with sweetened, whipped ricotta; beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. For something sweet without the dark chocolate, we shared the limoncello cake. It is a moist and light lemon cake with frosting and flakes of white chocolate. None of the desserts are heavy, and each has a light airy texture and is the perfect end to a meal.
When we had a chance to speak with Jonny we asked him about Valentine’s Day. With its European ambiance and flavorful Italian menu items, Napoli’s attracts many people looking for a special meal with their loved one. “It is always a busy day here,” Jonny told us with a smile. “Last year it was probably our busiest day ever.”
If you think that this sounds like a great Valentine’s Day meal, I suggest making reservations ahead. If you can’t wait, Napoli’s makes a wonderful place for a special meal any time of the year and for any occasion.
If you’re unsure about the menu items or pairing a wine with your meal from their extensive wine list, their professional and experienced staff will help you find the right item for you.
As always, our entrées and experience was superb! Experience a little corner of Italy with authentic Italian cuisine at Napoli’s Italian Restaurant. Call today to make your reservations at for an unforgettable meal.
Napoli’s Italian Restaurant
500 Marion Blvd, Marion