We had heard rumblings of a new seafood restaurant going in at the corner of Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South for a while. “The executive chef (Jacob Jasinski) got five stars from Forbes,” we heard. “He’s coming from Ocean House in Rhode Island.” “Everything is pulled straight from Europe—France, Italy and Greece.” “It’s going to be different than anything else in Naples.”
So when Sails Restaurant finally opened its doors at the end of February, we were ready to see for ourselves if it’d live up to the hype. This was no ordinary date night—it so happened to be our fourth anniversary, so we had extra high hopes.
The space itself is really beautiful. Co-owner Veljko Pavicevic graciously gave us a tour, pointing out each of the carefully selected details: 100 percent French cotton linens; Italian leather seating (which went through nine design iterations before Veljko and his fiancée, Corinne Ryan, Sails’ other co-owner, gave it their stamp of approval); copper pepper mills from Greece; climate-controlled French oak wine lockers—all of it custom made.
In fact, it seems like the only things that aren’t custom made are the ones that are vintage—like the antique crystal that’s been in Veljko’s family for 60 years, borrowed from his grandmother’s collection. It’s found a new home on the Greek marble, sail-shaped bar.
But more than the decor, Sails is about the food. The concept recalls an authentic coastal European dining experience, where you choose your fish from an extremely fresh roster of options, including turbot from Spain, alfonsini from New Zealand and tiger prawns from Australia (Veljko’s favorite). And get this: It’s flown from Athens, Greece, to Miami every day and delivered fresh to Sails, no freezing involved. “This is the only restaurant in Naples where you can get fresh, not frozen, Alaskan king crab,” Veljko says proudly.
Jesse chose the wood-grilled octopus (above) for his first course, which came with a calamari and bean salad, fried anchovy and a citrus-ink emulsion. I, being slightly less adventurous, opted for the crab with mango, avocado and spiced tomato consommé. Both were fresh, flavorful and beautifully presented.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Sails is its method for preparing fish. The culinary team utilizes a European cherry wood-burning grill, situated in the heart of the restaurant’s French-style open kitchen, to infuse a genuine smokey flavor you don’t usually find in seafood. Jesse and I chose the Spanish turbot with roasted vegetables, and it was fantastic, especially paired with a glass of Sancerre. If you’re not in the mood for fish, you’re sure to find something else on the menu to tempt you, like the crab lasagna or clam linguini with Calabrian chili. The crudo—raw fish dressed with olive oil, citrus and seasoning—is another Sails specialty.
And while Sails is somewhat of a pescetarian’s dream, there are, of course, several meat options, including a tomahawk rib steak and Australian grass-fed prime tenderloin.
For dessert, we took Veljko’s personal recommendation and tried the Valrhona chocolate soufflé, complete with Grand Marnier anglaise and vanilla ice cream. It’s surprisingly lighter than it looks and provides just the right amount of sweetness.
Sails, we decided, is pretty much the perfect date night restaurant: a cozy setting, a well-curated wine list, a menu primed for sharing, and you’re perfectly positioned for an after-dinner stroll along Fifth Avenue South. Perhaps we’ve found a new anniversary tradition.
301 Fifth Ave. S., Naples
(239) 360-2000 | Reservations
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Thank you to Sails Restaurant for hosting us.