North Neapolitans, I can relate. If you, too, have you been wondering why downtown Naples gets all of Vincenzo Betulia’s offerings, you soon can zip over to Mercato for a taste of what has made the chef-restaurateur the toast of the town.
His bright, bespectacled face and charming accent; his flair for comfort Euro and stirring up conviviality; his innovative practices and charitable efforts that earned him a spot in our 2020 Men & Women of the Year. It’s all coming to the North Naples hot spot starting at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 21, when Bar Tulia Mercato first opens for lunch.
A Tulia product makes perfect sense for the buzzy lifestyle center known for its nightlife, plus it brings a welcome local balance to Mercato’s inclination for franchise restaurants. It’s just what the connoisseur ordered, which is probably why Mercato management invited Betulia in. He has taken the space beneath Silverspot Cinema, formerly occupied by The Wine Loft, and transformed it with his touch for rustic Old-World warmth. A 75-seat patio defined by a jasmine pergola furthers the European feel.
Here, Betulia has added light touches of steampunk to his signature farmhouse style: antique Chicago bricks, rolling barn doors, heart pine flooring, but with a wrought-iron window frames and embellishments, sputnik chandeliers, pipe sconces.
In other words, you’re not going to recognize the place.
“We kept in mind the different demographic of North Naples when designing our new space,” Betulia says. “So, while we’re still staying with that timeless look, we’ve added industrial accents—sort of a cross between a farmhouse and almost like a foundry. It’s turning out extremely beautiful.”
One of the biggest, most obvious design changes centers on the new wood-burning, hand-tiled pizza oven custom-built in Italy. It dominates the bar, where guests can watch their pizza in the making. Pizzas are nothing new for Betulia and, like the rest of his Mercato menu, they represent a hybrid of his other restaurants’ favorites, along with new inspirations.
You will find Tulia classic pizzas like the Lieutenant Dan, an interplay of shrimp and pepperoni; and Spec on Through to the Other Side, headlining imported speck with olivada and mozzarella. Newcomers include Garden & The Goat—zucchini, sundried tomato, eggplant, caramelized onions and goat cheese.
The pizzas contribute to Bar Tulia Mercato’s south Mediterranean persuasion, which Betulia says draw inspiration from Spain, Morocco, southern France, Sardinia, Sicily and Corsica. Other familiar Bar Tulia favorites on the menu include Bucket O’ Fried Chicken and garganelli with lamb neck sugo. Or make new friends with dishes like fried deviled eggs, house-made ricotta and spinach ravioli and Spanish octopus bruschetta.
Like Betulia’s other three Naples restaurants, the Mercato edition will carry on the ritual of composed craft cocktails that often twist the classics. Take the Tangerine Painkiller or Jamaican-style Manhattan with rye whiskey, for instance: both good choices to toast chef Betulia’s latest bid to refresh Naples’ collective palate.