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Afternoon Delights: Indulging in Romance this Valentine's Day in SWFL

Who can forget the classic soap opera "Love in the Afternoon"? If you were a fan of soaps, chances are you heard this tagline during the heyday of NBC or ABC. But why limit romance...

Afternoon Delights

Who can forget the classic soap opera "Love in the Afternoon"? If you were a fan of soaps, chances are you heard this tagline during the heyday of NBC or ABC. But why limit romance to the evening when you can have a delightful afternoon rendezvous? This Valentine's Day, let's explore some enticing options for a romantic lunch in Southwest Florida.

Embracing the Sunshine

Lunchtime offers its own advantages, especially when it comes to romance. For many, the idea of a heavy dinner before a passionate night is a non-starter. Plus, with many restaurants already booked for dinner on February 14th, an intimate lunch becomes the perfect alternative. So why not play hooky with your loved one and head out for a romantic midday meal?

Susan Lucci with her "All My Children" co-star Walt Willey

According to the National Institutes of Health, our bodies love the sunshine for more than just its warmth. It boosts our mood by producing serotonin, which affects our emotions, appetites, and digestion. And with Southwest Florida's gorgeous weather, it's no wonder people flock to this region during the winter. So let's embrace the sunshine and make the most of Valentine's Day.

Romantic Lunch Destinations

Here are some of the top restaurant ideas for a romantic lunch in Southwest Florida:

Collier County

Bistro La Baguette: Indulge in the fantastic flavors of French cuisine at this non-fussy restaurant. The breezy ambiance, complemented by a dash of Hermès, adds an extra touch of elegance. Don't forget to explore their great wine list. (3560 Tamiami Trail E.; 239-403-7861; bistrolabaguette.com)

A languid lunch at Bistro La Baguette in East Naples

The French: Experience "La Vie en Rosé" with their new three-course lunch menu for $40. Pair it with a selection of rosés by the glass for an even more romantic touch. (365 Fifth Ave. S., Naples; 239-315-4019; thefrenchnaples.com)

Le Colonial: This establishment, known for its exclusive dinner reservations, now offers a daily lunch menu from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (457 Fifth Ave. S., Naples; 239-372-9700; naples.lecolonial.com)

Sails: Indulge in a famous weekend boozy brunch served on a rare weekday, starting at noon. For $165 per person, enjoy a delightful feast that includes tip and service charge. (301 Fifth Ave. S., Naples; 239-360-2000; sailsrestaurants.com)

Acquerello risotto is among the brunch selections at Sails

Romantic Neighborhoods

The Esplanade Shoppes on Marco Island: Enjoy the vacation vibes at three waterfront restaurants overlooking Smokehouse Bay. CJ's on the Bay, Deep Lagoon, and Mango's Dockside Bistro offer a relaxed atmosphere and specialize in delectable seafood.


Third Street South: While Fifth Avenue often steals the spotlight in Olde Naples, Third Street offers a more leisurely experience. Visit Jane's, Old Naples Pub, Ridgway Bar & Grill, Sea Salt, or Tommy Bahama for a delightful lunch. No reservations needed, but be prepared for a short wait.

Old Naples Pub

The Village Shops on Venetian Bay: Discover the magic of Venetian Village, also known as The Village Shops, which made our very own JLB fall in love with Naples. Experience picturesque waterfront dining with stunning views and convenient parking.

Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar

Lee County

Cadeau Café: Indulge in all-day breakfast and lunch favorites at this charming Fort Myers café. With its cute, cozy, and chic atmosphere, it's the perfect spot for an Instagram-ready Valentine's Day. (10650 Metro Parkway, Fort Myers; 239-689-1857; cadeaucafe.com)

Cadeau Cafe is Instagram ready with velvet-covered seating, neon signs, and a picture-perfect European phone booth

Dixie Fish Co.: Treat yourself to the freshest seafood in this open-air restaurant located beneath the Matanzas Pass Bridge. Enjoy the cool waterfront breeze for a perfect romantic afternoon. (714 Fishermans Wharf, Fort Myers Beach; 239-233-8837; dixiefishfmb.com)

Front Porch Social: Imagine yourself on a wrap-around porch, sipping craft cocktails and enjoying shareable dishes in a serene setting. This Cape Coral restaurant offers the perfect ambiance for a leisurely lunch. (4721 Vincennes Blvd., Cape Coral; 239 347-8914; frontporchsocialcc.com)

Cape Coral

Pezzo Pizza + Bar: Don't be fooled by the name; this Estero hotspot offers much more than just pizza. Indulge in signature cocktails, shareable 10-inch pizzas, and other delicious Italian dishes without the bustling crowd. (20041 S. Tamiami Trail, Estero; 239-908-9197; pezzopizzabar.com)

Even though pizza is in its name, Pezzo Pizza + Bar is a gourmet Italian kitchen

Pine Island Getaway Café: This local and tourist favorite is renowned for its freshly made French-style pastries, breads, and sandwiches. Once you discover this hidden gem, you won't want to leave. (5281 Doug Taylor Circle, St. James City; 239-283-3602; pineislandgetawaycafellc.business.site)

While Pine Island Getaway Cafe has quiche, pastries, tarts, and French custard in chocolate and vanilla, croissants are the No. 1 seller

Two Meatballs in the Kitchen: With chic two-top tables and stylish padded chairs, the newly remodeled Fort Myers location is perfect for private conversations and leisurely lunches. Enjoy their delectable menu in a cozy and intimate atmosphere. (8880 Salrose Lane, Fort Myers; 239-489-1111; 2meatballs.com)

Love on a $14 Budget

Did you know that National Pizza Day is on February 9th? Celebrate this food holiday with your loved one at one of these locations in Naples and Marco:

Skillets: From February 14th to 18th, Skillets offers super cute heart-shaped waffles topped with fresh strawberries, homemade whipped cream, warm strawberry syrup, and two thick-cut Smokehouse bacon slices. All this for just $14. Make your Valentine's Day breakfast extra special. (Multiple Collier and Lee locations; skilletsrestaurants.com)

Remember, love is not limited to a specific time or place. Make every moment count, and create memories with your loved one this Valentine's Day. Enjoy the romance and indulgence of a delightful afternoon in Southwest Florida!

Jean Le Boeuf, aka JLB, is the brand under which our restaurant critics have written for more than 40 years. For this article, food writers Robyn George ([email protected]) and Diana Biederman ([email protected]) shared their insights and recommendations.