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Cave Dwelling

The Cave Bistro and Wine Bar

2343 Vanderbilt Beach Rd #602, Naples, FL

For those of you who may have read our suggestions for a broader Naples dining scene, you know that I want the wine bar to become a bigger thing in this town. The Cave is a good start to that process.

Generally speaking, when I go to a place, to get a true sense of the vibe I prefer to sit at the bar and eat, so long as the full menu is available at the bar (which is always should be). I'm not opposed to tables, so long as you can sit kitty corner; across from each other is too much like an interview with the co-op board or a parole hearing. Unfortunately, because traffic going west to east in Naples at 5pm is starting to resemble the Holland Tunnel leaving Manhattan at 5pm, I was a half hour late meeting the skin care empress of southwest Florida for happy hour and due to a packed bar and no reservation were forced to sit outside. Not usually that big a deal, but for some reason I don't love drinking red wine outside during daylight hours.

Nonetheless, I peeked inside and was really impressed with the vibe and visuals on the place. The Cave is clearly trying to resemble the wine caves in the bigger vineyards in Napa and it's pretty much spot on. Usually when places are in a strip mall, like the Cave, and they go for a theme it ends up feeling too much like a Disneyfied version of that theme rather than the real thing (Cinderella's Bar Stool? Drunk Mountain? Winos of the Caribbean?)

The empress ordered some basil lemon tequila thing that was an odd green color but apparently tasted fantastic. I ordered a red wine flight of the "Big and Bold" variety and was pleased to find out it only contained one Napa Cab and had a decent mix of old and new world (I know i'm in the VAST minority in this town, but I think Napa Cabs are overpriced and way too jammy yet one note for my tastes, with some exceptions).

I tend to like a more small plate vibe with my wine pairing, so we went small plates with the Chicken Marsala meatballs, Oysters Rockefeller, a Serrano ham flatbread and some other sort of Jamon tomato thing. Overall, the food was...ok. The meatballs were fine but I wanted more savory with the sweet; they kinda were a little too simple for the presentation. The flatbroad was circular and didn't contain pineapple, so to me that's just a pizza. The sauce was too sweet and the bread had no flavor so that was a bit of a disappointment. The Oysters were way undercooked. Almost like they put breading on top of a raw oyster and served it. The tomatoes with jamon on it (jam on it! jam on it! jam-j-j-jam on it!) was good, but nothing spectacular.

The lackluster food notwithstanding, it's still a gorgeous room with a terrific, broad wine list. Next time I'll hit more of the mains to make sure I didn't miss out on something or order poorly.

Now if you'll excuse me, it have to go take a ride on Jungle Booze Cruise.

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