Napoli’s Italian Ristorante Spotlight

Article by Cindy Hadish
Photography by Justin Fox

Diners can experience an authentic taste of Italy at Napoli’s Italian Ristorante in Marion.

“If you want real Italian cuisine, this is the place,” said Johnny Qerimi, co-owner of the restaurant, which opened in 2011 at 500 Marion Blvd. “If you can’t afford to go to Italy, you can come here and have the same food.”

Burnished antique hues on the walls, arched architectural features and paintings of Italian vistas – including a tranquil scene of Venice – provide the perfect backdrop to experience that cuisine, along with white tablecloths and soft lighting for a romantic setting.

The restaurant seats 100, with nearly 50 more on the patio, a hot-spot during warmer weather. While Napoli’s is popular year-round, February is especially busy, particularly on Valentine’s Day, when most tables are converted to two-person seating. Qerimi recommends making a reservation for that night to ensure a spot, promising to do what it takes to accommodate everyone, without rushing them.

Even with the upscale ambiance, the menu at Napoli’s is affordable. Entrèes are served with a fresh mixed green salad or soup, with appetizers and desserts also available, as well as wine by the glass or bottle from Italy, Spain and California, along with a selection of beer.

Qerimi’s brother, co-owner Gony Qerimi, sticks to the kitchen, while Johnny Qerimi keeps to the front of the house, doing what he loves by greeting guests. “We have the best customers,” he said, citing the majority who are regulars. In their youth, the brothers split time between the United States and the Italian island of Sicily, and grew up in the restaurant industry, following in the footsteps of both their father and grandfather.

Most items at Napoli’s are family recipes and everything on the menu is made from scratch, from salad dressings to appetizers to entrèes and desserts. Warm dinner rolls set the tone for our meal, with a healthy seasoned olive oil for dipping. Salad greens were fresh and the house tomato vinaigrette dressing was peppery with, according to Qerimi, “a lot” of different spices.

We had our choice of three popular entrèes and each of us sampled all three: the pasta primavera, seafood combo and Chicken Marsala.

The pasta primavera included penne pasta, broccoli, black olives, carrots and other vegetables, cooked to perfection, with feta cheese and a light olive oil. Qerimi said the dish is particularly popular with customers looking for a healthy option. Those menu options are many, with Napoli’s designated a Blue Zones Project restaurant for its healthy choices, Qerimi said, pointing to the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet.

Seafood lovers took to the seafood combo, which features jumbo shrimp, tender mussels and scallops, with linguine pasta in a red sauce. The dish, another example of a healthy, and tasty, choice, went quickly at our table.

The favorite of most in our group proved to be the Chicken Marsala, which is also among the most popular items on the menu, Qerimi said. You’d be hard-pressed to find chicken more tender, while slices of portobello mushrooms add flavor and elevate the quality of the dish, alongside spaghetti noodles and a rich sauce made with Marsala wine.

A light, refreshing Pinot Grigio white wine and red Chianti, a well-known wine from Italy, accompanied our meal.

Nightly specials are available in addition to the regular menu options, with steak featured on Fridays and Saturdays. Qerimi said only the finest ingredients are used in all of the dishes, and customers can expect each dish to be made from scratch. “You can’t come here and be disappointed in the food,” he said.

My only disappointment was being too full to try more. I’ve heard great reviews about the restaurant’s handmade pizzas and the tomato bisque soup. Appetizers, such as jalapeno peppers, fried calamari, bruschetta and stuffed mushrooms, also look tempting.

The dessert menu alone would be worth a special trip, featuring such tantalizing choices as New York cheesecake, plain or chocolate cannoli, chocolate mousse cake, crème brûlée, limoncello – a lemon-infused sponge cake – Italian cream cake and house-made tiramisu, made with cocoa, espresso and mascarpone cheese and layered with ladyfinger biscuits.

Napoli’s is open seven days a week, with lunch hours starting at 11 a.m.

Napoli’s Italian Ristorante
500 Marion Blvd., Marion
(319) 377-2100

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