Italian Restaurant La Forchetta Opens in Northwest D.C

From the large front courtyard which La Forchetta shares with neighbor Chef Geoff’s, to the decidedly leisurely pace of the waiter service and the stylish, colorful and modern interior, this is a restaurant borne with European roots.

Open since the start of April 2012, La Forchetta is a 116-seat Italian restaurant owned by Hakan Ilhan. The lively, open design is centered around a black mosaic tiled 800-pound pizza oven, encircled with 12 counter seats. There’s another dozen spots at the bar, and a small dining section in front of the restaurant’s open kitchen in addition to outdoor and indoor tables.

The food is spearheaded by come-backing executive chef Roberto Donna. Donna, formerly of renowned Washington D.C. restaurants Galileo and Bebo Trattoria, ran into legal trouble several years ago and shuttered his restaurants before reemerging in the D.C. dining scene by joining the La Forchetta team.

The menu here is a diverse collection of rustic, Italian fare, highlighted by house made pasta, thin crust pizza and a variety of hot and cold small dishes. You’ll also find multiple risottos, various fish and meat entrees, and a dessert menu which ranges from sweet pizza concoctions such as a Nutella and banana stuffed calzone to simple, light freshly made sorbet.

You can sample three of the cold starter plates for $15, including offerings such as roasted beet salad and salted cod. Or you can try three of the hot plates for $23, a good deal to get full-sized portions of some intriguing menu selections such as the savory, sweet and seriously rich prosciutto wrapped, Gorgonzola stuffed, honey-balsamic drizzled dates.

Don’t pass up on the light and addictive polenta fries, baked polenta cut into thick rectangles and topped with gooey Stracchino cheese. They’ll have you asking for more, while leaving ample room for the rest of the food to come.

That’s a good thing, since you’ll likely want to try some sensationally delicate gnocchi. Their soft potato dumplings are served with basil pesto and just melt away when you eat them.

Pizzas include a classic Margherita D.O.C., the Salsiccia e Rapini with smoked mozzarella, sausage and broccoli rabe, and the Quattro Stagioni with mozzarella, olives, mushrooms, artichokes and ham.

All told, there are a dozen pizzas on the menu as well as several calzones. The pizza is tasty but diners would be better served by having it pre-sliced, as once it cooled down it became a laborious task to individually cut off bites or pieces with a knife.

There are about a dozen affordable wines by the glass available, as well as a complete wine list by the bottle. Cocktails – created by Eric Felten, a James Beard-winning writer and author of How’s Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture and the Art of Drinking Well – maintain the restaurant’s European authenticity, with classic Italian staples such as the Negroni and Americano in addition to uniquely crafted offerings which Felten dreamed up.

Billed as an “urban Italian trattoria”, is La Forchetta a neighborhood friendly joint ideal for a few drinks and small bites? Is it a pizzeria making traditional Italian pies? Is it a pricier, high quality Italian restaurant?

La Forchetta wants it all, and certainly you could successfully hit the mark on those numerous fronts. There were no bad dishes to be had, and some of the food – those polenta fries! – is truly noteworthy. However, the restaurant may suffer just slightly from casting too wide a net instead of honing itself in one, clear direction.

Of course, just 5-weeks old, the restaurant will surely continue to perfect and refine its operation and menu, which is something to look forward to considering it already stands on such solid ground.

La Forchetta is located at 3201 New Mexico Avenue NW, Washington, DC, near the American University campus. The restaurant is open daily for dinner, from Monday through Friday for lunch and for brunch on the weekends. Street parking is available in addition to a paid lot next to its shopping center. Call (202) 244-2233 to make a reservation or visit

This article was first published by Jake Emen on Yahoo Voices, June 5, 2012