Chef Vincenzo Betulia Of The French, Osteria Tulia And Bar Tulia Ushers All Things Hospitality

Chef Vincenzo Betulia sheds light on his cooking philosophy and inspiration within his three Naples restaurants: The French, Osteria Tulia and Bar Tulia, all in the heart of Naples on Famous Fifth Avenue.

Photo Credit: Osteria TuliaHaute Living: How long have you been involved in the hospitality industry?

Chef Vincenzo: I have been in the restaurant industry for 32 years now. I started at 14 years old and primarily had a focus on back of house. I did work in FOH as a busser and host to help out. I have always been attracted to the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. It’s a passion business and it’s all touch and feel. There is a strong energy I feel when I’m cooking and its all from the soul. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard. Like an artist. 

HL: Where did the concept for Bar Tulia come from and when?

Vincenzo: After we opened Osteria Tulia, the space next door became available and since we own the building I wanted to present Naples with another concept that hadn’t been introduced. I created a gastrobar; very popular in Europe where it’s a small restaurant with focus on small plates, drinks and cocktails. The concept was just gaining steam in the big cities (NYC/LA) so when I saw the vanilla shell of a long narrow space, I immediately saw the warm raw feel of a place in Milan, Rome or London UK or even Soho in NYC.

Photo Credit: Bar Tulia

HL: Fifth avenue location and Mercato, how do you split your time?

Vincenzo: I continued to open more restaurants. It has always been a challenge for me to be in multiple locations in a day. I can feel when things are running smoothly or when they are not. So instinctively I go where I think I am needed. If I spend more time in a particular restaurant I begin to miss the others so I try my best to visit them all. It depends what is going on throughout my week as well as where I plan to spend my time. We’re current;y wrapping up all summer menu changes (which we have been swapping since May) Bar Tulia 5th Ave is my last change coming this weekend. We then hold wine dinners, wine lunches, certain events that I have to be at in a particular restaurant (like Bastille day) which relates to only The French. It’s a lot to juggle and I’m trying my absolute best. But in the end I am fortunate to have the management and staff that I have. I trust them with the decisions and I treat them like my family. 

Photo Credit: Restaurant TuliaHL: What is your favorite dish to prepare for guests and why?

Vincenzo: I don’t specifically have a favorite dish to prepare. Lately we have been doing wine luncheons and wine dinners as summer promotions and these dinners give me the opportunity to be creative and cook food in an elevated fashion which is a break from our normal rustic approach. I’ve always been attracted to cooking dishes that are more delicate dishes and dishes that have “touch” (in my mind) like pasta dishes, garde manger and cooking seafood. I tend to not be attracted to grilling, frying and heavy saucing. 

HL: Who inspired you to become a chef and why?

Vincenzo: Well I was raised in a household where my mother and grandmother cooked everything by hand and we rarely went out to dinner. The food at home was far better than any restaurant. Sicilians in the midwest harvesting, canning, making most everything from scratch….so this is what I am used to. I was already working in the business when I got a prep cook position at ristorante Bartolotta in Milwaukee Wisconsin just as they first opened. This is where my eyes were opened to the art of cuisine and working beside passionate people. The major inspiration came from my mentors (brothers) Chef Paul Bartolotta and Joe Bartolotta. Paul is a 2x James Beard Award Winner, cooking for the best chefs of the world like Paul Bocuse Pierre Troigros & Valentino Marcattilii. To this day I look up to Paul for helping him shape my mind regarding cuisine and being a chef. 

Photo Credit: Osteria Tulia

HL: What is the craziest dish you have ever tried throughout the years as a chef?

Vincenzo: I have eaten my fair share of crazy things like brain, spleen, liver, hearts, tongues, intestines etc. Something I will crave and others I simply don’t. 

HL: What are you most excited for when you walk in the door at Bar Tulia?

Vincenzo: Love all my restaurants. Each one has its own personality, its own life and own feel. Bar Tulia is awesome in its own right because of its narrow and tight space. If 10 people are in there it feels like a lot of people. That is what creates the buzz.. The sound of people talking, the sound of the plates and the glass clinking, the music playing etc. It’s most exciting when it’s standing room only. Everyone is having a great time, the disco ball is spinning and the atmosphere is unmatched in town. 

Photo Credit: Brian Tietz

HL: Who or what can you thank for where you are standing today?

Vincenzo: I’m a grateful individual so many individuals have contributed to my success. I can start with my parents for supporting me from day one and keeping me grounded and focused during my early years. My mentors Paul and Joe Bartolotta for enlightening my culinary path and pulling the passion of cuisine out of me. Richard and Larry D’Amico (Jay Sparks and Andrew Wicklander) for giving me a shot at Campiello Naples when I moved down here. I spent many years on their stage. My business partners for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to be my own boss, and my wife and 3 boys for being by my side during this whole journey once I moved to Florida. I alone do make the restaurants successful. Its my incredible campagna family of nearly 400 individuals that make the restaurants a success. Its their hard work, dedication and passion that make my restaurants different from all the others in town. 

Photo Credit: Osteria Tulia

HL: If there was one celebrity you would love to have dinner with, who would it be?

Vincenzo: I’m not starstruck by celebrities because we do see our fair share of them from TV personalities, political figures, ball players and chefs. I would be more inclined to dine with Chefs that I look up to more than dining with celebs…chefs like Eric Ripert of Le Bernadin or Daniel Boulud of Daniel. These two chefs in particular are beyond successful in my industry and have been in the business a long time. 

HL: What would you say is the most popular plate from Fifth Avenue customers and Mercato customers?

Vincenzo: We have many dishes that our guests have chosen to be our signature dishes. At Osteria our pasta dishes (really what were known for) have been on the menu from day one. The Garganelli with lamb neck sugo tortellini with short ribs, foie gras emulsion & marsala & the bucatini cacio & pepe are mainstays. At Bar Tulia the Modena Pizza, Pig Ears, Prosciutto & Melon, Pig Macs & Oysters sell all day long. At Mercation the Meatballs, Beet Salad, Risotto with Seafood, Cannelloni, Steak Frites etc… We change the menu seasonally so at times we pull off items that are out of season and it upsets guests. But as a chef, we need to continue to be engaged in creativity and cook with what’s in season. 

Osteria Tulia, Bar Tulia and The French are all located on Fifth Avenue in Naples Florida. For more information visit their website at or give them a ring at 239.213.2073