If you’ve ever dined at Osteria Tulia, Bar Tulia or The French, you’ve experienced a part of Chef Vincenzo Betulia’s jovial, bustling, energetic vision. A leader in the Southwest Florida culinary evolution, Betulia has won countless local and regional awards, including a Best Chefs of America award from 2012 to 2017. Here, the mastermind behind these three super-successful restaurants (“Each has its own identity, and I view them very differently,” he says) divulges how he made his dreams a reality, the best advice he’s ever received and what he orders when he dines at Osteria.

This Thursday, Jan. 11, Osteria Tulia turns five, and in celebration, Betulia is treating his guests to a glass of Prosecco, offering dinner specials from Osteria’s original menu five years ago and debuting a newly revamped wine list (for the first time since opening!). For reservations, call (239) 213-2073.

eat, drink, restaurant, dining, food, Italian, chef, Naples, fl, Florida, swfl, fifth avenue, downtown, cocktails, bar, tulia, osteria
courtesy of Vanessa Rogers

On Osteria Tulia’s evolution in the last five years:
The restaurant has definitely matured over the last five years. We have tried very, very hard to offer great food, drink and service. On the kitchen side, we still have most of the same kitchen team. We treat everyone like family, and they still get the opportunity to work next to me, regardless of how many kitchens need to be run or other projects I’m working on. It’s about food. It’s about passion. It’s about soul. That’s what makes Osteria successful.

I notice that I would rather do more simple food than complicated dishes, as well. I catch myself at times with the intrigue of wanting to create more involved and intricate dishes. Then I see a dish like Cacio e Pepe, or a simple roasted chicken, and I’m always blown away by their simplicity. That’s what we always want to deliver. We have been fortunate to be well received by the community, and with the attention we have received over the last five years, it continually keeps us aware that we need to always try harder to please our guests. Goals for the next five years is to keep doing what we are doing: delivering soulful experiences.

It’s about food. It’s about passion. It’s about soul. That’s what makes Osteria successful.

His vision for his three restaurants:
Osteria Tulia was a vision of countryside Italy. I envisioned walking down a street in a small town in brisk air and imagined looking into a restaurant that resembles an osteria, with its brick and wood elements; warm, glowing lighting; very inviting and expressing soul from its door. The food expresses artisanship, since we make all our pastas, sausages, doughs and ricotta and mozzarella daily. We also cure meat (well, that takes time … haha … but it’s done in curing cycles.)

Bar Tulia came to me as I was walking past the open door when the next-door tenant moved out. I physically saw a long and narrow empty shell. What I mentally saw was a small street side gastrobup in SoHo, NYC. It was a lightbulb moment. I then created the vision of Naples’ first cocktail bar and Italian gastropub. I didn’t want to blow out a wall and make Osteria any bigger and apply more pressure to the kitchen. For me, it’s about quality, not quantity.

Bar Tulia took a little time to launch, as I felt there was no food and drink establishment in Naples that didn’t take reservations. It was “just walk in and have a seat.” The menu was all over the place with no rhyme or reason—pizzas, pastas, crudos, fried chicken, tacos, duck hearts, pig ears, fried smelt. A food program that brings curiosity yet is comfortable. Bar Tulia has been written up organically in Eater, Saveur, Fodor. It’s fun, it’s hip, it’s convivial.

eat, drink, restaurant, dining, food, Italian, chef, Naples, fl, Florida, swfl, fifth avenue, downtown, cocktails, bar, tulia, osteria
Osteria Tulia, courtesy of Caronchi Photography

The French was conceived pretty much after Bar Tulia opened. I always saw a restaurant in the space where The French is now. I’m lucky to have captured that space. The space was grand, streetside and, again, had convivial energy. (Even when it was just a design gallery.) I felt it.

I have always had such an immense appreciation, respect and passion for country French flavors. What I saw in my mind was the perfect space for a “bustling” French brasserie; the likes of Balthazar in NYC or Bistro 110 in Chicago or Brasserie Lipp in Paris. Spacious … full of life … rustic in soul and nature. I envisioned people sitting at the bar reading the paper and eating oysters and drinking Sancerre. I saw classic steak frites with béarnaise, escargot with garlic butter and puff pastry, duck confit with potatoes Lyonnaise. This cuisine is far from upscale, “hoity-toity” French.

The French was never packaged as fine dining, either. We are a rustic restaurant in nature—through design of food, drink, service and appearance—but the space lends itself to modern day with music playing from my selections. I’m a product of the late ’70s and early ’80s. We play Marvin Gaye, Isley Brothers, Anita Baker, Michael Jackson, Johnny Coltrane, Miles Davis, Nate James, Coldplay, Sade, Rolling Stone. It depends on how I feel. At times, I may want to listen to “La Vie en Rose” or Edith Piaf, but, really, I can only handle so much of that old music. The music is piped into all spaces of the kitchen, as well. This gives us energy to get through the day.

As far as restaurant demographics go, The French and Osteria Tulia attract a similar guest, yet we offer a clear different experience. Bar Tulia has created its own demographic, attracting foodies, attracting the cocktail culture, attracting hipsters. They go to have a great time, enjoy cocktails and food, and enjoy friendship.

eat, drink, restaurant, dining, food, Italian, chef, Naples, fl, Florida, swfl, fifth avenue, downtown, cocktails, bar, tulia, osteria
courtesy of Caronchi Photography

His personal favorite thing to eat off the menu at Osteria Tulia:
Bucatini Cacio e Pepe

The best piece of advice he’s ever received:
Put your head down, work hard, and be passionate. Don’t worry about money. Everything will fall into place.

His proudest achievement:
Opening my restaurants. It’s been a dream—something I wanted to experience. It’s a ton of work. I’ve missed a lot of my family life, but I have a supportive family, and I hope my three boys see and realize how hard their father is working to give them a decent life.

Put your head down, work hard, and be passionate. Don’t worry about money. Everything will fall into place.

If he could trade lives with anyone for a day, it would be:
Maybe Daniel Boulud. (Thats a double-edged question.) I look up to Daniel because he has multiple restaurants, many employees, serves many people in the US, yet keeps a high level of standards and keeps his staff engaged. You can sense the passion throughout the organization. He juggles business and family, travels the world, is humble, works hard … all that good stuff …

Favorite travel destination:
Italy

One thing that’s always in his fridge at home:
Champagne/Prosecco. Any sort of quality sparkling wine. It keeps my wife happy … haha.

eat, drink, restaurant, dining, food, Italian, chef, Naples, fl, Florida, swfl, fifth avenue, downtown, cocktails, bar, tulia, osteria
courtesy of Caronchi Photography

466 Fifth Ave. S., Naples
(239) 213-2073

      

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *