Fine-dining Captiva restaurant, closed for decades, opens in Fort Myers

In a way, Andrea Mucciga is back home.

The restaurateur first burst onto the local dining scene in 1988 when he opened Bellini’s, a beloved fine dining restaurant on Captiva.

Then came The Riviera on Sanibel a few years later, followed by Dolce Vita in 2000.

His last venture — Traditions on the Beach — was destroyed by Hurricane Ian.

“I spent 36 years on the islands with different restaurants,” Mucciga said. “I didn’t want to hang it up and retire. It’s my passion in life.”

After a few months of “doing a lot of things I hadn’t done for years,” including visiting and spending holidays with family and friends, Mucciga looked for a new location.

A colorful mural depicting Andrea Mucciga's Captiva and Sanibel restaurants greets customers at Bellini's in Fort Myers.
A colorful mural depicting Andrea Mucciga's Captiva and Sanibel restaurants greets customers at Bellini's in Fort Myers.

He found it in Fort Myers — specifically in the former Stillwater Grille site in Cypress Square.

And that’s where he opened Bellini’s on May 8.

The perfect Fort Myers location

“I love this location,” Mucciga said. “It’s very accessible from the island. For my customers for many years, it’s not too far. There’s a lot of traffic, lot of exposure. Also for the staff, it couldn’t be more easier.”

According to Mucciga, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife Sheila and son Carlo, this building has quite a bit of storm damage from Ian too.

Bellini's has two dining rooms and two bars in its new Fort Myers location.
Bellini's has two dining rooms and two bars in its new Fort Myers location.

“We had to redo everything,” he said. “The kitchen, plumbing, air conditioning. We refurbished all the tables and chairs. It’s 100 percent redone. Not even a fork is the same.”

Even before stepping inside, evidence of the makeover can be seen in the freshly painted, bright and inviting umbrella-covered patio.

“My vision is to make the gardens outside and restaurant available for events,” Mucciga said. “Eventually we will specialize in celebrations, weddings, graduations.”

Modern and traditional decor and menu

The restaurant, however, comes first.

Parmesan arancini with marinara is on the tapas menu at Bellini's in Fort Myers.
Parmesan arancini with marinara is on the tapas menu at Bellini's in Fort Myers.

A mural depicting each of Mucciga’s four restaurants greets guests with bright, warm colors. The white tables, bar top and grand piano, paired with light wood accents, make the dining room to the left upon entering sleek, classically modern and airy. The dining area on the right has a more traditional feel with dark bar top, tables and grand piano. With subtle shades of teal, both spaces have an upscale, yet welcoming, feel.

It's the perfect setting for Bellini’s menu which Mucciga says “goes with the times.”

“Our cuisine reflects world cuisine,” he said. “The menu and eventually the daily specials are from kitchens around the world. Seafood, dry-aged and different cuts of meats, fresh vegetables, fresh spices. Everything is fresh and made in-house.”

Andrea Mucciga opened Bellini's in Fort Myers on May 8.
Andrea Mucciga opened Bellini's in Fort Myers on May 8.

Think escargot, braised octopus, fresh oysters, seafood tower, plus chowders and salads. Entrees include seafood wellington, Scottish salmon, duck two ways, plus a wagyu burger, lobster ravioli carbonara, filet mignon, and a veal chop.

Andres Torres leads the kitchen.

“I’ve known him many years,” Mucciga said. He’s a young and talented chef. We work well together. I have a lot of confidence in him.”

Bellini's in Fort Myers is the perfect location to enjoy a bellini.
Bellini's in Fort Myers is the perfect location to enjoy a bellini.

Even the desserts, “will have a touch of the chef.”

Highlights include the tiramisu experience, Nonna’s limoncello & ricotta bread pudding, Basque cheesecake and Matteo’s homemade gelato and sorbet.

Specialty drinks and coffees and an extensive wine list, plus wine lockers, are available.

Tapas hour — 4-6 p.m. at the bar — and live music are daily features.

Customers are treated like family

“At all my restaurants, I’ve been a big supporter of live music,” Mucciga said. “I will always support it and art all my life.”

More: Restaurant news: Bellini's, burgers and two new cafes in Fort Myers, Cape Coral

And as for being away from the islands that were home to his restaurants for decades?

“Fort Myers is ready to step up,” he said. “It’s a little more upscale now and the city is ready. I want to give people someplace to go. I want to give them a place to meet again.”

This spacious dining room is one of the options at Bellini's in Fort Myers.
This spacious dining room is one of the options at Bellini's in Fort Myers.

After three-plus decades of serving locals and visitors to Captiva and Sanibel, Mucciga is ready to continue his work in the new Bellini’s.

“I would see customers who became friends, family,” he said. “So many people who came to my restaurants became family. When we see people come back a second, third time, we know we’re doing something right. It’s why I get up every day. Part of the pleasure to do this job now is to do it again. Come here, visit us like old times. We will again be a big happy family.”

Bellini’s, 13451 McGregor Blvd. in Fort Myers, is open 4-9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 4-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tapas, at the bar only, is from 4-6 p.m. Go to bellinisfortmyers.com or follow on Facebook and Instagram. Reservations can be made by calling (239) 270-5005.

Robyn George is a food and dining reporter for The News-Press. Connect at rhgeorge@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Bellini's restaurant, a longtime Captiva staple, opens in Fort Myers