Vita Bella offers wood fired pizza, pasta and Italian street food
FRANKFORT — “Chi mangia bene vive bene;” he who eats well, lives well.
That’s the motto of Vita Bella Italian Kitchen and Market, which will serve its first customers on March 3 at 320 Main St. in downtown Frankfort at the former location of Coho Cafe.
Vita Bella was opened by Ed Carella and Tim Potter, who saw there was something Frankfort’s restaurant scene was missing: authentic Italian food.
“It’s very traditional southern Italian cooking; that’s my heritage, I’m a second generation Italian,” Carella said. “My parents were both from Naples.”
Carella said the focal point of Vita Bella is a 6,000 pound wood fired pizza oven shipped from California, which Carella uses to make Neapolitan-style pizza.
“Neapolitan-style pizzas were traditionally made in wood-fired ovens,” Carella said. “Wood has the ability to burn at very high heat and cook the pizzas fast. The dough we’re using gets very light and airy when baked in the wood oven. Using different woods like cherry, maple and ash add a flavor component in the pizza.”
Potter said the oven can reach 800-900 degrees and cook a pizza in a minute.
Diners will be able to try various types of pizza, like the margherita; a classic Neapolitan pizza with fresh, house made mozzarella, San-Marzano tomatoes and basil. Other pizza options include a four-cheese pizza, a mushroom pizza and a sopressata (dry Italian salami) pizza.
Vita Bella also will serve fresh, homemade pasta, like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, carbonara and Bolognese. Chicken and seafood dishes, along with other Italian specialties like chicken and eggplant parmesan are also on the menu.
The lunch and dinner menus are different, with panini sandwich lunch options replacing pasta and dinner entrees.
“For lunch we offer panini sandwiches and salads, as well as Neapolitan street foods that are popular in Naples,” Carella said. “We’ve got fritto misto (fried seafood-like fish, calamari and shrimp with vegetables) and Pizza A Portafoglio (folded pizza); things you can take and eat on the street.”
Soups and desserts will also be available.
As for the marketplace aspect, Carella said it will feature ready to eat foods like snacks and sandwiches, but a little more Italian focused; things people couldn’t find elsewhere. It will also feature jars of Vital Bella’s sauces and even pre-packaged entrees customers can take home.
A selection of Italian beer and wine, as well as some local wines, will round out the selection.
“We were trying to be unique enough that people couldn’t just go into Family Fare and find,” Carella said. “We want people to make the trip over here and get that charcuterie board or homemade mozzarella.”
Vita Bella will offers dine-in and take-out services. Orders can be made online, and delivery may be an option in the future.
Carella said Vita Bella would cater events, and hopes to hold some of his own.
“As we go into the summer and fall we’d like to focus on special events like cooking classes or holiday events,” he said.
Both longtime visitors to Frankfort and the surrounding area, Carella and Potter said the idea for Vita Bella came long ago, when they both saw a need for an authentic Italian restaurant in Frankfort.
“Tim (Potter) and I have known each other for a long time and we’ve always had a passion for food and restaurants, but also Frankfort,” Carella said.
He said when he came up with the idea of opening a restaurant in Frankfort, the first person he called was Potter. While they talked about opening an Italian restaurant in Frankfort, it wasn’t until Carella lost his job in a restaurant group in the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020 that they seriously began talking about opening an Italian restaurant.
Potter was in a similar situation with his own sports and event marketing company in St. Louis.
“Suddenly there were not a lot of corporate outings or sporting events,” Potter said. “I was in a quiet point in my life. We started talking back and forth and I said, ‘You know how you’ve always wanted an Italian restaurant in Frankfort, were you serious?'”
Potter said they started looking for locations in Frankfort, and they loved the former location of the Coho Cafe.
“I used to love going to the Coho Cafe,” he said. “I loved the location. Once Ed (Carella) started talking about making it a market, that’s when it really started to click. There were worries of opening a restaurant in a pandemic, but take out and grab and go took some of those away. Along with the gorgeous deck overlooking Betsie Bay for outdoor dining year-round, it was a no-brainer.”
Vita Bella Italian Kitchen and Market will be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. To see the menu or order online, visit vitabellakitchen.com.