Vincent Caro has worked in the restaurant industry since he was 15, where he held restaurant jobs in Brittany, France, on weekends and holidays to make “pocket money.”
His experience as a teenager inspired him to continue cooking as an adult and 12 years ago he came to New York to improve his English. Caro only planned to stay one year but that year turned into 12 and now, his skills are being used at Côté Soleil, a French restaurant in Woodside.
Located at 50-12 Skillman Ave., the cozy restaurant serves classic French dishes that Caro learned to cook at his jobs and family recipes.
“I picked the dishes that I’ve loved since I was young,” he said.
Côté Soleil roughly translates to Sunnyside because of the restaurant’s location on the Sunnyside/Woodside border. It opened in October and Caro has been serving up dishes such as coq au vin, cordon bleu and ratatouille.
His jobs at Tout Va Bien, the oldest French bistro in the theater district, Bagatelle and Le Bilboquet helped inform his menu. Caro has also placed a greater emphasis on brunch, where he serves up both a sweet and savory crêpe Bretagne, a dish that originated in Brittany.
Caro said he studied how to make the perfect crêpe from buckwheat for months and that it’s become a popular weekend menu item. Other options for brunch include croque monsieur, a French grilled cheese with ham and béchamel and eggs Benedict with a choice of Canadian bacon or smoked salmon.
The dishes are affordable, ranging from $13 to $20 for an entree and from $10 to $14 for brunch. Caro also serves a large selection of wines from France, Italy, New Zealand and California.
Desserts include crème brulée, mousse au chocolat, l’île flottante, meringue floating on crème Anglaise, and riz au lait et son caramel au beurre sale, a rice pudding topped with homemade salted caramel butter.
The restaurant’s staff is small – just two people in the kitchen and one employee to direct people to their table. Caro said he wanted to open his restaurant in Queens because he loves the borough and has called it home for the past 12 years.
“I’ve always lived in Queens, Astoria, Jackson Heights,” he said. “It’s a great neighborhood around here. I didn’t want to go too far from the city or to go too close because the rents are higher. I think it’s the right mix.”
Caro is also Celtic and likes that Sunnyside and Woodside have a large Irish community. Côté Soleil has racked up dozens of five star reviews on Yelp in the four months that it has been open and Caro said he is happy with the response from the neighborhood.
“[I’m taking it] one step at a time,” he said. “I have some regulars already, which is probably a good sign.”