Food for Thought: A Boisterous, Convivial Brasserie
The French Brasserie Rustique, 365 Fifth Ave. S., Naples, (239) 315-4019, thefrenchnaples.com
WHY WE LOVE IT: Chef Vincenzo Betulia has done it again, first with Osteria Tulia, then with Bar Tulia and now with “The French” (as it’s already been nicknamed). Just mere steps away from his two rustic Italian restaurants on Old Naples’ bustling pedestrian boulevard, Fifth Avenue South, this brasserie has instantly attracted a throng of locals eager to try its chef-owner’s interpretation of the classic canon.
IDEAL MEAL: He’s nailed all of the traditional favorites—moules frites, onion soup, steak tartare, escargots, beef bourguignon, poulet forestière, tarte tatin—it’s impossible to go wrong with any of these. Betulia has also imparted his signature flair by giving authentic recipes a twist (“oeufs mimosa,” France’s deviled eggs, are topped with braised octopus); borrowing from regional cuisines (branzino is how you’d expect it on the Cote d’Azur with fennel, anchovy and artichokes); and taking inspiration from the modern forces gripping the Gallic heartland (case in point: lamb carpaccio with grilled eggplant, fresh mint and charmoulah, a Moroccan condiment heavy on coriander and parsley).
VIBE: It’s the way a brasserie should be—boisterous and convivial. Conversations blend and sounds ricochet off the wood-paneled walls and mosaic-tiled floors, but that adds to the fun as you slide into a red banquette. If you prefer, however, to have your apéritif minus the background din, ask to sit on the twinkle-light-strewn patio. The area is quieter, with a relaxed feel of a Parisian sidewalk café and great people watching.