In about two weeks' time, La Forchetta opens its doors near American University and chef Roberto Donna embarks on his latest comeback attempt after Galileo III shuttered in September amid the same tax debts and other legal issues that have long plagued the chef. As La Forchetta owner Hakan Ilhan has pointed out, though, Donna will not be in charge of the financial side of things, just sticking to the menu. And, indeed, there will be plenty on the menu familiar to those who have followed Donna's career — though the design of the space might be a bit of a surprise.
When it comes to the design scheme at La Forchetta, Ilhan says the intention was to create a modern Italy with historic elements added. So while there is lots of bright orange all over the place — chairs, banquettes, signage, at the bar — and chandeliers that look like they could have come straight from Urban Outfitters, there are also aged paintings of the Mona Lisa and a Leonardo portrait on either side of the restaurant. All put together, they're going for a sleek "Ferrari look," says Ilhan.
In the center of the restaurant stands the woodstone pizza oven, surrounded by bar seating, and off to the side upon entering is an open kitchen where Donna says he will be feeding guests as he cooks. Small plates from the regular menu will be served at the bar, along with a few other dishes that had not yet been sorted out. There's also outdoor seating on the patio for about 30 people and a cocktail list crafted by well-known wine and spirits writer Eric Felten, culminating in a list of Italian classic cocktails and some original cocktails.
The lunch and dinner menus both feature pizzas, pastas and other traditional Italian dishes and among the recipes Donna is bringing over from Galileo include a variety of risottos, a pork shoulder ciabatta panini, agnolotti "Gobbi" all'Astigiana and a hanger steak. There are 10 pastas listed on the dinner menu and 12 pizzas — the owner and chef say they've been debating whether it will be the pasta for which Donna is well-known or the pizza that will sell better.
La Forchetta aims to open its doors on April 2 for both lunch and dinner. The restaurant is also planning to serve brunch — think bomboloni, omelets, steak and eggs and more pizza, of course — though it's undetermined whether they'll launch brunch immediately upon opening.