2015 | Dine

Sneak Peek: Naples Ristorante E Pizzeria

New pizza restaurant plans to open this week at Westfield Montgomery mall

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The interior of Naples Ristorante at Westfield Montgomery. The restaurant boasts 19-foot high ceilings.

Andrew Metcalf

As a slew of restaurants opened over the past six months at Westfield Montgomery mall’s new dining terrace, there was one lagging a little bit behind.

But no more. Naples Ristorante E Pizzeria E Bar is planning to start serving Neapolitan pies this week at its spacious first-floor location in the Bethesda mall.

“We wanted everything to be perfect,” Mark Harkins, the restaurant’s general manager, explained Monday. He also said the restaurant, which originally planned to open late last year, ran into construction and permitting issues.

That’s all in the past, though, and the 190-seat, 6,300-square-foot restaurant is ready to start hosting customers. It boasts an airy, white interior complete with Italian finishes like a “hand gesture wall”, which an employee said was meant to pay homage to Italians who employ hand gestures as they talk, as well as vintage advertising posters and floor-to-ceiling windows.

The hand gesture wall and vintage ads. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

There’s a bar that seats about a dozen and a large glass-enclosed wine cellar that doubles as a display case at the back of the restaurant. Customers can enter the restaurant either through the mall’s dining terrace or from a separate entrance outside the mall.

Harkins says the restaurant will offer about 70 wines, but plans to increase to as many as 130 as the staff learns how to navigate Montgomery County’s Department of Liquor Control, which controls the sale and distribution of alcohol in the county. The bar also plans to offer a selection of craft beers and Italian brews and cocktails.

The restaurant will pump out pizzas in its three wood-fired ovens. The pizzas will be served in the restaurant, but also can be purchased from a quick-serve counter that faces the dining terrace. The chef is Riccardo Simeone, an Italian native from Gaeta, who has spent more than 30 years cooking in Italian restaurants in Italy, Las Vegas and Washington state, according to his resume.

The restaurant plans to open with dinner service this week, but lunch will be added once the staff gets up to speed, Harkins said. The restaurant is in the process of having its pizza certified by La Vera Pizzeria Napoletana, an arm of the Italian government that bestows a special designation on pizzerias that are proven to be following the traditional methods of Neapolitan pizza making. The restaurant will also offer traditional Italian entrees, pastas and salads. Price points will range from about $17 to $20 for pizzas and from $20 to $34 for dinner entrees.

Employess inside the pizza kitchen in front of the quick-service window that will serve customers in the dining terrace. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Naples is hiring employees and plans to employ about 75 full time. Harkins says the restaurant is still looking to hire 30 to 40 new employees, including wait staff and line cooks.

The restaurant is owned by the Patina Restaurant Group, which operates about 70 restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles and Florida. The restaurant group specializes in high-volume restaurants at major attractions including Disney World and Disney Land, Rockefeller Center and the Hollywood Bowl.

The concept at Westfield is a modified version of the pizzeria concepts that the company operates at Disney Land, Disney World and at the Macy’s building in New York City.

“We like the Neapolitan style, we do well at it,” Harkins said. He added that the company hopes the concept at its Bethesda restaurant can be a prototype for future expansion across the country.

Staff gathered during a staff meeting Monday afternoon. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

The three wood-fired pizza ovens.

The dining terrace entrance (left) and the entrance from the mall's exterior.

The restaurant is located below Met Bethesda and not far from ArcLight Cinemas at Westfield Montgomery. Credit: Andrew Metcalf