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Dining, music and fun: Mercato is hot and getting hotter

J. Kyle Foster | Naples Daily News

On a Saturday afternoon in January, Mercato in North Naples is busy and will get busier as the hours pass.

People come for the experience – from food and shopping to unique events and outdoor entertainment; from family fun to adult time that includes romantic dinners, cigars, drinks and dancing. The later the night, the heels get higher and the clothes get tighter.

At 4 p.m., it is 75 degrees and a group of 6- to 8-year-old girls practices cartwheels on artificial turf in the middle of the shopping center and later play hide-and-seek – all near busy restaurants, retail stores and an art show that has the street in between closed.

At 8 p.m., the green space is filled with people listening to Wendell Ray singing DNCE’s “Cake by the Ocean,” some sitting in chairs they brought with them. Others dancing. Children hop and run around. Stiletto-clad women in short skirts walk by to go to the three late-night spots – Blue Martini, Cavo and Burn.

Most of the restaurants have outdoor seating to take advantage of the Southwest Florida weather and the desire for visitors to enjoy it. Among the restaurants are The 239 Naples, Bar Tulia, The Capital Grille, The Pub, The Hampton Social, Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar, Chipotle, Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes, Kilwin’s ice cream.

Some of these also have locations eight miles south on Fifth Avenue South, also a very popular shopping and eating area in Naples.

“We share a lot of guests (with) downtown,” said Daniel McLean, general manager of Mercato’s Bar Tulia, whose first location was on Fifth. The cocktail menus at each location are created by the bartenders and are different, as are most of the menu items, he said.”It’s even more reason to go to both places” McLean said.

Shopping mall vs. downtown feel
“It’s like a walking shopping mall,” said Heidi Zizza as she was having drinks with friends at a table in the corner near the sidewalk at Blue Martini. “It’s very different from Fifth. Fifth Avenue is more of a downtown.”

Read the full article with photos

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