Article by Cindy Hadish

Love is in the air this month and Napoli’s Italian Ristorante is ready for its busiest day of the year.

Valentine’s Day is tops in the number of customers who flock to the Marion restaurant, which features authentic Italian cuisine. “We make it special that day,” said co-owner Johnny Qerimi. “If you want to surprise your wife, that’s where you bring her – to Napoli’s.”

Valentine’s Day is special for another reason at the restaurant, located at 500 Marion Blvd. Qerimi noted that Napoli’s opened seven years ago on Valentine’s Day. “It was crazy,” he said, adding that the anniversary was recently marked with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by the Marion Chamber of Commerce.

The restaurant has continually built its following of faithful customers since that day, which Qerimi attributes to Napoli’s success. “We build good relationships with our customers and they support us,” he said of the local, family-owned restaurant. “We appreciate every one of them.”

While Valentine’s Day features a special menu and reservations are recommended to ensure seating, the day is followed closely by Mother’s Day as the second busiest day for Napoli’s. “It’s special,” Qerimi said. “We’ve got to take care of the moms, too.”

Customers looking to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries, or who just want to experience authentic Italian food can stop by anytime between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., as the restaurant is open seven days a week.

Qerimi’s brother, co-owner Gony Qerimi, serves as Napoli’s chef, while Johnny Qerimi sticks to the front of the house. In their youth, the brothers split time between the United States and the Italian island of Sicily, where they grew up in the restaurant industry, following in the footsteps of both their father and grandfather. They now have 16 employees at the Marion location.

“We are from Italy. We know Italian food,” Qerimi said, contrasting Napoli’s with other restaurants that don’t serve true authentic Italian cuisine. “We grew up with this food. This is the real thing.”

The vast majority of menu items, from the bread to dressings to main courses and desserts, are created in-house. “With each customer, we start from zero – from scratch,” Qerimi said, adding that the kitchen does not even have a microwave. “That’s why our food tastes so good here. We know how to cook it.”

Several dishes are new to the menu, including sea bass, made with a white wine lemon sauce, along with pasta and vegetables. All entrèes are served with a fresh mixed green salad or soup and homemade rolls, with a healthy seasoned olive oil served on the side for dipping.

While the white tablecloths and candlelight ambiance of the restaurant suggest high-end dining, the food is surprisingly affordable, with lunches starting at $9.95 and dinners slightly more.

Customers looking for healthy options can select from a number of seafood dishes, such as Shrimp Scampi, with garlic, basil, onion and roasted red pepper in a white wine and marinara sauce with a touch of lemon, or Salmon Picatta, prepared with capers, tomatoes and a special white wine and lemon sauce. Some customers come simply for coffee and one of the mouth-watering desserts, including crème brûlée, limoncello – a lemon-infused sponge cake – and house-made tiramisu, while others stop by for a bottle of wine and appetizers.

Popular main dishes include Fettuccine Alfredo, Chicken Parmigiana – breaded chicken baked with mozzarella over spaghetti – and Chicken Marsala, with sauteed mushrooms in a marsala wine sauce.

Handmade pizzas and lasagna are among other popular options and Napoli’s offers a children’s menu, featuring dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs and cheese ravioli. The restaurant also offers an extensive wine list, with the Acquesi Moscato D’Asti among the top choices, served either by the glass or the bottle. Beer is also available.

Quiet music provides a soothing backdrop, while soft lighting conveys warmth even on cold winter days.

Napoli’s website notes that for Italians, the kitchen is central to the hearts and minds of families, with an abundance of Italian quotes about food. Their favorite conveys one that they hope is meaningful to their customers, as well. “A tavola non si invecchia!” Translation: At the table with good friends and family you do not become old!

Napoli’s Italian Ristorante
500 Marion Blvd., Marion
319.377.2100
www.napolismarion.net

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