13851 South Tamiami Trail, Fort Myers, FL, USA
There is a new Restaurant in town and is located in the “castle” as it is nicknamed. Leopardi’s is located where the Tilted Kilt and at least 3 other restaurants once were. Perhaps this one will be a keeper. Leopardi’s opened on November 10th. It was about a month old when we decided to pay them a visit. This is a large restaurant to fill with seating on 2 floors as well as 2 outdoor dining options. The parking lot was full but as there is plenty of seating we did not have to wait.
We were greeted by a hostess who opens the door for those entering and leaving. While she smiled, she was soft spoken and did not really add to the experience. Their motto is Enter as Friends, Leave as Family. As the greeter gives you your first impression perhaps a greeter with a more outgoing personality would be a better fit. The hostess station comes next and it was a bit chaotic. There were several hostesses all talking and hanging around the station. This made it difficult for guests to approach but one hostess did come out from around the back to greet us warmly and take us to our table. We were seated in the right-hand dining room. We were there for a few minutes when a server approached and asked if we had been helped yet. As we had not, she took our drink orders. We thought she was our server, but she was not as another server soon appeared. What we noticed about the service in general is that they are so focused on what they are doing that they struggle with making your feel like family. Other services we observed were quite chatty with their customers and lingered at the tables longer than they should be. Our server neglected to take the menus after we ordered, and they remained there for quite some time. One of our bussers who kept our glasses filled was very personable. They seem to have a lot of staff and service seemed to be a bit chaotic as well. We also noticed that the servers were not familiar with the menu including what desserts were available that day.
As for the ambiance, the room was very noisy making it hard to hear at times and it was at most half full. The tables do not have any tablecloths on them which I think would add some warmth to the room. The room is brighter than it used to be back in the early days. We also noticed the kitchen was a bit noisy too despite our table being about in the middle of the room.
The food on the other hand is awesome. They know what they are doing there. You can tell they are using high quality products in everything they make. They have a large menu with many traditional items as well as more creative items. The bread is awesome and has a crunchy crust. It is served with a trio of Olive Tapenade, Olive Oil with Garlic and Parm Cheese and Diced Eggplant. All 3 were excellent.
For entrees we chose the Sausage with Broccoli Rabe ($19.99) which is thin sausage, broccoli rabe olive oil, garlic and Italian seasoning served over Cavatelli (one of my favorites). It was outstanding although it could have used a bit more of the sauce on it. The cavatelli did not have ridges and that made it harder for the sauce to adhere to it. The portion of sausage is large, and it was delicious. My dining partner had the Chicken Marsala ($19.99) without the mushrooms. There are 2 chicken breasts and they just melt in your mouth. Both entrees came with a mixed salad which was good as well.
They have a dessert case and as our server was not sure what was available or what some of the desserts were, we checked them out for ourselves. We chose to split a Tiramisu and it was excellent. They do have a nice selection of cakes and a torte as well. We did not see the torte on the menu nor did our server know they had that. They have desserts listed on their menu that were not available. We asked what Italian pastries they had, and yes the menu said Italian pastries, but our server had no idea what we were talking about and there none in the case.
As we left, my dining partner inquired from one of the hostesses about gluten free options. In her effort to be helpful, she started to educate my dining partner on what it meant to be gluten free and other information she was not asking about and never really answered her question. Again, training is the solution here.
Service seems to be their Achilles heal at this point. Given what they are trying to achieve their servers and hostesses need more training. In observing the other guests in the dining room, some seemed pleased and others not so much. I do want to give kudos to the manager. The gentlemen at the table next to us knocked the dish that held the bread dipping options onto the floor. She came to clean it up and asked if we were ok and did any of the class hit us. That was very thoughtful of her.
I do hope they get a handle on their service as the food is very good and they have the makings of providing a truly exceptional dining experience. Do give them a try but perhaps wait until their service improves.
Overall rating: Above Average Minus