One of the worst things about having once lived in Southern California is being exposed to fantastic Mexican cuisine that is very hard to find anywhere else. Excellent Mexican food is often defined by its freshness, its sauces and its simplicity. Over on the gulf coast in Naples, there is a new contemporary Mexican restaurant called Masa. Opened by restaurateur Richard D’amico, Masa is a member of the D’amico restaurant family that includes Campiello, and the fantastic Café’ & Bar Lurcat. (A must try if you visit Naples along with Cote d’ Zur).
In Naples it is known that the Masa margaritas are simply the best. The margarita 160, blood orange and pink guava versions are a few favorites and they are indeed heavenly. Unfortunately, they may be too good, as they are in high demand and the bar wait times can be a little lengthy. However, I have to give the staff a break as during Christmas holidays it can be beyond busy in Naples.
The décor is modern and cool but not overdone. There are a good amount of outside seating which allows one to “people watch” at the Mercato Center. It is nice that the seating arrangement inside can be for large and small parties. Our party of eight was one of four other large parties that night.
The food ranges from quite desirable to being overly salted. The house ceviche was absolute precision having wonderful acidity as well as sweetness. Another table favorite was the calamari on black rice. The calamari was grilled and the black rice is an unusual and delicious touch (author’s favorite of the night). Two more delectable appetizers include the ‘Ensalada de Corazon de Palmitos’ which is a heart of palm salad with a sweet aftertaste and the shrimp tostada is also a delight.
The entrees were good but did not shine as did the creative opening dishes. The scallops were fabulous; perfectly cooked and in a beautiful sauce. The Pollo Yucatan was also a hit with our table. Unfortunately the snapper Veracruz was overly salted which ruined the dish. The tamales were unspectacular and while being just okay, could have been from any Mexican restaurant. This is a fun restaurant with a good vibe. For drinks and appetizers it may be one of the top spots in Naples. The entrees were uneven and maybe a little uninspired (except for the scallops) which saddens me as my quest for that California/Mexican cuisine continues.
In the end though it was a wonderful evening with family, new friends and plenty of laughter.