For Besim Shala, a restaurant should be something more than a place to just consume food.
“People must feel at home in a restaurant … comfortable … have an opportunity to make contact with others … a family-like feeling,” he said.
As owner of Napoli’s Italian Restaurant in Lincoln’s Briarhurst Center, Shala and his staff feel that they make every effort to serve their patrons.
The Briarhurst Napoli’s opened in September 2019, preceded by the first Napoli’s in May 2011 in Grand Island (3421 Conestoga Drive). A second Lincoln Napoli’s opened in the Haymarket District (800 Q St.) in October 2020. All three are owned by Shala.
The atmospheres of the three restaurants are similar, but with some differences. The Briarhurst and Grand Island locations are the most complementary, according to Shala, exuding an intimate, fine dining ambiance, while the Haymarket site attracts a younger, more casual crowd.
Briarhurst location manager Leslie Morton reiterates Shala’s comments.
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“Presentation is important to our customers,” she said. “We are customer oriented; we aren’t fast food. People come to Napoli’s for our environment, Italian food and wine choices. And to relax.”
“Our servers never push diners in any aspect of their experience at Napoli’s,” Shala added. “We don’t care about customer turnover. We want people to stay and enjoy their time with us.”
Like other businesses, the pandemic affected Napoli’s – most markedly in the area of staff shortages. The family-owned restaurant found family members becoming the cog to keep the restaurant operating. Shala (chef), his wife Zeki (front and service), son Dorian (chef) and manager Morton (front and service) have logged hours working open-to-close, seven days a week. A small and loyal group of dedicated support staff members supplement the workforce.
Because of the staffing shortage, the restaurant is open daily for dinners, but only Saturdays and Sundays for lunch. “Our goal is to soon be able to be open for lunch seven days a week,” Morton said.
Evening patronage includes a mix of diners, from business professionals and younger couples to families and seniors. The weekend lunches find patrons in their 20s and 30s on Saturdays and families and older diners on Sundays.
Morton said that Napoli’s lighting, music and fine dining presentation creates an atmosphere perfect for romantic dining.
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Napoli’s menu offers several dining options. Ranging from $8.99 to $12.99, Garlic Basil Cheese Rolls, Stuffed Mushrooms, Fried Calamari, Shrimp Napoli, Sliced Italian Sausage, Fried Mozzarella Cheese, Fried Beef Ravioli and Brushetta comprise the Appetizers category. Four salad choices including Napoli’s salad, Caesar salad, Greek salad and Antipasto salad cost $8.99 to $16.99.
Seven choices under Baked Pasta – Manicotti, Spinach Ravioli, Tour of Italy, Pasta Combo, Eggplant Parmigiana, Lasagna and Pasta Sampler – cost from $11.99 to $15.99. House Pastas are $11.99 to $18.99 and include Spaghetti “The Works,” Spaghetti Your Way, Tortellini alla Vodka, Sausage Pizolla, Tortellini Sicilian, Spaghetti Carbonara, House Fettuccine Alfredo and Pasta Primavera.
Napoli’s Specialties include Dorian’s Special (chicken breast sauteed with broccoli, spinach and tomatoes in garlic white wine or alfredo sauce, served over tortellini, $16.99); Napoli’s Special (chicken and sausage sauteed with roasted bell peppers, ham and black olives in white wine sauce with a touch of marinara, served over spaghetti, $17.99); Goni’s Special (sauteed chicken and shrimp with mushrooms, spinach and garlic in a sherry wine Alfredo sauce with a touch of marinara, served over spaghetti, $19.99); and Besi’s Special (sauteed shrimp, chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes topped with Mozzarella cheese over penne pasta in white wine lemon butter sauce and fresh garlic and basil, $20.99).
There are 14 steak and seafood choices from $16.99 to $31.99, including such dishes as Steak Napoli, Steak Marsala, Ravioli alla Pesto with Shrimp, Salmon Creamore and Lobster Ravioli. Damabianka, Chicken Pomodoro, Chicken Siciliano, Carsoni and Veal or Chicken Parmigiana – running $14.99 to $19.99 – are featured in the Chicken & Veal category.
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Wrapping up the menu offerings are a regular pizza (12” $9.99 / 16” $12.99) with toppings extra, and 11 specialty pizzas ranging from $11.99 to $17.99, depending on size and ingredients.
According to Morton, customer favorites vary between Stuffed Mushrooms (button mushroom caps stuffed with crabmeat and sauteed in alla panna sauce, $11.99); Shrimp Scaloppini (shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams sauteed in olive oil, garlic and basil over fettuccine, topped with sherry wine marinara, $21.99); or the Steak Napoli (12 oz. ribeye with sauteed shrimp, fresh basil and tomatoes in a basil cream sauce, served over spaghetti, $31.99).
Shala said that Napoli’s menu offerings feature a personal touch – a number are his own personal recipes. “Our food is prepared fresh, no microwaves or heat lamps. I like to eat and I like to cook, and I have confidence in our food and the dining experience we provide.”
Manager Morton adds, “Our presentation involves the food, the atmosphere and the service. It is a ballet of all three, methodically organized, without any missteps.”
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