MARION — Napoli’s Italian Restaurant opened twice — once on February 14, 2011, and a second time just last month — and for some very good reasons.
The family-owned restaurant, which built a following in its first year, wanted to raise the bar, so to speak, on the restaurant’s overall offerings to their patrons. Napoli’s initially was a bring-your-own-wine-and-we’ll-uncork-it-for-you establishment.
In late March the owners closed the restaurant for three and a half weeks to renovate. With a recently acquired liquor license in hand, they designed and built a new bar area that serves wine and beer.
They included a lunch menu in addition to their full dinner menu, augmented the interior of the restaurant’s warm-toned décor, and created an outdoor dining area that presents like a well-manicured garden patio setting.
Scott Blanchard, a Cedar Rapids native, has 20-plus years of restaurant business expertise under his belt and was sought out by Napoli’s owners, Goni and Muho Veseli, to manage the restaurant.
“I’d recently helped launch Smuggler’s Wharf down in the NewBo district, and then assisted with the opening of Lava Fusion,” Blanchard said. “The boys (as he likes to call the Veselis) found me and asked if I’d help them reopen their restaurant, and it’s worked out beautifully,” he said.
“Business is up 30 percent already.”
Blanchard formerly owned restaurants in Independence and East Dubuque, Ill. The restaurant employs 15 — three of them chefs.
“We kept all the good recipes,” he explained, “but we wanted to add daily specials into our offerings as well. Mondays are half-price pizzas, Wednesdays will be buy one entrée, get another for half off, and on Saturday nights from 9 to 11 p.m. we are going to have half-price appetizers.”
Everything at Napoli’s is made from scratch, including the two kinds of breads served at the table with olive oil, feta cheese, fresh garlic and basil seasonings.
A new grill is scheduled for installation soon, and then the restaurant will be serving steaks and fish in addition to the whole line of Italian dishes that were created from Veseli family recipes.
“The Veselis are full-blooded Italian — they definitely know how to cook good Italian foods,” Blanchard said.
- Michael Chevy Castranova