How One Florida Restaurant is Redefining Fine Dining

Nolita florida

NAPLES, Florida – With one bite of the rigatoni or margherita pizza at the new Nolita restaurant, you’re transported from Southwest Florida to Florence, Italy.

“What I’ve tried to do is keep it real, authentic Italian,” said the facility’s third-generation pizza chef, Gabriele Candela. “It’s a science.”

Whether they’re cooking wood-fired pizzas at 730 degrees or plating delicate and creamy mozzarella, Nolita’s staff takes fine-dining to the next level. It’s easy to see why The Ritz-Carlton hotel that’s home to the new restaurant attracts visitors from as far away as Hong Kong and France.

A visit to Nolita is an unrivaled experience.

“When it comes to fine dining, I think people are looking at this more as an experience than just dinner out,” Emmie Lancaster, senior marketing manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, told The Food Institute. “You want delicious food, and you want a beautiful menu, a great place, and a great atmosphere.

“You want that full experience. And I think people are willing to spend for that experience.”

Inflation has hit wallets hard in recent years, yet fine-dining establishments like Nolita have held their own.

“With everything that’s going on, it’s nice to kind of have an evening away,” Lancaster said. “I think fine-dining hasn’t really been affected by (inflation) just because of what it offers people.”

To thrive, of course, fine-dining restaurants must offer an evening that feels like a memorable event. In that respect, Nolita delivers.

The Florida restaurant’s chefs occasionally take cooking classes in Italy. The restaurant’s sauces, featuring San Marzano tomatoes, stand out. The cheese is imported, the pizza dough equal parts airy and crisp, the artisan pastas made in-house.

“Chef Gabriele studied in Napoli and brought back so many of those little nuances that make the pizza and pasta special,” Lancaster noted.

Marketing Musts

Marketing a fine-dining establishment is challenging in today’s high-cost world, but it’s far from impossible.

“When I’m doing marketing, a lot of it is that awareness about the culinary experience here,” Lancaster explained.

The Nolita staff worked with its Southwest Florida community to get the word out ahead of the restaurant’s January 21st opening by hosting events and inviting prominent business leaders and media outlets. Lancaster wanted to make it clear that Nolita is open to the public despite being located within a Ritz-Carlton, and she wanted local consumers to get a feel for the restaurant’s Italian fare and drinks.

“You have to give people a little taste,” the senior marketing manager said, “by bringing those people in. Then, (with) Instagram, people and reporters can show that this is a great, upscale casual dining experience.”

Lancaster wanted to send a message that Nolita offers comforting Italian food in a welcoming environment. Once those boxes are checked, marketing any restaurant becomes rather easy – regardless of the economic climate.

“You need to be a place that delivers delicious food, great customer service, a friendly atmosphere,” Lancaster said. “And I just believe people want to come because dining is such a big part of who we are as a culture and the world coming together.”

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