Dining with a view: Al Fresco Waterfront Dining on the Bay to open in May

What is it: Benny Vito has been a fixture in the Sandusky area restaurant scene for decades. He owns and operates the top-ranked Zuppaman, located in the Sandusky Plaza, and now the chef is teaming with Brad Kraft to open Al Fresco Waterfront Dining on the Bay at the Oasis Marina at Battery Park.

Oasis Marina is the new name for the marina at Battery Park, while Al Fresco Waterfront Dining will be located on the bay shoreline behind the old Damon’s restaurant.

“There’s a kitchen that Damon’s used to serve boaters, so there’s a huge opening there,” Vito says. “We just open this garage door and there’s a counter there with a kitchen behind it.”

The marina is the largest in the city and Al Fresco Waterfront Dining will be there to serve those boaters. However, Vito and Kraft envision the spot as a dining destination for residents and visitors, as well as boaters.

“It’s a great view down there,” Vito says. “It’s going to be a place where you just come up and order and customers will be given a number and we’ll call it out when the order is finished. We’ll also have entertainment, but one thing that we have is coverage. When it rains, we won’t have to close because we have this overhang and some inside seating in the marina.”

Diners will be able to enjoy a view of the bay and Cedar Point.Teaming with Brad Kraft: Kraft is the chef for Sandusky City Schools. Partnering with Kraft on Al Fresco Waterfront Dining is also something Vito just wanted to do.

“Brad is one of the most kind and talented people I know,” Vito says. “I have never been in business with Brad, but he knows what he’s doing. I just think this will be great for Downtown Sandusky; it’s so gorgeous. I grew up in the town and it’s grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years.”

The menu will be eclectic, but service will be the No. 1 thing Al Fresco Waterfront Dining at the Bay wants to be known for.

“I was always told when I was training that you can be the best chef in the world, but someone is not going to like your food,” Vito said. “But, nobody in the history of this business has ever said, ‘I’m never going back because the service was too good.’ You take care of your customers, they will take care of you, and good service makes the food taste better. It just does.”

That eclectic menu: Al Fresco Waterfront Dining will serve some of the usual suspects, such as perch sandwiches and burgers, but go there for the different things. Vito and Kraft have already developed five different lobster rolls and crab rolls. Some of the lobster rolls include one that is cajun style and another has an Asian sesame spin to it.

In addition, the restaurant is working on seared tuna with an Asian aioli, salmon and walleye. Then there’s breakfast.

“Just imagine this—I do the fluffiest scrambled eggs you’ve ever seen because I use two whole eggs and one egg yolks,” Vito says. “I use heavy cream and a little soda water to make them very fluffy, then I put them on a piece of toasted brioche with black or white truffle oil on it. Then I will serve it with a little caprese salad, so you’ll get a big slice of tomato and mozzarella, and a leaf of basil. That’s the kind of breakfast we’re going to serve.”

When it’s opening: Vito and Kraft and planning on a May opening for the restaurant, most likely the first weekend of the month, depending on the weather. Al Fresco Waterfront Dining will remain open through October.

The eatery will most likely be open for lunch and dinner throughout the week and serve breakfast Thursday through Sunday. That will change once the boater season is in full swing, when the restaurant could be open for breakfast every day.

“We’ll probably open around 11 a.m. for lunchtime, but maybe even a little earlier, depending on the boaters,” Vito says. “We’re still working out breakfast, but it will probably be around 7 or 8 in the morning because boaters don’t get up that early.”

Contact information: Vito already has more than 15,000 followers because of Zuppaman and Zuppaman Sandusky. Al Fresco Waterfront Dining on the Bay already has a Facebook page and is working to get an email address.