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Anthony Vitolo opens Italian restaurant Vitolo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The New York City-based chef talks operations in the new city, as well as expansion

The New York to South Florida pipeline is strong and growing stronger: Major Food Group brought Carbone to Miami in early 2021, chef Michael White opened Mirabella at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach in Oct. 2023, and longtime New York City institution Rao’s debuted a location on Miami Beach.

The trend continues with Vitolo, the new restaurant from Anthony Vitolo, executive chef and partner of Emilio’s Ballato, an iconic Italian-American restaurant in Manhattan. Vitolo debuted Nov. 28 at the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel.

“It was already evident to us that Fort Lauderdale Beach is a remarkable area with a very close-knit community,” Rob Crosoli, a partner at Vitolo said. “When the opportunity arose to open a restaurant in the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel with the Four Seasons next door and the beach just steps away, it just felt right. We knew this is where we were supposed to be.”

Crosoli said the team recognized a void of true Italian dining experiences in the Fort Lauderdale Beach area, and thought they could fill the gap.

“For us, Fort Lauderdale represents an open canvas for us to shape, and we are drawn to its growth and the incredible potential it holds,” he said, adding that they see an opportunity to cultivate a community of friends and regulars in Fort Lauderdale, just like the Emilio’s Ballato team built in New York.

Vitolo covers about 8,000 square feet, including the bar and patio, and can seat more than 100 diners.

The space exudes old-school Italian vibes and offers three distinct dining experiences under the same roof: Vitolo’s Cucina is a chef’s table experience, in which diners are placed in front of the open kitchen, where they can witness all the action up close. There’s also a supper club lounge called Sala Arco, which transports guests back to South Florida’s glamorous art deco age. Finally, the Terrazza is primed for al fresco dinners, drawing inspiration from both rustic Roman trattorias and the Amalfi coast.

The menu includes many of the classic New York-style Italian dishes from Emilio’s Ballato, but it also features new dishes created especially for Vitolo. Select dishes include mozzarella en carrozza, spaghetti al pomodoro, tagliatelle alla bolognese, linguine alla vongole, a center-cut veal chop for two, and handcrafted pizzas.

“It was crucial for me to uphold my family’s time-honored recipes passed down through generations, ensuring a consistent culinary experience across locations by sourcing the freshest ingredients directly from my family’s farm in Italy,” Vitolo said. “One of our goals is to bring the rich Italian cuisine that our loyal guests in NYC love so much down to Florida.”

But adding a second restaurant in a different city, which comes with its own set of geographical and cultural changes, can bring up operational challenges.

“Running a restaurant in both NYC and Fort Lauderdale involves navigating nuanced differences in the guest’s expectations and operational dynamics,” Vitolo said. “In New York, where a pedestrian-friendly culture fosters walk-ins, our guests are accustomed to waiting for tables, while in Fort Lauderdale, we prioritize reservations for a more structured dining experience.”

In New York, much of the staff has worked at Emilio’s Ballato for years, but the Fort Lauderdale restaurant required a new, significantly larger, team to deliver good service in the larger space.

“In New York our team, many of whom have been with us for years, has become an extension of my family,” Vitolo said. “Continuing this familial culture on to Fort Lauderdale is important to me, as it ensures our guests feel right at home and a part of my family at Vitolo.”

Vitolo is open daily for dinner and takes reservations via OpenTable.

TAGS: Chefs
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