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Napoli's Italian Restaurant in Marion offers authentic cuisine
by DJ Kauffman Correspondent · February 8th, 2018


Napoli's Italian Ristorante owners prepare old-world recipes with a modern twist and were chosen by customers in 2017 as having the best Italian food.

When brothers Johnny and Gony Qerimi began their Marion family-owned, fine-dining establishment at 500 Marion Blvd. seven years ago on Valentine's Day, they looked to their deep Sicilian roots when making a reasonably priced menu. It contains original family recipe dishes, such as the ever-popular chicken marsala made with fresh portabella mushrooms, along with desserts like tiramisu and crème brûlee. "If you cannot afford to go to Italy, you can come here," Johnny said.

Johnny spends his early morning hours in Napoli's kitchen creating pastries, while Gony prepares to make regular and gluten-free kinds of pasta and secret recipe sauces handed down to them from their father and grandfather, with a few adaptations.

These made-from-scratch tastes, including their one-of-a-kind specialty house dressing and main dishes (and desserts), made with imported Kalamata olives from Greece, three kinds of Parmesan cheese and healthy oil from Italy, is what sets Napoli's apart from the rest. "This is real Italian food," Johnny said.

Gony is the head chef and spends most of his time in the kitchen during restaurant hours, while Johnny oversees the front of the house, decorated with white linen cloths covering tables throughout the main dining and secluded gazebo areas.

Random Italian melodies usually play softly in the background as well, except for when Johnny quickly changes the piped-in music to Dean Martin for a couple of regular patrons who enjoy hearing the old crooner perform songs like That's Amore. Napoli's may also add live guitar music a few times during the weekdays beginning this spring, Johnny said.

And, for those with spring fever, a lit patio with seating for up to 40 people overlooking Marion's west entrance, should be open in April. "We make it very nice. It is the best patio in town," Johnny said. "This is real Italian food."

Additionally, the restaurant walls are designed in keeping with an Italian theme painted by a local artist, with one large scene depicting Venice. Johnny said even though they grew up in a different part of Italy, they chose Venice because it is one of the most popular attraction spots for tourists in the country. He explained how the city was built on water with strong balloons under each house. Therefore, all those entering and exiting the old-world structures must do so by boat.

Besides the welcoming decor, Napoli's has 15 employees who offer quality food with great customer service in a quiet and relaxed atmosphere, both in their formal indoor dining and outside patio areas; so loved ones, friends, and business associates alike can focus on each person at the table and not on intrusive television programming.

According to Johnny, back in Europe, the Qerimi family is big, and four or five members work to make each meal. "That's how we grew up, always. And when we eat, we all sit at the table together--kids and wives and husbands, because we want to enjoy the conversation with each other," Johnny said.

Charis Patrick's article, Eating Together Helps Families Bond, states, "The table is where we mark milestones, divulge dreams, bury hatchets, make deals, give thanks, plan vacations and tell jokes. It's also where children learn the lessons that families teach: manners, co-operation, communication, self-control, values. Following directions. Sitting still. Taking turns. It's where we make up and make merry. It's where we live, between bites."

With this in mind, eating together without televisions and cell phones has helped the Qerimi family stay close-knit. According to Johnny, their father often said, "When it's time to eat, I want to see everyone at the table." This strict family observance to unencumbered dining included large gatherings with grandparents and extended relatives, as well.

The Qerimis continued their family dinner tradition as they settled in America. Their father and his cousin first moved from Sicily to New Jersey during a time of European economic hardship and began working hard for a couple of their friends from Europe, before buying the equipment needed to open their own restaurant.

Once his father's business became established, Johnny said, he, along with Gony, his mother and other brothers then traveled to the U.S. 26 years ago; settling in New Jersey. "We grew up in the restaurant business," Johnny said, with his father and grandfather as mentors.

The parents have since retired and moved back to Sicily, leaving Qerimi family-owned restaurants in Dallas, Texas; Carroll, Iowa' and Marion. "We love what we do, for this is our passion. We have been successful for many, many years," Johnny said.

For health reasons, it is difficult for Johnny's parents to travel back to the U.S., so Johnny said he travels to see them once a year; and his two children, who attend school in the Linn-Mar district, usually spend their spring break with their grandparents in Italy, as well.

Like their father, Johnny and Gony work hard at Napoli's in Marion, as the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day. They, along with their staff, want to thank customers for their support. For more information, visit napolismarion.net, or to make reservations, call 319-377-2100.
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