An Early Look at La Forchetta

The new pizza and pasta place opens tonight with Roberto Donna in the kitchen. Check out the dishes now.

By: Jessica Voelker

La Forchetta, a new pizzeria and trattoria from fast-food mogul Hakan Ilhan, opens tonight in the same New Mexico Ave. shopping center as burger and Caesar-salad stalwart Chef Geoff's. Ilhan hired buzz-generator Roberto Donna--the former Galileo chef who left town early this year amidst a storm of controversy--to helm the kitchen. Ilhan said he was warned that hiring Donna would lead to, among other things, a boycott from suppliers, but he didn't worry about that given his own reputation and experience in the food biz.

Besides, Donna's executive chef role will limit him to the kitchen, Ilhan has told the local food media repeatedly. So far so good: the restaurateur has leaned on Donna to guide him through the ins and outs of opening a higher-end spot, since his previous experience has been limited to the realm of fast-casual.

Neapolitan-style pizzas will be cooked in a tiled wood-burning oven in the center of the 3,150-square-foot restaurant--guests can sit at the concrete bar and watch Naples-born pizzaiolo Panette Giuseppe prep pies. In addition to the pizzas, the menu features sandwiches, homemade sausage and pastas, risotto and meat dishes that will be familiar to Donna fans, and a fish special that will evolve out of whatever's available that day. Pastry and gelato will also be made in house. 

Atlanta designer Matt Norris attempted to create the look of a modern Italian eatery you might see in Milan--thus the exposed ceilings, industrial materials like concrete, and tangerine-hued chairs imported from the motherland. There are also 11-foot tall murals from artist Caara Stoney (also based in Atlanta) depicting the Mona Lisa and Leonardo. 

Beverage options include 8 beers on draft (including requisite trattoria brews Peroni and Moretti), a cocktail list showcasing Italian ingredients like  Cocchi Americano and Sicilian liqueur Amaro Averna, and an expansive wine list with bottles ranging from $30 to $100--Ilhan says Donna suggested offering higher-end wines at a low markup, so vino fans should find some interesting picks on that menu. 

La Forchetta opens tonight at 5 PM; lunch service begins Monday, April 9. Look for weekend brunch in coming weeks.  

La Forchetta, 3201 New Mexico Ave. Suite E, NW., 202-244-2223; laforchettadc.com. Open daily from 11:30 AM to Midnight.