2015-05-28 / Cuisine

Bar Tulia a convivial companion to rustic Italian restaurant

Chef Vincenzo Bertulia has been wowing palates in Naples for years, first as a chef at Campiello’s and then, more noticeably, when he opened his exceptional rustic Italian restaurant, Osteria Tulia, a couple of years ago on Fifth Avenue South.

Serving exquisite food in a charming atmosphere to a loyal following and widespread acclaim might be both demanding and satisfying enough for most chefs, but not for Mr. Bertulia. He now belongs to a select group of Naples chef/entrepreneurs — Charles Mereday (Mereday’s Fine Dining, Alto and Mereday’s Brasserie), Fabrizio Aielli (Sea Salt and Barbatella) and Rafael Rottiers (Inca’s Kitchen and Al Carbon) — for whom one establishment and one concept simply won’t do.

So when the storefront adjoining Osteria Tulia became available earlier this year, Mr. Bertulia availed himself of the opportunity to expand with a second concept, another setting in which to serve the pasta, cheese, salumi and sauces he and his culinary team make from scratch along with imaginative craft cocktails, wellchosen wines and beers.

Above: Salmon is served with roasted carrots and beets. 
KAREN FELDMAN / FLORIDA WEEKLY Above: Salmon is served with roasted carrots and beets. KAREN FELDMAN / FLORIDA WEEKLY The narrow space is decked out in a rustic style similar to that of the osteria — lots of wood on walls and floor and whimsical decorations. Music on this evening consisted primarily of ’70s tunes from the likes of Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan, the Zombies, Johnny Cash and even a couple of (pre-’70s) Beatles hits.

The gastropub opened this winter and proved immediately popular. Even now, with the tourist season officially passed and the steamy summer closing in, Bar Tulia does a brisk business among a noticeably younger crowd that enjoys having a watering hole on tony Fifth Avenue South.

Our timing was good on Saturday night when my companion and I arrived just before 6 p.m. and snagged one of the few remaining indoor tables. There was standing room only at the bar, the high tops were all taken and there were even some hardy souls sitting outside.

Grilled octopus is served with green beans, fingerling potatoes and a garnish of chervil. Grilled octopus is served with green beans, fingerling potatoes and a garnish of chervil. Drinks are the first concern here, and we dove right into the craft cocktails, trying a pigalle ($13), a refreshing blend of St. Germain, prosecco, soda and lemon, and a Hurricane ($13), featuring a blend of three rums, passion fruit, bitters, grenadine and lime. Both were lovely — served with straws adorned with fresh mint — and delicious.

The menu offers patrons the option of snacking, grazing or indulging in a bountiful meal. A couple of overall observations about the menu: It’s heavy on meat. There are few dishes that do not contain it in some form, so vegetarians and even fish eaters will find a relatively limited selection here.

Left: Ceviche is made with local fish, avocado, red onion and chiles. Left: Ceviche is made with local fish, avocado, red onion and chiles. From the antipasti selections, we sampled the ceviche ($16), a colorful mix of local fish, avocado, red onion, cilantro and chili served with large crisps that were sturdy enough to scoop up the zesty concoction. Octopus lovers should try the version served here ($16). The octopus is lightly grilled then set upon a bed of green beans, fingerling potatoes and tomatoes, served with fresh chervil and lemon. Don’t count on sharing this dish, as it’s relatively small and you likely will want every bite.

Pizzas are another house specialty. The classico ($12) is a simple but elegant blend of what tasted like homemade mozzarella and tomato sauce studded with pieces of basil atop a thin, crisp crust. We shared ours, but it would be the right size for a meal for one person. The sauce, which was lightly applied, had a rich, mellow flavor that came, no doubt, from an age-old family recipe and a pot that spent hours simmering on the stove.

The grilled house sausage ($10) was served as a small plate atop stewed white beans in a rich brown sauce topped with crisp fried onions. It was a bit salty for my tastes, but then I often find sausage too salty, so sausage lovers might be just fine with it. The sliced sausage was tender and well spiced otherwise.

The deviled farm eggs ($8) with smoked trout roe were also on the salty side owing to the roe, which overpowered the eggs. Again, this is a personal taste. I found the eggs tasted better on their own.

From among the entrees, my nonmeat eating companion selected the salmon with roasted carrots and gold and red beets, creme fraiche and chives ($25). The fish was tender and perfectly cooked, sitting atop a bed of fresh greens and the aforementioned roasted vegetables.

For dessert, we shared a toasted Sicilian waffle with caramelized bananas, maple bourbon almond truffle ($10) along with the house-made limoncello ($10). The waffle was crisp on the outside and tender within, and the topping was reminiscent of bananas Foster but not quite as thick and sweet. One serving was ample for two. The limoncello possessed a fresh lemon flavor along with the stiff backbone of the grain alcohol in which it is steeped.

Service was consistently good, with our server making regular passes by our table and those around us despite the fact that the place was at capacity.

There is far more on the menu to explore than can be tasted in one visit. And that’s just fine. The atmosphere at Bar Tulia is apt to call you back again and again. ¦

Return to top