Future site of L’étoile
NAPLES — An aspiring star has high hopes to shine brightly this fall on the North Naples dining scene.
L’Etoile, French for “The Star,” plans to open Nov. 11 — that’s 11-11-11 — in Naples Park. The new restaurant will add French classics to a location that has previously served German and Italian cuisines.
The lineup of restaurants at 10711 U.S. 41 N., on the corner of 107th Avenue North a few blocks south of Immokalee Road, was dominated by the old Heidelberg Restaurant, which occupied the space for many years. But that address also has been home to a few other restaurants, including Mr. G’s Italian Restaurant and Rudi’s European Cuisine. The building, which easily could be mistaken for a nice, single-family residence with a courtyard patio, has been vacant since Rudi’s closed last summer.
“I thought it needed a new identity, a little touch of sophistication,” said new owner/chef Marc-Jean Berruet, who painted a subtle tan over the coral color left behind by the previous tenant.
Chef Berruet, also an artist who enjoys painting still-lifes and carving decoys, said he put 52 gallons of paint on the old restaurant, faux finishing every wall in their new place during this past winter season.
“We made some visually big changes in there,” said Trish Berruet, Marc-Jean’s wife and co-owner of their restaurant business.
Marc-Jean and Trish Berruet are not strangers to the Naples area, which they have considered their second home for years. The couple honeymooned and lived in Naples 20 years ago and frequently visit friends and family here. Marc-Jean’s mother lives nearby in Pine Island and he worked at the old Chardonnay Restaurant in Naples more than 20 years ago.
For four years, the Berruets have operated The Pearl, a fine dining establishment in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. They will operate L’Etoile in Naples during the off season of their Outer Banks restaurant.
“They are pretty much opposite seasons,” Trish Berruet said. “My husband doesn’t sit around very well. I have to keep him busy.”
Shortly after The Pearl closes Oct. 1 for the season, the Berruets and some of their employees already familiar with the chef’s food and expectations will travel to Naples to prepare for the November opening. The process will reverse when The Pearl reopens in early to mid-April. L’étoile will close in May for the summer months.
“There is a little bit of overlap between the two,” Trish Berruet said. “We haven’t decided when Naples will close for the season. We’re going to wait to see how it goes.”
Marc-Jean Berruet is a classically trained French chef. In fact, Berruet is a second-generation French chef and literally grew up in the kitchen of their longtime family-owned restaurant, the Chanticleer, on Nantucket Island, Mass.
Trish and Marc-Jean Berruet met while working at the Nantucket restaurant. When the family sold the renowned restaurant a few years ago, they ventured south to open their oceanfront place in North Carolina.
Similar to The Pearl, L’Etoile will specialize in local ingredients with a French twist. The classic French cuisine will incorporate fresh and natural ingredients that come from local waters and nearby farms.
“Marc is spending a lot of time trying to find sources for local ingredients,” Trish Berruet said. “It really works out well for us and makes our food so much more interesting, and it’s the right thing to do.”
The Berruets began connecting with local resources last year when they talked to farmers in Immokalee about raising special herbs and went on a charter fishing boat and talked to Gulf shrimpers.
“We tapped into the resources here. It’s been amazing. We started doing business with the fishermen and the farmers and it kept spreading. It’s blossomed from there. It’s been unbelievable,” Marc-Jean said. “You have the biggest fish market right here in your backyard. I don’t foresee importing anything unless it’s really special, such as langostino from the Mediterranean.”
“When I tell you people bring you live fish to the back door, it’s not an exaggeration,” the chef said, referring to the Pearl restaurant.
Even in North Carolina, Berruet is familiar with Florida fish such as Spanish mackerel, pompano, amberjack and cobia.
“Most of the species we get here are Florida species,” he said. “This is about as far north as the Florida fish come.”
Even though some of the fish are different in the mid-Atlantic, Marc-Jean plans to use Florida fish here with the same preparation.
“It’s all classic preparations. It’s not nouveau at all,” he said. “I do think there is a need for (classic French cuisine) in North Naples.”
In addition to local seafood, roast duck will be a menu staple, as will foie gras, lobster bisque, French onion soup, Seafood Napoléon, crab cakes, crepes and soufflés. The dinner-only restaurant will be closed on Sundays.