As soon as the winter chill casts a shadow over New York, daydreams consist of sandy beaches, palm trees and tropical drinks (mini umbrellas included). A recent escape to the Ritz-Carlton, Naples satisfied my craving and then some. One of the largest refurbishment projects in the company's history was just completed. I had to see what came out of a full overhaul of 450 guest rooms, three restaurants and basically the entire property. Design and innovation always compel my travel plans and this was trip was no exception. I'm usually more of a boutique kind of girl, but after touring around the property I was forced to reconsider. Designed by Wimberly Interiors the guest rooms are like staying at your cool friends beach house; relaxed but oh so chic. Sophisticated muted hues dance around the room, harmonizing with my favorite item, the lilac leather desk chair. The thoughtful design makes a cozy place to stay after a long day in the sun, but with a view of the Gulf of Mexico, it's pretty hard to stay in your gorgeous rooms for too long. Warm waters and soft white sand are just steps away.
It's time to eat! The first night could not have been more magical. The Italian inspired restaurant, Terrazza was not fully completed, but watching the sunset over the gulf in the stunning beach house (event space) was an excellent alternative. Chef de Cuisine Anabella Morillo prepared a memorable feast consisting of delicate porcini mushroom agnolotti, shrimp risotto, and how could I forget her roasted tomatoes. I have made them at least three times at home since my stay. Though they don't come close to Anabella's, this flavor will always be associated with my trip there. I'm pretty sure the Ritz-Carlton is not just in the hotel business but the business of making memories. Their attention to detail and passion of the staff is incomparable. I mean, working at a five-star resort on the white sand beaches of Florida does not sound half-bad. Maybe this weekend getaway was destined for a permanent vacation.
Tip #1: There are amazing cookies on the club level housed in a modified cigar box, designed for solely for this purpose. I may, or may not have taken a few for the plane ride home. Sébastien Thieffine (resident pastry chef) is to thank for the sugar rush you will have after eating so many of his delicious desserts. Tip #2: The amazing cookies I mentioned before are available gluten free. What? Yes, seriously anything on any menu can be modified to any dietary restrictions or preferences. The property's executive chef George Fistrovich leads more than 100 culinary professionals; making sure things are perfect down to the last garnish -- trust me, they are. The Ritz-Carlton does not take hospitality lightly. It is a passion and an art form for them to execute details and create a memorable experience.
I also particularly liked the menu at Bites, the property's take on a lobby bar, specializing in tapas. The creative cocktails and "bites" captivate the attention and conversation of diners to the point where you completely remiss being in a hotel lobby. With cocktails like Bow Street Brew (Jameson, earl grey tea, passion fruit and ginger syrup), or Jade Nectar (green tea-infused Kettle One vodka, yuzu, cucumber and honey), I would block out a few hours to relax, drink and eat before heading to Dusk for sushi -- and more cocktails, come on you're on vacation right?
When 40 percent of people dining at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples are locals, you know they must be doing something right. With these stunning new renovations there is a different vibe to fit every mood. Chef Juan P. de la Sota Riva is the Chef de Cuisine at the property's fine dining restaurant, The Grill. This is an elegant answer to a modern steakhouse, no dark mahogany wood or old men smoking cigars, just a stylish environment to enjoy a great piece of meat -- don't forget the potatoes au gratin. With all this amazing food and drink, a healthy amount of time sun bathing on the beach is a must. It may not be appropriate to call a beach chic but with the stunning carpet of white sand, no other word is as well suited. See for yourself; plan your next weekend getaway with the Ritz-Carlton, Naples.