Eat This: New Summer Dishes at Tulia
Plus, a conversation with Chef Vincenzo Betulia about his upcoming venture, Bar Tulia.
A salad of strawberries and Bellota hog lardo and a melon and feta salad at Tulia in Naples.
Earlier this year, we called Osteria Tulia one of our five Best New Restaurants in Collier County. And nothing Chef Vincenzo Betulia has done since has changed our minds. (His crispy fried pigs ears, sliced into thin, crispy, porky strips of heaven, are one of the dishes I practically demand my friends to try.)
Now Betulia and the whole Tulia team are gearing up not only for a new menu to celebrate the summer (more on that in a second), but also the fall launch of Bar Tulia next door. The intimate 40-50 seat “Italian gastro-pub” will serve double duty as a space where Betulia and team can experiment and express their food geekery, and also as a place to catch the later-night customers they’ve often had to turn away.
“Sometimes people come in right as we are closing and ask if the kitchen is still open,” Betulia says. “And I think, alright, that’s five guys I have to keep here, that’s $180 an hour. You want to cook for them, but you have to think like a businessman too.”
Expect Bar Tulia to expand upon the mother ship’s fantastic bar program (home of Naples’ best Negroni at the very least) and to offer up wood-fired pizzas and small, “tapas-style” plates for those who want just a light bite or to nibble and chat rather than sit down for a full meal.
The new spot, which is one door west of Tulia’s current address in the building owned by Betulia’s business partner, will need far fewer people to stay open, despite having its own kitchen. On that front, Betulia thought about knocking down part of the wall between the current restaurant and the new space. But that would have created the large, unwieldy restaurant he was trying to avoid when he opened Tulia.
“It’s already bigger than I wanted it to be,” he says. But seeing as it’s almost always packed, every seat is just about guaranteed revenue.
A roasted duck breast with wood-fired grapes.
As the summer slows the mad crush at restaurants, especially in tourist-heavy areas such as Fifth Avenue South, Betulia and his crew are using it as an opportunity to play around with some new dishes.
Some highlights from a brief sampling with the chef:
- Don’t be afraid to try the salad of local strawberries, lardo, sorrel and pistachio. All tossed in balsamic vinegar and a special, single-grove olive oil you can’t find anywhere else in Florida. The brightness of the vinegar and sorrel combined with the creamy fat—from Spanish Bellota hogs—and the sweet berries make one of the best appetizers I’ve tried in a while. (Betulia says he expects this dish to be a staple at Bar Tulia.)
- Fried veal sweetbreads with fennel marmellata and puréed celeriac offer a Southern-style crunch and texture, but a decidedly European flavor.
- A new “kitchen-sink”-style seafood pasta dish with cuttlefish ink paccheri—a rigatoni-like pasta—and whatever seafood is in the house that day is made even better by the addition of crispy toasted breadcrumbs on top.
- Wood-roasted grapes explode in your mouth as part of an oven-roasted duck breast dish. Tulia is serving a special breed of duck that eats almost like a steak.
- And for dessert don’t miss their take on the ice cream sandwich, with hazelnut gelato between two chewy sugar cookies, with a side of Nutella sauce to dip it in.
Hazelnut gelato and sugar cookie ice cream sandwich at Tulia in Naples.