Italian chef opens restaurant in Front Royal

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL – Tiramisu means “pick me” up in Italian and that's exactly what Vincenzo Belvito's version of the dessert is meant to do.

Made with lady fingers soaked in espresso, mascarpone cheese and cocoa, the dessert gives diners at Belvito's new restaurant, Osteria 510, a little lift.

“There are a lot of bad versions of tiramisu,” said Belvito, who went to cooking school for five years in Italy starting at age 14.

A native of Conversano in southern Italy, Belvito moved to the United States 25 years ago to work as a chef in Dallas. He later moved to Colorado to work for the Loews hotel chain. In 1992, he went to Washington, D.C., where he worked for several years until opening his own restaurant, Pesto, in the district in 2001. He closed Pesto in 2010, “took a break, and now I'm here.”

With the help of restaurant manager Alex Dunbar-Fernandez, Belvito opened Osteria at 510 S. Royal Ave. in Front Royal this summer.

He chose the location, he said, because he wanted to be in a small town.

“It looks almost like Tuscany with the vineyards and the little mountains,” Belvito said.

But aside from the natural beauty of the area, Belvito said, “there is no real Italian food in town.”

Those looking for an Olive Garden-like atmosphere won't find it at Osteria. Bread is served with entrees; there are no unlimited breadsticks.

“The menu reflects what my understanding of cooking should be because some recipes are not from the south (of Italy),” Belvito said.

“We want people to feel like they've come to an extension of Vincenzo's home because this is something you'd eat at his house,” Dunbar-Fernandez said.

The best-selling dishes are Salmone Con Cipolle Di Tropea – Salmon baked with citrus, caramelized onions and potato – and Stinco Di Angello Al Forno – slow-braised lamb shank with vegetables and orzo.

Made with fresh cheeses and local vegetables, Osteria's pizzas are also popular. Belvito buys produce himself from local farmers.

“So I don't have like a big truck delivering me frozen stuff. The only thing we get delivered is the beer and wine,” Belvito said.

While there are a few employees in addition to Belvito and Dunbar-Fernandez, the staff is small.

“Every dish that comes out has my hands on it,” Belvito said. “I wanted a small place where I can be hands-on. I'm happy with 30, 40 people a night, really taking care of them.”

Prices range from $8 for pizza to $18 for the salmon. The restaurant carries Italian and Virginia beer and wines.

Osteria is open from 5 to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Currently living in Arlington, Belvito plans to move to Front Royal in about a month, and said at some point he may open the restaurant for lunch as well as dinner.

For more information, call (540) 631-1101 or visit

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