This month’s Spotlight features my inaugural Golden Palate® Charter Member for Naples, Florida, renowned Chef Vincenzo Betulia of Osteria Tulia/Bar Tulia! Chef Vincenzo was born in Sicily and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He launched his culinary career at age 14 in an Italian restaurant in Milwaukee working as a pizza maker and later as a chef. Betulia worked with famed Chef Paul Bartolotta in Milwaukee and at Spiaggia in Chicago, and alongside Michael White (NYC’s Altamarea Group), and attended the Kendall Culinary School in Chicago. While on vacation, he fell in love with Naples and the laid-back, Southwest Florida lifestyle. Vincenzo worked as Chef at Campiello in Naples for 9 years before opening his namesake restaurant Osteria Tulia, reminiscent of a charming Italian farmhouse. Next, he opened Bar Tulia, a gastropub next door. Today, both are considered among the top restaurants in Southwest Florida, commensurate with establishments in big cities like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, yet with the friendly, small town, Naples vibe, and the caring, hands-on attention to detail of Chef Vincenzo.
As my followers know, my Golden Palate® Partners, especially my Charter Members, are a family of great chefs/restaurant owners, selected for their skill, as well as for being great, dedicated professionals and all-around great people! It is a pleasure to introduce Chef Vincenzo! In the following dialog, you will get to know him and I highly encourage you to dine with him when you are in beautiful Naples and tell him I sent you!
Q. What do you credit your restaurant success to?
VB: I credit the success of my restaurant to the passion, soulful determination, drive, and desire to want to serve great food and provide great service. I lead by example and I’m always at the restaurant. I work the line, prep food, interact with every employee daily. My staff knows I’m behind them 100 percent, and in return they give me 100 percent. I’m very fortunate.
Q. Favorite cookbook?
VB: I don’t really have a favorite cookbook. I do own books, and if it happens to be a cookbook, it’s not really for the recipes, but because I believe in the chef who wrote the book. Right now I’m enjoying “Never Trust A Skinny Italian Chef” by Massimo Bottura.
Q. Culinary professional(s) you admire most? VB: There are many culinary professionals I admire for many reasons. The chefs I admire most are Massimo Bottura for his vision of pioneering “Alta Cucina” (elevated Italian cuisine) in Italy; Paul Bartolotta for his simple yet amazing Italian cuisine and for mentoring me, Daniel Boulud for his jovial yet amazing French restaurants across this nation; Thomas Keller for his perfection, Mario Batali for waking up America to rustic Italian food done his way…there are too many to mention.
Q. Your favorite ingredient? VB: Olive Oil.
Q. Your personal motto? VB: Make it nice…do it with passion or don’t bother.
Q. What do you do differently? VB: I integrate myself with my staff and create a passionate and soulful culture in my restaurants. This creates a very positive work environment. I’m not different from any one of my employees. I don’t take them for granted.
Q. What gives you the most pleasure in your job?
VB: Pleasing people through my food. Making them remember their grandparents and heritage from taste. It’s called taste memory. It transports them back into time.
Q. What do you enjoy in your free time?
VB: I’m a huge soccer fan, so I watch a lot of it…as well as my kids’ soccer games. Drink wine. And spend time with my wife and 3 boys.
Q. Favorite wine(s)? VB: Barbaresco.
Q. Favorite Dessert? VB: Espresso!
Q. Favorite vacation destinations? VB: Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland…depends on my mood…lol!
Q. Favorite holiday? VB: I don’t have a favorite holiday. I typically work most all of them, so my favorite holidays are my days off.
Q. Favorite family traditions? VB: We have many traditions revolving around holiday foods. We eat particular things like Pasta con Le Sarde (Sardines) for St. Joseph’s Day, and Arancine (Sicilian-style Rice Balls) at Christmas. These are two things I look forward to eating especially!
Q. How did you choose to come to Naples? VB: Sun, no snow, and a welcoming town looking for some good food.
Chef Vincenzo will be featured in the Winter 2016-17 issue of Venu Magazine in Fred Bollaci’s Golden Palate Appetite Column!