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Swingin Party (By The Sea)


494 5th Ave South, Naples, FL

Naples may be the least punk rock city in the US, if not the world (Vatican City and Provo, Utah are probably up there as well). It is true that the Laura Jane Grace from the fantastic punk rock band Against Me! (go buy "New Wave" immediately, it's a masterpiece) was born here, but they made their fame up in Gainesville. And yes, I know about Dominic Fike from Euphoria as well, but his story isn't the traditional Naples story (although it should get more press than it does so that people know that there is more diversity in Naples than you'd think). But let's be honest, the checkered jackets and pink shorts don't exactly scream subversion. I know this is a town full of peacocks trying to stand out, but when everyone is peacocking, it's the raven who stands alone (I wear a LOT of black) observing...waiting...

I'm not suggesting being punk rock is a good thing, or not being punk rock is a bad thing. After all, so much of the ethos and aesthetic of punk rock comes from discontent or feeling left out, so what is the need for that if everyone is so happy and well...content. And if you've ever spent time in Naples on Fifth Avenue South, people seem pretty damn happy there...or drunkenly happy anyway. Normally people seeing you drinking too much and ask if everything is ok; in Naples people ask if something is wrong if you're NOT drinking. There's a reason why Naples consistently wins awards for "Happiest City", "Most Content Place" etc...

So imagine my surprise when I found myself talking to an impossibly handsome man, we're talking a mix between Dallas-era Patrick Duffy and a pre-infomercial Chuck Woolery, talking about my beloved Replacements and Husker Du. When I meet people from Minneapolis, I often ask how familiar they are with them, and they know of them, but usually the conversation stops there. Impossibly Handsome Bartender Man not only knew his stuff about the records, name-checking the times he saw them, where he saw them, etc.. but he even know that Bob Mould after taking a break from songwriting was a writer for WCW wrestling's TV shows. Perhaps being an impossibly attractive bartender in the least punk rock street in the least punk rock town in America is actually..very punk rock...quoth the raven?

Which brings me to the actual experience of eating and drinking in Delmar. It's worth noting in addition to the handsome bartender there's also an Absurdly Attractive Bartender Lady who looks something like a post-modern Raquel Welch. Perhaps Delmar hires these specimen so that they can be the rabbit in the social race, they get the gender juices flowing leading to more conversation, more drinks and more profit?

Delmar is a very very large space, occupying two floors smack dab in the middle of Fifth Ave South. I didn't make it upstairs (I'm impossibly lazy once seated on a bar stool) but was told upstairs was as lively as downstairs. Much like its sister restaurant, Ocean Prime (written about here),there's definitely a scene here with its own BOGO botox vibe, lots of deep revealing cleavage on both the men and the women and plenty of discussion of summer and winter residences. This vibe makes it all the more remarkable that the food was actually..pretty tasty.

Delmar translates to "of the sea" or "from the sea" so the menu is about 2/3 seafood based with the requisite meat dishes just to keep those Midwest meat and potatoes alphas appeased. I love me some sea creatures, so after much discussion with Impossibly Handsome Bartender man, who makes a tasty martini, btw, I started with the charred octopus.

Octopus is a funny thing (also responsible for one of the best John Cusack lines ever "NT, Tentacles"). It's a dish of extremes. It's either really well done, crisped and flavorful on the outside, with a nice internal tenderness that blends well whatever sauce you're pairing it with, or just absolutely awful resembling a flavorless stick of Hubba Bubba. This was the former mixed in with a zesty but not overpowering bell pepper pesto vinaigrette sauce. In fact, it was so good that the locally famous vlogger lady next to me smeared her fingers in my dish to get more of said zest. The only thing I didn't love about the dish was that the pieces were a bit too big. Too big for a single bite, but too small for too satisfying bites.

Next up was a more-delicious-than-I-was-expecting golden beet salad.

I like the concept of beets (very healthy, lots of vitamins, leave funny stains on your fingers), but more often they taste too sugary and don't balance well with whatever the pairing. Partially because the beets were not overly sweet, and partially because it was balanced with a heavily herbed yogurt that felt more like whipped ricotta, this was one of the better beet salads I've had anywhere. My only complaint was, again, the pieces of the beats were a bit chunky for my liking. Someone get that kitchen a ginsu, i'd hate to see how big the poke chunks would be if they ever went Hawaiian.

My main was the duck confit agnolotti. I know what you're thinking...didn't you just say that you you loved yourself some sea creatures? Ducks aren't sea..oh ...they are water-based..I see what you did there...pretty clever, Mr. Bites.

Agnolotti are essentially mini ravioli frequently stuffed with meat or game and cheese (Note: DO NOT LOOK UP THE ETYMOLOGY OF THE WORD. TRUST ME). I was expecting just a simple presentation of pasta, but instead got a very savory (almost too savory) bit of duck that you fork onto the pasta and then put it in your mouth. Alone, the duck was way too intense, but paired with the softness of the ricotta and the light butter sauce, it was a nice hearty combo.

I don't normally order dessert when dining alone at the bar (oh poor Mr. Bites..eating alone? Don't worry, sometimes it's nice to be that raven watching the peacocks strut about) but I had an half full glass of Barbera and after almost taking a left turn to the baklava, steered myself back to the chocolate mousse cake because dark chocolate and red wine may be the single most pleasantly decadent mouth feeling. It's the fantastic piece of sushi of dessert pairings.

This mousse was no different ("and you Chocolate Mousse, I will miss you most of all") Rich, flavorful with a tiny hint of the smokiness of coffee, once I washed it down with a sip of the red, joy began.

With the built in Fifth Ave South crowd, I' not sure Delmar needs to be as tasty as it is; they'd make money anyway, but if you feel like being around happy punkless people, it's got some tasty delight to it. Happy except for those two guys who initially stole my seat at the bar, those guys were jerks. Also, does anyone know if the guy in the vest went home with the looks-like-she-was-too-top-heavy-to-walk-properly body type...?

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