kitchenetta's Vincent Foti on the new Spring Menu and His 10 Years in South Florida Restaurants
Farm-to-Table has become a major buzzword over the past few years. And we're certainly not complaining about the trend.
Aside from the benefits to the local economy, individual health, and environmental impact, local and organic foods taste better.
Isn't that what dining out is supposed to be about?
Vincent Foti, owner of kitchenetta, has been a longtime supporter of organic and local products. Like many a Brooklyn native, eating seasonally was a part of growing up--way before it was "in".
With the addition of his new spring menu items, we decided to sit down and chat about the his ten year anniversary on the South Florida scene.
Starting this week, the restaurant will be rolling out a series of new spring menu items. Lighter dishes like the $18 insalata micro verde, rainbow micro-greens with grape tomatoes, Reggiano Parmesan chunks, grape tomatoes, and a balsamic reduction; the $29 spaghetti frutti di mare bianchi, a mix of fresh seafood sauteed in garlic, olive oil, natural juices, and fresh parsley; and the cavatelli ortolana, fresh pasta with seasonal vegetables, sauteed in olive oil and a touch of chicken broth, and topped with breadcrumbs, parmesan, and parsley have been added to prepare locals for the impending summer season.
While the spot is announcing the current changes, it's nothing new. Since opening in 2004, Foti has focused on changing parts of the menu two to four times per year, with major changes occurring in the spring and fall, and less extensive adjustments in between. Aside from the menu renovations, kitchenetta features about 15 specials daily. "The menu adjusts constantly based on what's in season and on the market," said Foti, "We like to use organic products and local fish as much as possible. We usually figure out the specials at, like, 4:30 or 5 based on what our purveyors dropped off."
Born and raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Foti grew up in a family of locavores. His grandmother would go out daily to pick up dinner from the local produce vendors and butchers shop. "At the time, there were still guys with carts delivering milk," he said, "Even though we lived in a multi-famil building my family had a little vegetable plot and a fig tree. We would wrap it [the fig tree] up with blankets and plastic buckets and tie it off with rope in the winter to keep it warm [he laughs]. I'm not sure if that actually works."
A lifelong foodie, Foti got his start in the restaurant industry at the ripe of age of twelve. He went to work in the neighborhood coffee shop, a Park Slope institution known as Jack's Hamburgers. He stayed on after it was sold and turned into a falafel shop. At 15, he went to work in a Chinese restaurant. He credits the diverse neighborhood for spawning his love of food. "I grew up in an extremely eclectic neighborhood," he said, "There was a group of us who would always talk about the new Jamaican shop or cheap pizza joint, or the best fried chicken. Everyone was very food-oriented."
He eventually went on to work for Hilton International and went through management training for Inhilco, the company overseeing Windows on the World at the World Trade Center. From there he struck out on his own, first in Brooklyn, then in Southern California. It was his time there that really solidified his interest in organics and sustainable practices.
When he moved to Florida 18 years ago, he knew he wanted to open a restaurant, but did not feel the time was right. He, instead, worked in real estate and then the medical business. Not understanding the South Florida industry he waited until he felt the time was right. Ten years ago this month, he opened kitchenetta. "All along I was trying to figure out how to introduce something I thought would be good," he said, "The market grew around me, real estate started slowing down, and I thought I saw an audience."
Overall, not much has changed since the initial grand opening on April 16, 2003, but in its initial planning period, Foti was envisioning a completely organic trattoria. He has since realized that the organic market is not a prolific as that of Southern California. According to him, "In terms of organic, I do it in a more matter of fact way. Our customers ask what is organic, and we can tell them what is and what isn't that day. I like the public to discover what we do rather than promoting it. Rather than advertising, our customers are our ambassadors. We're still focusing on the same things, but the restaurant is always in flux."
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