The Showcase Magazine - Salutes

By Sue Baldani

Growing up on a farm in Kosovo, Tony Hoti always appreciated the flavors of fresh foods. When he decided to open his restaurant, he wanted to ensure his guests would enjoy the same great tastes.

“In May, it will be 11 years since I arrived in America, the greatest country in the world,” he says. “I’m Albanian, and I came here as an exchange student. It was supposed to be for three months, but then I decided to live the American dream.”

A lawyer in his home country, Tony had never worked in the restaurant business, but that soon changed. “I started as a dishwasher, then line cook, busser, server, bartender, manager and general manager. It was then time to fly on my own.”

He opened Cafe Vincotto in Berkeley Heights with his wife, Bona, on February 28, 2023. “Everything here has been meticulously selected, even down to the lighting. It’s very warm and intimate. My wife created moss walls as part of the decor. People are amazed by it.”

Bona has worked with Tony in several restaurants in the past. “She's also Albanian, and if anyone knows anything about Albanians, they know that hospitality is something that runs in our veins. We try to bring that to our restaurant.”

From the reviews online, they are doing everything right. “I’m proud to say that we have been consistently rated a 4.9/5 on OpenTable and Google,” he says. “We were chosen by OpenTable three times last year as the restaurant with the best value in New Jersey. And, in November and December, we were chosen as the restaurant with the best service.”

While the name of the restaurant is Italian, the cuisine is not. “Vino Cotto in Italian means cooked/reduced wine. Our cuisine is European-American with a beautiful twist.

“For example, we have braised short ribs on the menu and 80% of the wine that goes into the braising pan is a Californian cabernet. The other 20% is a Washington pinot noir. The cabernet is very earthy and dry and gives the short ribs a nice big body, while pinot noir has sweet nuances. So, the short ribs are very tender and perfectly balanced with a really nice taste.”

Another example, he explains, is if there is a dish where the sauce requires butter, they tend to use less butter and more chardonnay because chardonnay is a buttery white wine. This makes the dish much healthier. 

“Most of the ingredients in our salads are organically grown,” says Tony. “Most of the seafood that we have is wild-caught, and most of our meat is milk-fed, because the tenderness is absolutely amazing. We serve the food that we would proudly eat ourselves.”

Tony’s favorite part of owning Cafe Vincotto is engaging with people and making friends. “Come as a guest, leave as family” is their motto. 

For more information and to see its menu of delicious options, go to