How to Make a Continental First Impression

How to Make a Continental First Impression

{Review} Do you ever go to a new restaurant with great anticipation? Once I decide on a new restaurant and make reservations, I am super excited and can’t wait to see if my expectations are anything near the reality. It’s not only about the food, but the experience. Last night I tried The Continental in Naples, Florida. Their website describes this restaurant as,

D’Amico’s The Continental American Provisions and Craft Bar is Naples newest addition to Third Street South. The perfect blend of steak house and craft bar, The Continental adds ever more allure with a meticulously designed indoor and outdoor setting of New York Steakhouse meets 1920’s Parisian Bistro.

For those of you familiar with Naples, you certainly know many of the other D’Amico family restaurants. They include: Lurcat, Masa, Parma and Campiello. They are some of the best restaurants in Southwest Florida. For this reason alone, I was very anxious to try The Continental. It is located in an artsy, touristy section of Naples known as Third Street South.

Third Street South is one of the Main Streets of Naples. It is a wonderful place to wander, shop, dine and people watch. Third Street South’s website describes the area as;

Next to the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, the 19th century Naples Pier, and the colorful original beach cottages, the sophisticated and delightful shopping and dining on historic Third Street South awaits – amidst courtyards, antique European fountains, and lush colorful cascading flowers.
Fine restaurants, relaxing cafes, fun bistros and pubs are meccas of delicious choices in many different cuisines nestled near shops, while the markets and delicatessens provide delicious foods and superb wines to take with you.

Even if you never plan to visit Naples and eat at The Continental, read on for customer service do’s and don’ts that pertain to any business.

The Design

The Continental is the newest dining option on Third Street South, at just six months beyond their opening. When I arrived, with my husband and 15 year old daughter, I was immediately wowed! I walked into a dazzling, eclectic courtyard framed with tented dining areas and wrought iron edged sidewalk tables. Walking to the hostess stand, which is made to look like a retro steamer trunk, I passed a rectangular water feature that provides a nice backdrop to the buzz of this new hotspot. This is a place where I immediately felt comfortable. It is visually interesting, but not over the top. It does not look like a shiny new restaurant. Instead, it feels like it has always been here. It has a worn feel, kind of like my favorite pair of jeans. While the interior is beautiful, I always enjoy eating outside on a clear night. The table we chose was in the perfect location. We could see where the band was going to be playing and we were covered by a large umbrella just in case the usual Florida summer storms rolled in. Some of the trees are strung with vintage white lights, that provide a beautiful contrast to the summer sky. They add a touch of romance and whimsy. After sitting there for a few minutes I noticed two negatives with our table choice. The first was that there were no fans anywhere near us. It was hot. The second issue was that each time anyone walked behind my chair and stepped on the stone paver supporting one of the legs, it rocked my chair. At first I thought the servers kept kicking my chair leg, but they were actually raising the paver each time they put weight on it. My only other issue is the chairs. They are so reclined, it is uncomfortable. It’s not possible to sit up for long periods of time. If you lean back in the chairs, it’s almost in a sleeping position. They are not the type of chairs that encourage relaxed, lengthy dining.

The Bar

We were in no rush and wanted to enjoy our surroundings, so we ordered drinks first. Their wine by the glass offerings were limited, but they do offer many craft cocktails. I started with PS It’s a Champagne Cocktail. It consisted of Bloom Gin, Maraschino, Sparkling Rose and Tarragon. At $15. I would not order it again. It was not my favorite drink and it was really small for the price.

I moved on to Stoneburn Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Wines by the glass are offered in 6 ounce or 9 ounce pours. This was a much better choice over the champagne cocktail.

{During the summer, bottles of wine under $99. are half price on Thursdays.}

The Menu

The menus were beautifully leather bound with silver ring clips. Each night, the fish and shellfish selection varies. Diners can see their choices on a skinny, long retro-looking clipboard. The items that are being offered simply have a check mark next to them. I mainly eat a vegan diet, but on occasion I enjoy seafood. When I looked at the menu online, I noticed they had scallops and halibut. For me that was huge, since I only eat about four types of seafood/shellfish. Their website did say to call and see what was fresh that day, but I figured I had a chance they would be offering at least the scallops, so I did not call ahead. Good thing I am not a gambler, because my bet didn’t pay off. They had no shellfish and only three fresh fish options: none that I like. So, I was on to Plan B – a vegetable plate. This is when I began to question if this restaurant was going to make my list of favorites in Naples.

On the menu they have a steamed vegetable plate with a champagne lemon vinaigrette. I have eaten a vegan diet for years. There are many exciting options and a steamed vegetable plate with salad dressing is not one of them. I instead requested the chef make a entree-sized plate from the vegetable side selections. It was nothing out of the ordinary. All four of the items were offered as side dishes on the menu. They were priced at $12 – $14 each. Clearly, I did not want a full portion of each, as they are meant to share among 2-3 people. I was met with confusion, and told that I could order the steamed vegetables on the menu. When I told him I didn’t want that, he said, “I don’t think they will do that, but since it’s not busy tonight I will ask.” Why say that to a customer? If you don’t know if the chef will accommodate, why not ask first and not give the customer a negative response? I told our server which four vegetables I would like. He never came back to tell me, as I expected, that my request was not a problem. The chef, did manage to put together my dinner, almost. Instead of gratin brussels sprouts I was given shaved, steamed, plain sprouts. Not what I asked for, but the other three choices were terrific.

Second Visit: I ordered the same vegetable plate. It was wonderful, and I was not met with any resistance. Christina cheerfully took my order even repeating it to make sure she was getting it right. It was just as good the second time around.

Continental | Gramercy Social | Sonja Pound

Customer Service

I LOVE dining out. Who doesn’t love to be taken care of? For me, nearly as important as the food, is the customer service. I have been to many restaurants with amazing food, but somehow it does not taste as good if the service is sub par. Have you ever been a regular at a restaurant and requested the same amazing server each time? Now, what happens if that server is not there? Is your experience the same? Typically, I do not have the same experience when my usual server is not there.

While our server often seemed distracted, he heard me mention to my husband that I was hot, and probably noticed that my daughter and I both took off a layer. He asked if we were warm and offered to bring out a fan. That was HUGE customer service points in my book. I don’t fully enjoy a meal or the experience if I am dealing with weather extremes.

As I mentioned above, I was not impressed when he was not happy to accommodate my food request. But, I give him points again for making it right. I asked him why the brussels sprouts were plain instead of the gratin version, he said he assumed that was what I wanted. Not sure where he got that from, but he did bring out the correct version without my having to ask.

In general, I felt that the staff was not attentive. I have some favorite places to dine that are made even more amazing because of their servers. I appreciate when a server tries to connect with me by being friendly and asking questions and making small talk. That did not happen with our server. Sadly, at The Continental, our server detracted from our experience.

When we finished our meals, two people came to clear our plates. I told them I would like to take home the remaining vegetables. They never returned with them.

Second Visit: This time service was much friendlier and attentive. Enrique and Christina, were our servers. They were both welcoming and accommodating. I dined with my 13 year old son. We began at a table inside. He was cold so we moved outside. Then he was being bitten by bugs, so we went back inside. Each time we requested to move they were wonderful. Enrique even brought out a fan in hopes that the bugs would be displaced and leave my son’s legs alone. When that didn’t work, he moved us inside.

The only issue I had this visit was my check. First time around the wine was not discounted. It was half off, but I was charged $48. I told Christina and she changed it. Then I noticed that the vegetable entree was being charged as individual sides, at $12-$14 each. Adding up the four sides I had made a vegetable plate $50! My son had a filet mignon and it was $38. Vegetables for $50? I was shocked. When I left, I spoke with Heinz and Igor. Heinz is the manager. He accepted responsibility for the billing error. He said that their system requires it to be added as full priced items and then he has to go in and discount. He said he forgot. Thank goodness. They were good, but not $50 good. Heinz did adjust my bill. In all, there were three mistakes on my check. Look at your bill before you leave.

  • I was overcharged 50% for a bottle of wine
  • I was overcharged for my vegetable plate
  • I was charged for an additional bottle of wine ($52) that I did not order or drink

The Social 4-1-1

When I sat down and was first greeted by our server I asked him what The Continental’s Instagram user name was. He looked puzzled and said he didn’t know. The only thing he did know was that is was not simply The Continental, because there were too many businesses with that name. He asked another employee and was met with the same quizzical look. I decided it would be easier to hunt down their user name myself. For any business with a physical location it is so important to use social to their full advantage. Don’t you want people to find you? Don’t you want people to share with their hundreds of friends? It’s free advertising and word of mouth recommendations are social proof.

I was surprised at their lack of social. Each week I receive an email from D’Amico Family Restaurants. Usually it’s a SpeakEasy Code that offers a discount on craft drinks. I have also received emails thanking me for visiting their restaurant. So, why is social so invisible? It’s the easiest detail to put your social user names on your menu. Have you noticed that 90% of diners don’t sit and talk to each other – they are on their devices. This is the perfect opportunity for your diners to share your business with friends. And, why not encourage selfies? How about a contest? Ask followers to tag themselves in a photo while dining and enter them in a contest. I know D’Amico has done this in the past. But, I found it completely by accident. Let your customers know and encourage them to participate.

Here’s a blog post I wrote about how to be a more social business.

After dining at The Continental twice, I posted several images on Instagram. I give them huge credit for paying attention to their tags. Each time I have posted, my image is either liked or commented on by D’Amico Partners. It’s nice to know that they are paying attention to their customers.

Outside vs. Inside Dining

The first time I dined at The Continental I sat outside. That is always my first choice when the weather is cooperating. Their outdoor dining is a beautiful courtyard that made me feel like I was sitting in a delightful cafe in Europe. There is so much to look at; from the fountain, trees with vintage lights wrapped around their limbs contrasting with bright purple bougainvilia, the eclectic collection of tables and chairs and the band entertaining diners, nicely positioned under one of the tents. Why would anyone choose to sit inside? Here’s your answer.

Second Visit: The second time I dined at The Continental, I sat inside. I wanted to compare the experience inside versus the courtyard. The interior design is stunning. I LOVE the room with the large bull painting. It’s dark, but not steak house dark. It’s small, but not suffocating. It is the perfect mix of cozy, intimate and artsy. The leather chairs are so much more comfortable than the faux wicker outdoor chairs. In this room it’s possible for the doors to pocket in and then diners are inside, but get the benefit of hearing the band and feeling connected to the courtyard.

Details, Details…

Continental | Gramercy Social | Sonja Pound

If you plan to visit here’s their info:

Address: 1205 Third Street South Naples, Florida

Phone: 239.659.0007

They are also on OpenTable.

Have you been to The Continental? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to share this with friends that love to dine out.

Social Media Manager ★ Second Opinion ★ Your Virtual Partner

Let’s focus on what you need and how I can help. Whether it’s Facebook management, a review of your website, testing of a new product, critique of packaging and shipping, undercover customer visits or anything in between – let me know. My goal is to give you more time to focus on your business and clients, while I handle the rest.

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  1. Sharon says:

    Excellent review ! Every point was on the mark! You make an wonderful restaurant critic ! I know exactly what to expect when going to this restaurant and I know what not to expect ! So, very important when searching for a great place to take friends and coworkers !

    • Sonja Pound says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting Sharon. Good point about coworkers. If I was there with clients that would not have been a great ending. But, luckily the food was great.

  2. Cheryl says:

    This place sounded incredible. After reading this blog about servers and charges I don’t think I will be going there.

  3. Liz says:

    The restaurant looks beautiful however maybe they could pay more attention to detail. Next time Im in Naples Ill have to try it.

  4. Tara says:

    Excellent review Sonja…hopefully over time they will fix those “glitches”. Will have to give it a try on our next trip to Naples and see for ourselves.

  5. Jennifer Hanley says:

    While I have never been to Naples (even though it’s only an hour and a half away) this review had me ready to call and make a reservation! I’m generally not a fan of outdoor seating as I prefer the air conditioning, I could however picture being there with my husband enjoying a cocktail or two and just listening to the music! I love the fresh fish choices and the festive way in which they let you know what is their “catch of the day”. So many choices and steak to boot! It’s a menus we could certainly enjoy. Your description of the interior had me hooked! It sounds intimate yet not stuffy. I would think that the little hiccups that occur when a new business opens were just that and based on your second experience it seems to be the case. After working many years in the restaurant business from hostess to wait staff and bartender it’s always a bonus to see your customers happy! Although there were still some billing issues it sounds like the service end is making some great strides toward perfection! I have to agree that many times I am influenced by social media in making choices for new places to try and explore. Had you not posted this blog for example I would never know how much I need to get myself to Naples!! Thanks for sharing!! I’m making my plans 🙂

    • Sonja Pound says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Make reservations and I’ll join you! I agree that the hiccups are just that. Hoping this place becomes a staple of fine dining in Naples for years to come.

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