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Westchester Chef Relies On The Sea For Inspiration

Francesco Coli, owner/chef of Vento Bistro in New Rochelle. Photo Credit: Submitted
Octopus at Vento Bistro in New Rochelle. Photo Credit: Submitted
Lightly prepared fish is a specialty at Vento Bistro in New Rochelle. Photo Credit: Submitted

Francesco Coli grew up inspired by the sea.

And now, he's bringing that love for fresh plucked-from-the-ocean cuisine to New Rochelle with the opening (as of October 2017) Vento Bistro.

The new eatery is, as Coli describes, "a chef forward coastal Italian concept with an ever-changing seasonal menu."

Fish and seafood are handpicked daily at the Fulton Fish Market in Hunt's Point. There are also housemade pastas -- all created in the kind of tiny galley kitchen you'd find in a New York City apartment.

The restaurant -- attached to a wine shop that Coli also owns --  combines his extensive culinary past  -- he grew up along Italy's Mediterranean coast -- with his extensive travels.

You could say cooking is in his blood, having grown up in the business. His father, Pasquale, owned two restaurants -- one in Italy and one in Westchester  -- and Coli grew up watching (and helping) him in the kitchen.

Though he studied law in college, he ended up in a front of house position at BR Guest Restaurants in Manhattan before, at age 24 -- taking the bold move to open La Viletta in Larchmont.

Trained at the French Culinary Institute, he then ran Massa’ Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar in Scarsdale with his father and later, Massa’ Coastal, an ocean to table restaurant in Mamaroneck.

After taking a seven-month hiatus, he's back doing what he loves most: showing diners how spectacular lightly seasoned seafood can be.

His cooking philosophy is simple: "I don’t mess with what nature has already perfected."

To bring out flavors, Coli uses the best products possible, many of which hail from Europe. His food, he says, has an Italian soul but with a global influence.

Among his favorites: Maldon sea salt as well as extra virgin olive oil from his trees in Italy (you can buy the oil from his e-commerce site; go to www.ventobristro.com ).

Coli says he gets his inspiration from his travels --and from the memories he has growing up in ,Salento, a sub-region of Puglia, Italy, where, as a child, he was introduced to the delicacies of the Mediterranean.

"I grew up fishing at a very young age and eating what we caught with a very light preparation -- some extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and lemon -- that's where my cuisine evolved," he said.

Cooking at Vento, he added, is like rediscovering his youth. Said Coli: "My favorite thing is to make people smile. It's a great feeling to be back cooking for Westchester diners."

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