“It’s just windy as hell,” said chef and owner Francesco Coli about why he named his latest venture Vento Bistro; it’s located downtown, right at the corner of Huguenot and Division streets. Plus, vento means “wind” in Italian.
Coli, 42, does everything. He’ll welcome you while sautéing in the modest kitchen, answer the phone, chat with the man who delivers fresh food daily, walk up to tables for a breather to see how you’re enjoying the food. Vento is small, seating 32 for now, and he moves through it like, well, the wind.
Homemade tagliolini with shrimp, garlic, Calabrian chili, cherry tomato, arugula, and shaved Parmesan.
He recalls spending summers and Christmases during his formative years in southeastern Italy, “the tip of the heel of the boot,” snacking on sea urchin (his favorite seafood) on bread with some Rosé. His name may be familiar to some of you; Coli grew up in the industry, opening his first restaurant in Larchmont at age 23 named La Villetta. Eleven years later, he opened another in Scarsdale, what he called “a monster of a restaurant.”
His last place, Massa’ Coastal in Mamaroneck, seemed to be the last straw. “I decided I didn’t want to be in the business anymore,” he said. Taking a mere eight months off, his best friend convinced him to come back, and Vento opened late last year. “[My friend] is the angel on my shoulder who brought me back to this industry I’ve grown to love and hate,” Coli admits.
Vento is an ode to seafood, a return to Coli’s roots. You can order whole fish and shellfish, sourced from Europe and the US, oven-baked with one of nine sauces. Of course there are pasta dishes, some homemade, with meatballs as a starter. There are vegetarian and gluten-free options as well, and the wine list is currently being revamped. The menu will change according to feedback and Coli, who covers everything from ordering the food to service; he uses the term “chef-forward.”
Braised octopus with caramelized onion, olives, capers, and cannellini beans.
You may be wondering, isn’t Vento a wine shop too? It is no more, with the wall coming down soon so the bistro can have a bar and seat more patrons.
It is all about the experience, and Coli stresses the importance of hospitality. “If you can get a customer to come through your doors three times, he is your customer for life,” he said. “That’s our goal.”
I’ve been three times already.
282 Huguenot St, New Rochelle
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