By Keyser Saucey
In my college days, I had a roommate that worked at Dwyer’s and I still remember its abrupt closing. Then Icabod’s, Balleyorney, and The Tilted Kilt along with Belushi’s Comedy Bar followed suit, closing suddenly and leaving the building vacant again and again.
I’ve always assumed that the stunning, yet massive, old-world style building with its stone façade simply doesn’t come cheap. And with that many seats to fill, it must be a challenge — but the Leopardi family has stepped up to the plate, opening Leopardi’s Italian Restaurant this past November.
Anthony Leopardi, the restaurant’s owner, may look familiar to you.
He has appeared in local commercials for Cornerstone Builders of Southwest Florida, a remodeling company owned by Leopardi, that focuses on custom kitchens and bathrooms.
I decided to give Leopardi’s Italian Restaurant a test and happened to be in the area for lunch. Although the lunch menu at Leopardi’s is abridged, you’ll find many of the same plates that are offered in the evening as well. There are a variety of pasta dishes including Fettucine Alfredo, Chicken Marsala, Stuffed Shells, and Capellini Toscani, which is angel hair pasta sautéed with spinach and prosciutto di parma in a creamy tomato sauce, amongst other Italian favorites. An array of pizza, subs, and salads are also available in addition to a modest appetizer menu.
From the appetizer menu, I gave Jr’s Stuffed Mushrooms a try.
The Stuffed Mushrooms I’ve had in the past have generally been filled with sausage, cheese and breading, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Jr’s Stuffed Mushrooms featured shrimp mixed with various herbs, breading and cheese, topped with melted mozzarella. The flavors were well matched, and I really enjoyed them.
Crusty bread was also brought to the table with a trio of spreads including marinated eggplant, olive oil with parmesan and balsamic vinaigrette, as well as a black olive spread. The tangy flavor of the black olive spread was my favorite.
My first entrée selection was the Chicken Francese, which I paired with spaghetti, had a beautiful presentation. The battered chicken breast and pasta are sautéed in a lemon and white wine sauce. The light and flavorful sauce tasted fresh and homemade. It had just the right amount of lemon and was delicious over the tender chicken.
The Quattro Stagione Pizza was my second entrée selection. This pizza is topped with mozzarella, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, ham, and black olives.
I enjoyed the combination of ingredients on this pie, but I was particularly impressed with the quality of the dough.
The crust had a great texture that was crispy and chewy.
Upon walking into Leopardi’s, you pass a cake and gelato case. Throughout the meal, those gorgeous looking desserts stayed in the back of my mind. So even though I probably should have passed up on dessert, I just had to have a couple bites.
There are several different cakes and gelato flavors to sample. I chose the Pistachio Cake and the Tiramisu Gelato.
The pistachio cake is green with white icing and it tastes as good as it looks. However, the slice came drizzled with a green sauce on top that looked pretty but had a flavor that didn’t pair well with the pistachio — I believe it may have been lime.
The tiramisu gelato had a great coffee flavor, but I would have liked to see a better presentation than the simple glass bowl in came in. Perhaps some kind of tall cup with a ladyfinger cookie stuck in the top could have complimented it nicely in my opinion.
Overall, I enjoyed Leopardi’s Italian Restaurant. The home-cooked Italian food feels reminiscent of what an Italian grandmother would make for a Sunday meal.
Although the service staff seemed young and inexperienced due to a few small errors that were made, it is apparent that they are eager to please.
The manager made sure to stop by each table and inquire not only about how the food was but also how the service had been and you could tell that she was very open to feedback. For these reasons, I’m giving Leopardi’s 4/5 Sauceys.
Leopardi’s Italian Restaurant
13851 S Tamiami Trail
Fort Myers, FL 33912
Hours: Monday to Thursday 11:00am – 10:00pm
Friday & Saturday 11: 00am – Midnight
Sunday Noon – 9:00pm
Phone: (239) 887-4940
Keyser Saucey is a pseudonym for Naples Herald and Lee Herald’s food critic. Keyser’s trips to area restaurants are unannounced and anonymous, and are paid for by the company. Yes, the staff is very jealous.
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