Photo By Brian Tietz

FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 26, 2013) – One of Southwest Florida’s most popular fine dining institutions is celebrating 35 years of business by giving away thousands of dollars.

From May 1 to Oct. 31, 2013, dinner patrons at the Veranda restaurant, located at 2122 Second Street in downtown Fort Myers, will be able to enter a monthly drawing for a $350 gift certificate. On Nov. 1, 2013, the Veranda will also draw for a grand prize from all previous entrants for a $3,500 house account at the restaurant.

“We are extremely grateful to all of our patrons who have helped us achieve this 35-year milestone,” said Paul Peden, who owns and operates the restaurant with his son Craig. “We wanted to do something special to celebrate which is why we chose monthly drawings over a six-month period.”

According to Peden, the restaurant will also be donating $350 to a different food-related local charity each month and $3,500 of in-kind services. The charities include the Harry Chapin Food Bank, Community Cooperative Ministries, Inc., Blessings in a Backpack, the Salvation Army’s Sally’s Café, the Nation’s Association Charities, Inc. and F.I.S.H. of Sanibel.

“Being in the food industry we are very aware of the great work many local agencies are doing each day to feed our hungry citizens,” said Craig Peden who also serves on the board of directors for Community Cooperative Ministries, Inc., the umbrella agency for the Everyday Café & Marketplace and Meals on Wheels. “While we are thanking our patrons for 35 great years, we also wanted to give back to our community that still has thousands of citizens who aren’t sure where their next meal will come from.”

Veranda dinner patrons can enter the drawings by completing an entry form provided with their guest check. Diners can enter each time they dine at the Veranda from May 1 through Oct. 31, 2013 to increase their chances of winning.

The story of the Veranda is ingrained in the City of Fort Myers’s own history. In the early 1850s, a fort on the Caloosahatchee River was reactivated and named for Colonel Abraham Myers. The fort contained 57 buildings, a hospital, lawns and gardens. A trading post pioneer by the name of Manuel Gonzalez delivered supplies and mail to the fort in his riverboat. After Seminole Chief Billy Bowlegs surrendered in 1858, the fort was abandoned until 1863 when a small number of Federal troops re-occupied the fort during the Civil War. After the war, the fort was again deserted. In 1866, Captain Gonzalez returned to the fort with his five-year-old son Manuel to become the first known residents of Fort Myers. For years, the Gonzalez family would operate a trading post on the site of the present Federal Building.

In 1902, young Manuel Gonzales built two houses at the corner of Second Street and Broadway. He and his family occupied the corner house, while the second home was built for his mother and was located adjacent to the first house (in what is now the Veranda’s parking lot).

In the early 1970s, Peter Pulitzer, son of the publisher, joined the two houses for his long-time fishing buddy, Fingers O’Bannon. The original kitchen building from the second house, along with a secluded landscaped garden courtyard featuring a waterfall and Koi pond, now joins the two houses.

In 1978, Paul Peden bought the two turn-of-the-century Victorian homes that house the restaurant and transformed them into the Veranda.

“It’s truly a unique dining experience you can’t get anywhere else, whether it’s an afternoon luncheon or romantic dinner under the stars,” said Peden. “We take great care of the more than 100 types of vegetation on our property.”

The garden courtyard boasts rare and spectacular botanical foliage that’s been growing since the early 1970s including one of the largest African tulip trees in the area, a cinnamon tree, bamboo, an exotic Rangoon Creeper vine, magnolia, citrus and banana trees and more. The goldfish pond is a favorite with the Veranda’s diners, as kids and families love to watch and feed the fish. There are currently more than 50 adult goldfish in the pond and another 100 babies representing many generations. The show-stealer is the single Koi, estimated to be more than 20 years old, that is still remaining from after Hurricane Charley. The pond also features a waterfall made from an old chimney.

The Veranda’s interior is best described as an elegant Southern Victorian house. The low-lit, spacious, mahogany piano bar just inside the front door beckons patrons to have a seat at one of the high back cushioned chairs, order a drink, enjoy an appetizer and live music, relax and take in the vintage photos which line the walls. Along with the fully stocked bar, the Veranda also boasts a large selection of vintage wines.

The Veranda’s menu continues to feature Southern cuisine staples including Southern Grit Cakes, Blue Crab Cakes, Fried Green Tomato Salad, Bourbon Street Filet, Chicken Orleans and Warm Southern Pecan Praline Tart, as well as traditional favorites like Oysters Rockefeller, Beef Carpaccio, Spinach and Caesar Salad, Filet Mignon, Rack of New Zealand Lamb, Pan Seared Grouper and Triple Layer Chocolate Paté.

In recent years, lighter menu items and gluten-free selections have been added to accommodate special diets.

The Veranda has been host to thousands of weddings, anniversaries, corporate dinners, romantic outings, engagements, high stakes business deals and other special events.

“She’s always as good as the people that are around her,” said General Manager Dennis Genge. “A lot of our success can be attributed to the amount of experience our staff has. Our team has been doing this for a long time, and they really know the business of taking care people.”

The average employment of the Veranda’s team members is more than 15 years.

“I think it’s the atmosphere and unique service we provide that keeps our clientele coming back week after week and year after year,” said server Sabrina Baran who started working at the Veranda in 1979. “This place really is one of a kind.”

The restaurant features Southern regional cuisine with a full bar, extensive wine list and first-class service in a romantic setting.

Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. A mid-day menu is served Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Dinner is served Monday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. Private dining is also available from 10 to 400 guests. Live entertainment is featured in the Veranda’s piano lounge Wednesday through Saturday evenings from 6:30 to 9:30. Valet or street parking is available.

For reservations and more information, call 239-332-2065 or visit