Vinny Tumminello

Bar 19 Twelve
Bel Air, Maryland
Chef Swap Ingredient:
Forbidden Black Rice
Cuisine Style:
American with an Italian influence

Vincent “Vinny” Tumminello grew up eating authentic Italian food made by his paternal grandmother and realized cooking was a magnet that drew his soul into the possibilities of commanding plates of food. He now does his best to share some of the love his grandmother shared with him with others.


About Vinny Tumminello

Vincent “Vinny” Tumminello talks like a don, confident, and can speak facts about his Italian heritage through and through.

He can get down in the kitchen without any doubt, believing his food is fit to be served to discerning diners anywhere.

Tumminello is the executive chef at Bar 19 Twelve, a swanky bar and restaurant at 1912 US 17 S. in North Myrtle Beach.

Jeff Martini, the eatery’s owner, praises Tumminello’s creativity, cleanliness, ability to multitask, dedication, and command of culinary gifts.

“He can cook about anything you can dream of,’’ said Martini, a fisherman who catches his restaurant’s seafood.  “His best dish is our fresh fish because it is so good. It inspires him to do different things.”

Comparable to his contemporaries, he never attended culinary school and learned the hard-knock way. By observing and participating in cooking with his paternal grandmother, he learned essential parts of the trade early on.

When he went to work in restaurants, his education continued. He also gained instruction by getting his paws on a book from The Culinary Institute of America and reading it from cover to cover.

He put in the work. He still works, and the results are apparent.

Food likes to listen to this man’s hands.

“Your food was fantastic,’’ wrote Barbara Stroup in her Google review. “The (limoncello) risotto, (prosciutto) and melon, ahi tuna, and pork belly small plates were spectacular.”

People put respect on Tumminello’s ability as a supreme food ninja.

“I honestly love cooking,’’ he said while chilling on a barstool at the eatery. “I just love making food. I know how to do it. Cooking is in my blood literally. On my days off, I cook at home. It’s relaxing actually. I really enjoy it.”

Roots & Routes

Inspiration knew him from the beginning, and her name was Amelia Tumminello. His paternal grandmother gave their family her best with her endless energy, time, and food seasoned with her secrets and unconditional love.

While growing up in Maryland, Tumminello saw his grandmother being grand in every way.

“I’ve always enjoyed cooking because of my nonna (Italian for grandmother),’’ he said. “That is what she did. She raised us kids, and she cooked, she cooked, she cooked. And in between those cooking times, she cleaned and got everybody ready for everybody else to come home.”

Their family tree was tall with tradition, and she took immense pride in preparing every dish. Scents of homemade sauces, bread, and meatballs were among the aromatics that wafted through her home.

One of his favorite things she prepared was Milanese, except it was never veal, but top round pounded out thin before being fried.

“As a kid, we ate it with ketchup,’’ he said, ‘’but we don’t do that anymore.”

She made multitudinous memories for their family, and they left indelible marks on his heart.

“You could feel all the love and intentions in her cooking,’’ he said. “The crazy thing is as I got older, I realized she was the last one to sit down and eat. She would please everyone first, and then she would sit down and eat. Now, I do that.”

Moments spent with his grandmother back then are essential to who he is presently as a chef. He recalls being with her and absorbing all the culinary wisdom she graciously gave him.

“My nonna taught me the basics of being a good cook,’’ he said. “I was probably around six, or seven the first time I remember helping her in the kitchen. I would pull a chair up beside her and stand on the seat, helping her knead bread, fry meat, roll meatballs, or just taste everything that she did.”

Cooking as a career, however, wasn’t an instantaneous choice. He decided to get serious about defining his career in his mid-20s.

His first restaurant job was at an eatery known as Tony’s in North Myrtle Beach. His dad, who built commercial and residential buildings, moved the family down South to build homes.

Motivated in part by his desire to have his own pocket money and not depend entirely on allowance, Tumminello started working as a busboy at Tony’s and went on to work at a steakhouse and tavern. He even worked in the construction business with his dad and became a loan officer before earnestly pursuing a profession as a chef.

He hated both. The construction work required him to get up too early, and he didn’t like working outside during the summer – even though he is thankful for how he became a handyman because of his foray into that field. He disdained his job as a loan officer because he was behind a desk and loathed being on the phone all day.

He ended up at a steakhouse in Maryland, where he relocated for a stint because he missed family members.

The game forever changed for him when he moved back to the Carolinas and landed a job at Chianti South in Little River. He stayed there for 13 years and met Frank Letino.

“He was a great mentor to me, a father figure almost,’’ Tumminello said.

When he started at Chianti South, he was in charge of appetizers but quickly zoomed through the ranks until he was making homemade pasta and essentially became a man in charge of the kitchen.

Letino infused into him the importance of understanding the hospitable parts of the industry.

“He stressed being proud of what you do, being proud of what you put on the plate,’’ Tumminello said. “He would say, ‘Would you eat that? Would you like that plate if it came out to you?’’’

Bar None

Bar 19 Twelve Is posh. Folks can’t help but feel special – on the verge of getting pampered – when they walk into the place.

The bar alone is artistry. Soft neon blue and sea foam green lighting illuminate the bar with high-end liquors and sexy cocktails. It is the kind of space non-drinkers will chill just because it’s cool, inviting, and has a vibe that says somebody worth noticing has arrived.

Tumminello has been in the industry for about 25 years, and he's been the executive chef at Bar 19 Twelve since it opened on Dec. 28, 2019.

The décor is an eclectic blend of fancy and fun furniture with asymmetrical booths, marble-top tables, and chandeliers worthy of magazine covers. Dark and light colors reminiscent of hues witnessed in the stratosphere, forests, and oceans dominate. Sky grays, wintry sea blues, and autumn yellows are among the shades against backdrops of ebony and ivory fixtures and furniture in the main dining room.

The upstairs dining area is just as appealing and has a wine room and large bay windows overlooking a golf course. The outside seating area, which is enclosed, is where musicians and singers perform from Thursday through Saturday. It is a generous space overlooking the same golf course with a smaller bar and seating at the bar and tables.

“If you come to eat my food, you know you are going to get good quality ingredients,’’ he said. “You are going to get food made with fresh ingredients.”

He declares his version of a Maryland crab cake is one of the best on the Grand Strand.

“It is a true Maryland crab cake,’’ he said. “Everybody says they have a Maryland crab cake, and that’s a lie.”

He did reveal his crab cakes contain real jumbo crab meat, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard.

Folks are also feeling his deviled eggs – he sells thousands yearly. The appetizer shares menu space with jalapeno-bacon wrapped shrimp, chicken wings, an array of salads, lamp lollipops, red wine braised short ribs, and other nobility on this rocking menu.

Tumminello spends most of his week cooking for guests who indulge in dishes that feature fresh-caught fish, signature entrees, and small plates big enough to share.

And he doesn’t mind at all.

As he gives a quick tour of his kitchen, a surprisingly small space compared to the volume he delivers, he proudly brags about how much he and his staff get done in the tiny, shiny, confined space.

“That is where the hard work happens,’’ he said. “That is where the stuff that nobody sees goes on. The hours put in, the sweat, the cutting yourself – hopefully not too often. It’s worth it when the customers are happy at the end, and I can go home and relax.”

By Johanna Wilson Jones

“I honestly love cooking. I just love making food. I know how to do it. Cooking is in my blood literally. On my days off, I cook at home. It’s relaxing actually. I really enjoy it.”

Vinny Tumminello
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