Monday, March 13, 2017

An Italian Valentine’s Day Dinner

One of our few gripes about living in the paradise that is East Tennessee is the lack of good ethnic restaurants.  In my opinion…lots of luck in finding decent Greek, Polish, Vietnamese or German food in this area.  The lack of quality Italian cuisine has been a particular issue for us.  We moved here from Chicago where there are many good to great Italian restaurants.

Well, I guess that we just didn’t look hard enough for quality Italian food or we relied on less than accurate restaurant feedback…

Our friends Norm and Linda made reservations for Valentine’s Day dinner at Naples Restaurant in Knoxville and they invited us to join them.  We had a furniture delivery that day so we weren’t sure we’d make it…but the timing worked out just fine.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why we hadn’t dined at this restaurant before now… (I failed to take an exterior photo so I borrowed this picture from Naples website…the flower beds weren’t in bloom on Valentine’s Day!)

This is the small bar/part of the waiting area just inside the front entrance to the restaurant.  Despite it being a busy ‘dining’ holiday with Norm and Linda’s reservations, we were seated right away.

This location has served as an Italian restaurant since 1955.  Joe and Hazel Alberti operated Alberti’s Italian Restaurant for 23 years.  When they retired, Chuck Naples and Ray Ward purchased the business and changed the name to Naples which it remains today.  It’s still called “Naples” despite the fact that Chuck Naples moved to Arkansas.  The Luper family then partnered with Ray Ward, buying him out in 1998.  The Luper family still operates the restaurant. 

Naples Restaurant is not a huge venue… There is another dining area through the hallway at the back left.  Linda, Norm (in red,with his back to the camera) and Laurie are at the first table at the right of this photo.

Note the dark area in the back right corner of the restaurant…more on that below.

I know that the photo is dark but I think that you can see people in that little ‘room’ or private box.  I believe that there are at least 2 such private dining ‘booths’ at Naples Restaurant.  While it’s not for me apparently many people think that this special seating is quite romantic.  It’s certainly something that is rarely seen in any restaurant! 

Now onto what’s really important…the food!  Our efficient and pleasant waiter brought us this plate of nice bread along with some nice dipping sauce.  I will admit to being primarily responsible for whipping out the bread supply!

If these 2 appetizers look similar it’s because the base ingredient is the same…gnocchi.  I can’t recall what Norm and Linda’s gnocchi was topped with (first photo), but ours was topped with pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes in garlic oil with feta cheese. ($7.99) This appetizer was so good that I could have eaten 2 orders of it by myself!

I also learned something new.  I always thought that gnocchi was made with semolina or ordinary wheat flour.  Wrong!  I now know that gnocchi can be made with potato…like these luscious crispy potato cake beauties…or even corn meal!

Laurie and I opted for a side Caesar salad. ($4.99 with entrée) This version of a Caesar salad is made with fresh romaine lettuce that was tossed with Naples homemade eggless dressing, Kalamata olives and parmesan cheese.  Despite the fact that we both love ‘real’ Caesar salads made with egg and anchovies, this was an excellent salad.

Norm ordered a salad too… This Half Wedge Salad ($5.99) is the best presentation of a wedge salad that I’ve ever seen. The Tuscan Wedge Salad consists of a crisp iceberg wedge with apple bacon, gorgonzola crumbles, balsamic marinated tomatoes, walnuts topped with a molasses drizzle and a choice of dressings. I’m ordering a wedge salad myself the next time we visit Naples Restaurant!

Laurie spotted one of her favorite Italian dishes on the list of specials.  There was no real doubt that she’d order the Lobster Ravioli. ($21.99) She liked this version quite a bit but she would have preferred a little creamier sauce with it.

Linda went for the Scampi Amaretto. ($19.99) With this offering, gulf shrimp are tossed in a toasted almond and Amaretto cream sauce over fettuccini.  This is an entrée that I & Laurie would have enjoyed too…

Norm and Linda have eaten here every Valentine’s Day for the past several years…and now we know why!  I can’t remember the last time (in 38 years) that Laurie and I ate out on Valentine’s Day…

Norm decided to order an appetizer with a side of spaghetti for his dinner.  Since Naples doesn’t have Italian Sausage and Peppers on the entrée portion of the menu, this was his solution to that issue. ($7.99) His ‘entrée’ consisted of Italian sausage, peppers and onions sautéed in fresh garlic and oil then it was lightly dusted with Romano cheese.  He was a happy camper!

My dinner wasn’t on Linda’s list of acceptable entrees…but it was excellent!  This was Naples version of Veal Saltimbocca…veal sautéed with prosciutto ham and provolone and served in a white wine sage sauce. ($19.99) It was excellent and to enhance this dish, you might note that the veal was accompanied by a couple more of those crispy potato gnocchi!  I also had a side of decent if not great pasta Alfredo… 

OK…after these sumptuous meals, we should have let well enough alone and ended our dining experience!  But after all, it was Valentine’s Day… Norm decided to have a Crème Brulee…even though it was an odd flavor for this particular dessert…key lime! ($6.99) He enjoyed it but he would have preferred a good old standard issue Crème Brulee.

Linda went for the Spumoni. ($5.99) This in-house creation featuring layers of chocolate, dark cherry and pistachio ice cream was topped with whipped cream…and it was very good!

Laurie and I decided to split a dessert.  She said that I should order whatever I wanted as she’d be fine with whatever I chose.  I’m really not into cake so I don’t know why I decided to share a slice of Chocolate Italian Crème Cake. ($6.99) This well presented rich layered chocolate cake has coconut and walnuts in it plus it features cream cheese frosting.  Note the whipped cream as well.  It was OK and it may be fabulous as these cakes go but it was just too rich for my taste…

I forgot to mention that Valentine’s Day diners at Naples Italian Restaurant were treated to a quartet of tableside crooners… The crowd seemed to enjoy their efforts but I thought that they were only just OK.  Of course, this is coming from a guy who can’t carry a note in a bucket and who was kicked out of mixed chorus in the 9th grade because he was ruining the sound of the class…

We were very happy with our dining experience at Naples Italian Restaurant and we will return!  It is now our choice for upscale Italian cuisine in the greater Knoxville area.  This restaurant is located at 5500 Kingston Pike in Knoxville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-584-5033.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a bit of Italian cuisine!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Sounds like it hit the spot for Valentine's Day!

  2. The presentations are lovely, Dave, and the food looks very appetizing! And I love the Gingham tablecloth, too! If you ever come to Montreal, we have wonderful Greek restaurants here...and they really know how to make lamb chops, too! :)

  3. Goodness---I'm so full just seeing all of that delicious food that I think I'm gonna POP.... (Just finished lunch)... ha

    I've never heard of Naples --but I'm sure you two will be going back there again...

    When I first moved to TN from TX---I had an awful time trying to find any good Mexican Restaurants... Still haven't found many up here compared to Texas.... Oh Well...


  4. It's been a while but we've eaten at Naples for 30+ years and it's always been the go-to place. I knew it would be good when an Italian guy from northern WV named Zappa took me there for the first time.

  5. Dear Dave, I am so glad that you enjoyed the meal and are looking forward to going back. I probably would love the chocolate cake dessert. Catherine