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Barbatella becomes a Naples football recruiting tool

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney raves about Naples High School recruit Chez Mellus — and his father’s restaurant.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. February 22, 2019
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A new football recruiting pipeline between Naples High School and Clemson University may have opened — and potential future Tigers will have a Third Street South restaurant in Naples to thank. 

Two-time national championship-winning Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney recently spent four minutes describing to program boosters his dining experience at Barbatella in Naples, where recruit Cesare “Chez” Mellusi’s father, Mario, is general manager. There, Swinney and fellow coaching staff members were treated to a veritable cornucopia of Italian culinary decadence while in town Jan. 21 to recruit the All-American running back.

A glance at Mellusi’s highlight reel clearly indicates why Swinney would personally make the trip to Naples. But based on his description of Barbatella, the true highlight of the trip was his experience at the tony dining and entertainment district near downtown Naples, which may keep him coming back for more.

“This is one of my all-time favorite recruiting visits ever!” Swinney says in a recent video clip distributed by the restaurant’s marketing agency and posted on YouTube. The clip is an excerpt of a video streamed Feb. 6 on Clemson University football’s Facebook, national high school football signing day. In the video, Swinney tells the tale of Mario Mellusi’s Italian heritage and his work at Barbatella, “and he wants us to come to his restaurant,” he adds.

Swinney goes on to describe how the multicourse meal — in his gee-whiz, aw shucks, Alabama native drawl — “started with some kind of plate with all kinds of cheeses,” followed by one course after another delivered to their table including pizzas, pastas and appetizers. “I never had eggplant before,” he says, “but it was great!” 

“And then,” Swinney adds, “he comes out and says now it’s time to order.” 

The dinner ended with a dessert of gelato and dessert pizza. “I never had gelato before, but it tastes like ice cream," Swinney tells the crowd.

It also kind of tastes likes recruiting success. As for his new recruit, Swinney adds almost as an afterthought, “Y’all are gonna love Chez.”


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