Diners at the new restaurant will find similar flavors to those at Zero George
CM: How would you describe the offerings at Costa?
VP: We are an Italian-inspired seafood restaurant. I won’t call it a raw bar, per se, but there are some really nice composed crudo dishes. It’s more Amalfi Coast style.
CM: How early were you involved in the design and planning?
VP: From the beginning, we all [at the Easton Porter Group] wanted to do a bigger project, something fun. My family is from southern Italy, and we were thinking of doing something that is personal and relatable.
CM: Your team took a big scouting trip through southern Italy. What inspiration did you bring back?
VP: Tableware and colors and, of course, the flavors of that region. There’s just that great umami thing going on in their food, whether it’s fish sauce or anchovies and things like that—all things from the sea.
CM: How did you get started in the restaurant business?
VP: Originally, I’m from Denville, New Jersey, and at 15 I started cooking at the Parsippany Hilton, mostly working banquets but learning knife and sauce skills. I found my way to Boston, staged at a couple places, including No. 9 Park with Barbara Lynch. Then I made my way to Nantucket, [where I worked at] Topper’s at The Wauwinet, and then to New York. I was in restaurants in New York for at least 12 years.
CM: What brought you to Charleston?
VP: I couldn’t imagine having kids in New York City. I needed to find a place where my kids would be happy, and I knew that meant a place like this, where the beach is 20 minutes away from anywhere. The parks are great here, too, and everything else.
CM: Did you already have the job at Zero Restaurant lined up before you moved here?
VP: I moved here first. [My wife, Jessica, and I] came and thought, we’ll figure it out. I was going to open up a restaurant with some people on Daniel Island, and that fell through. Then somebody contacted me about Zero. It turned out that [co-owner] Lynn Easton had been my next door neighbor growing up. It was like the universe aligned.
CM: What will diners find at Costa that’s different from Zero?
VP: Zero changes whenever I feel like it and we try never to bring the same dish back. Here, I don’t know if the menu is gonna change as much. We definitely have some signatures, focusing on seafood. I have a pastry chef now, too. Her name is Brooke [Lindsay], and she came over from Wild Common. We have soft-serve gelato and a really awesome tiramisu that Brooke spent a lot of time on.
CM: What’s the one thing on the menu you’re most excited about?
VP: One of my favorite foods is mozzarella sticks, and we love caviar at Zero Restaurant so I wanted to have a signature caviar dish at Costa. It’s mozzarella in corrozza (fried bread) covered with way too much osetra caviar. We serve it with just a squeeze of lemon, and there’s a little ‘nduja butter inside that gives it richness. It’s cheeky and fun.