The Paradise Coast of Florida is so named for good reason. Made up of beloved Florida destinations—Naples, Marco Island, and the Everglades—the area is known for its beautiful beaches, delightful weather, and hospitality. But the most important element of making paradise a place on earth? Great food. And the cuisine of the Paradise Coast is thriving, thanks to the chefs who call this place home. The next time you take a trip down to this iconic coast, here are the chefs you need to know.
Chef Vincenzo Betulia: Osteria Tulia, Bar Tulia, and The French
Sicilian chef Vincenzo Betulia has lived and worked in Naples for 17 years, and during this time, he's opened three of the most popular restaurants in town: Osteria Tulia, the adjacent Bar Tulia, and newly opened The French Brasserie Rustique. While the first two pay homage to Chef Betulia's Italian heritage, The French Brasserie Rustique (colloquially called "The French") specializes in quintessential brasserie cuisine, like beef tartare, coq au vin, and cassoulet. Though his cuisine ranges from restaurant to restaurant, Chef Betulia always focuses on carefully sourcing his ingredients to create timeless dishes. This passion has garnered him praise from USA Today's 10Best, which named Osteria Tulia the best Italian restaurant in Naples. He was also named to the Best Chefs America list for three consecutive years.
Chef de Cuisine Gerald Sombright: Ario Restaurant in the JW Marriott
Tucked within the JW Marriott Hotel in Marco Island, Ario melds local ingredients with global flavors, with Chef de Cuisine Gerald Sombright at the helm. Sombright brings 15 years of experience to the restaurant. He began his career in St. Louis, where he cut his teeth at Cielo Restaurant and Annie Gunn's under James Beard Award–winning chef Lou Rook. Now at Ario, he draws inspiration from the beauty of Marco Island and its native ingredients. The menu focuses on dry-aged meats and local seafoods, with dishes like the 34-ounce wagyu tomahawk ribeye and a pan-seared trout with caper-almond brown butter and pickled ramps.
Chef Asif Syed: 21 Spices
Born and raised near Hyderabad, India, Chef Asif Syed brings the diverse flavors of Indian cuisine—influenced by years of overseas travels—to Naples and his restaurant, 21 Spices. His goal is to introduce authentic Indian culture to diners in the US, delivering classics like chicken korma and tikka masala, as well as a selection of biryani (rice dishes) inspired by those made in his hometown. Syed also hosts Indian cooking classes in the restaurant on weekends, so check to see if one is happening during your stay.
Chef David Nelson: Timeless Eatery
David Nelson was raised and educated in Minnesota, working his way up to executive sous chef at Mission American Kitchen & Bar. That is, until he got tired of the frigid winters and moved to Naples, where he worked at Truluck's Seafood Steak & Crab, Avenue 5, and the Inn on Fifth. For Chef David, now executive chef at Timeless - An MHK Eatery, "every dish should be an experience." His cooking encapsulates that philosophy every day, as he draws inspiration from his customers and focuses on combining good technique with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Chef Jason Goddard: Sea Salt Naples
Jason Goddard was born and raised in Iowa on a small sustainable farm. After spending time working with local butchers and at organic cafes, he moved to Naples and brought his love of local, sustainable food with him. Now at Sea Salt, Goddard works under Chef Fabrizio Aielli. Together, they offer a menu that uses 130 different types and flavors of salts from around the world to bring out the most unique flavors from Florida's finest ingredients. Dishes rotate seasonally, but always feature a range of fresh seafood, from the premium raw bar to local black grouper and fresh Spanish branzino.