Chef Francesco Coli
Born in Salento, a sub region of Puglia, Italy (sometimes described as the “heel” of the Italian “boot”), Chef Francesco Coli was raised seaside, where as a child he was introduced to the delicacies of the sea that inspire his culinary style. As a boy, Francesco spent every summer having fun hunting the various species in the Mediterranean Sea. Little did he know he had discovered the signature “ocean to table” cooking style that influenced his career today.
Francesco’s father Pasquale, a first class chef on Italian ocean liners, opened the first tablecloth restaurant in Cutrofiano, Lecce called Michelangelo which became the backdrop of Francesco’s earliest memories of food and hospitality. In 1980, Pasquale and Rosa decided to take their two young boys on a family vacation to New York City. That vacation turned into a permanent move where Pasquale opened his second restaurant in Westchester. Working in the family restaurant after school exposed Francesco to every aspect of the business, and he discovered his natural ability to make people smile through his hospitality that comes from the heart.
In 1998, passing on Law School after graduating from Pace University, Francesco took a front of the house position for BR Guest Restaurants in Manhattan. After two years, he decided to make a bold move at the age of 24 and open up his first restaurant La Viletta in Westchester, NY. With his father by his side in the kitchen, La Viletta became a critically acclaimed restaurant. With its success, Francesco was compelled to complete his culinary education with formal training at the French Culinary Institute. Learning how to cook from his father, the culinary education taught him why.
After eleven years at La Viletta, Francesco decided to expand. He opened Massa’ Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar, a space six times bigger, which proved to be an ambitious undertaking and shaped the restaurateur he is today. While the menu was well received, the sheer size of the space prevented Francesco to create the dishes that he is now known for today. In 2011, Francesco decided it was time to return to his roots and the source of his happiest childhood memories, the sea. He opened Massa’ Coastal Italian, an ocean to table restaurant. (Massa’ is derived from the word masseria which means farm house in the region of Puglia.)
Massa’ features fish and seafood specialties, hand-picked by Francesco’s daily visits to the new Fulton Fish Market in Hunts Point.