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Bistro 821 - Welcome
BISTRO 821 located on trendy, cosmopolitan Fifth Avenue South in the heart of historic Olde Naples brings a taste of Miami’s South Beach to the Gulf Coast. Our décor is colorful, warm, soothing, and sophisticated urban chic. We describe our Menu as Natural Fusion blending the very best and freshest that nature has to offer! We offer a variety of freshest Seafood, Choice Steaks, Pastas, and award winning desserts concentrating on the finest ingredients available daily.
Our continued commitment and dedication to be one of Florida’s finest restaurants has earned us eight consecutive Golden Spoon Awards in Florida Trend Magazine’s Top 200 Restaurants.
Bistro 821 - Hot off the Press
Thyme Well Spent
Jesse Housman shows staying power in a business of changing flavors.
By Shawn Holiday
Jesse Housman remembers Fifth Avenue South before the full storefronts and crowds of patrons. As one of the first new restaurateurs to buy into the redevelopment of downtown Naples, Housman wanted to create a true neighborhood bistro where regulars could get a late snack at their favorite table and watch the bustle of the evening. In 1995, he and partner Billy Holcomb opened Bistro 821 with innovative food, good service and entertainment.
“The food scene really hadn’t exploded. I think Naples was really in need of a bistro, a neighborhood restaurant,” he says. “You’re here to serve people. You want to be the hero when you can. Not everyone is on a schedule.”
Neither was Housman when he started his restaurant career as a dishwasher in his hometown of Boston. After eight years of sweating in the kitchen, he formalized his skills at Boston University’s Culinary Arts Program, rubbing elbows with the likes of world-renowned chefs Julia Child and Jacques Pépin. With school beginning at 7 a.m. and work starting at 4 p.m., he proved he had the stamina to run a kitchen. He worked seasonally on Cape Cod, and a friend brought him to Naples during the winter to work at Windstar Country Club.
In 1995, he and Holcomb took the plunge into the nascent Naples market with a dedicated crew, some of whom are still with him. His ability to recognize strengths and weaknessesin people has helped him maintain a stable workforce in a tight labor market. One of Housman’s first hires is now his sous chef.
He takes care of his customers too, doing the prep workhimself because his classic French training mandates that meals be made from scratch and with no preservatives.
His business partner, Holcomb, takes over in the afternoon so Housman can be with his daughter Ramana. After losing his wife, Fredrika, in a car accident in 2001, the chefs’ community pulled together to arrange fundraisers and to cover Housman’s duties. He and Holcomb had just signed papers to buy back Bistro 821, and within afew months Housman was back on the line. He is grateful to have built his career with such a competitive but tight-knit group.
“Basically, people use the skills they have,” Housman says. “I was dedicated. I was always ready to go. It’s more intelligent energy now. I’m wiser with my time.”
Naples Illustrated – 2007