Whenever I visit Smith Mountain Lake, I always make sure I have at least one meal at Napoli by the Lake restaurant. This restaurant somehow manages to come off as multiple kinds of restaurants all at once. People come here with their dates, families come here, local friends meet up here to catch up with each other and, of course, like me, tourists definitely come here!
If you’re looking for some really authentic Italian cuisine with a lake view, this is the place to come. Even if you just want to drop by for cocktail hour, Napoli by the Lake offers some really exotic cocktails. They have a gorgeous, fully-stocked bar and lots of couples and even singles come in to sample their top-shelf concoctions. They have a long, curved bar with chair seating, plus two big screen TVs, so you won’t be starved for company if you’re a solo traveler, either.
As far as dress, just any decent attire is acceptable. People even come in wearing shorts and flip flops in summer. There’s a spacious outdoor deck if you feel like dining al fresco, too. After you eat, you’re welcome to walk around the grounds by the lake. There’s a big wide open grassy area for the kids to run off their energy or for you to just enjoy looking out at the lake.
Location & Environment
It’s situated at Bernard’s Landing, just off of Ashmeade Road (AKA 940), just yards before Bernard’s boat rental. You won’t have any trouble spotting it on your left-hand side as you drive down the Smith Mountain Lake Peninsula toward Bernard’s Landing. There are 20 or so parking spaces in the big lot right out front, including three that are right next to the front door, convenient for older or handicapped people.
Inside, they have a big picture window, with views out onto the lake. Almost any seat in the restaurant will give you a nice view though; you don’t have to have a window table to see the boat dock and the lake and mountains in the distance.
One important thing to mention is that Napoli by the Lake is a dinner spot. They’re only open early on Sunday, when they open at noon, for brunch and dinner and close at 8 PM. Thursday to Saturday and on Monday, they’re open from 4 PM to 9PM. They also offer takeout if you love their food like I do, but you don’t feel like eating in a restaurant. Unfortunately, they don’t deliver, though.
The environment is casual and friendly. The servers are very sociable and if you want more information about the area, they’re all quite happy to help you with directions, or where to go for this or that. It’s the kind of place where, after you come in a couple of times while on vacation at Smith Mountain Lake, the staff will recognize you and greet you like an old friend.
What's Good on the Menu
This isn’t a white tablecloth kind of place at all, but the food they serve on white dishes honestly looks like something out of a fancy cuisine magazine. It’s obvious that the chef and all the food staff really care about presentation. If you’re one of those people who take pictures of your food—yes, I’m describing myself!—you’re going to get lots of mouth-watering shots. The dishes are full of color, creatively arranged and beautifully put together as far as flavors complementing each other.
For example, there’s the Chilean Sea Bass, which is what I ordered for my main dish. It’s a pan seared sea bass, with a shallot and tomato sauce with vermouth. It comes on a bed of grilled asparagus with some mashed garlic potato for good measure. It’s garnished with cherry tomatoes and olives, and it’s absolutely amazing. The sea bass had just the right amount of crunch on the outside, but it was all juicy and tender in the middle. As much as you’ll want to order it every time you come, that would mean depriving yourself of the other goodies on the menu.
My friend had the Rigatoni and Meatballs, and since this is an Italian restaurant, what else can you expect? I couldn’t resist a taste myself just from looking at the plate. It was heaping with their signature, in-house made, hand-rolled meatballs and pasta, then covered with a generous sprinkling of Romano. Looking around the place at other diners’ plates, I noticed that everyone had generous portions, which to me means Napoli by the Lake offers good value. Lastly, there are lots of gluten-free options on the menu, marked “GF,” so you don’t even have to ask one of those friendly waiters!