New Italian Kitchen Near American University
Mother's Day is right around the corner, and I think every adult should take his or her mother to dinner or make them a home-made meal. My mother lives in another country, and she visited last week briefly. I took her to newly opened La Forchetta right by American University for an idyllic dinner outside on the patio. She loves Italian food, and some of her favorite haunts in the District include Siroc by McPherson Square and Al Tiramisu in Dupont Circle. My mom even lived in Rome briefly, and really briefly a.k.a. three months, but still, she can be picky about her Italian food. Good thing La Forchetta pleased with a winning combination of well-seasoned food, gracious service, and a flower- and sun-filled patio.
La Forchetta opened April this year, and they occupy a space next to Chef Geoff's Foxhall Square location. On days with mild weather, it's perfect to sit on the brick patio surrounded by different flower gardens. (My mom marveled over the bright pink roses, for example.) If you choose to sit inside, however, you won't be disappointed either. The interior, designed by Matt Norris of Norris Design in Atlanta, features black and steel colors with punches of vibrant orange. An 800-pound pizza oven sits at the center of the restaurant where diners can see pizzaiolo, Panetta Giuseppe, create a variety of pizzas. It's a casual atmosphere that welcomes the hubbub of discussion. Families can feel comfortable bringing their children here without disrupting other patrons. You can see Chef Roberto Donna working if you sit at the bar facing the open kitchen.
We started off with a (free) bread basket, a sample of three hot appetizers, and glasses of wine. (Sidenote: Among my friends, I may have the lowest tolerance, but you have not met my mother. She loves sipping wine, and really, I mean sipping. Blame it on the Asian genes.) Anyway, for the sample of three appetizers, we selected the meatballs "La Forchetta style", the pork belly with sautéed apples, and the sautéed shrimp with soft polenta. Our Italian server, Pablo, suggested the last two, as the extensive menu rendered us unable to choose! The meatballs and pork belly were spot-on: The meatballs were flavorful with raisins and other spices, and the pork belly was expertly cooked. It was crunchy on the outside and juicy inside. The apples were the perfect touch because the acidity cut the grease. Maybe it's because my mom's not the biggest fan of polenta, but the shrimp wasn't as tasty as the other two. For me, the dish was too oily, and the paprika was overwhelming. But, I would definitely get the meatballs and pork belly again. Each portion was huge, too, and while I can eat a lot, I felt satiated after the apps!
In between our appetizers and entrees, Pablo was gone for a very long time. At first, we speculated that he might be overwhelmed with customers. La Forchetta was bursting with diners. But then, he returned...with a bandaged hand that resembled the Michelin man. We gasped, "What happened?!" Pablo had cut his hand on a broken wine bottle, and the gash was deep. He joked that he wouldn't be able to drive his Harley-Davidson home. Yikes. Pablo kept serving us until he really needed to go to the hospital. Talk about dedicated service. We hope he is okay!
For the entrees, I ordered the pappardelle with wild boar ragu, while my mother ordered the special of the evening, rockfish with red sauce. Both were substantial portions and smelled amazing. At every Italian restaurant, my mom will inevitably order the pappardelle, so good thing all the pasta is made in-house at La Forchetta. The wild boar ragu was rich and tasty. Karen, the warm and welcoming general manager, remarked that we had ordered three kinds of tomato sauce: chunky, tart tomatoes with the fish; creamier tomato sauce with the papperdelle; and the savory, herb infused sauce with the meatballs. What variety! I wish we had ordered some vegetables to round out the meal, but hey, when eating out, I am going to savor my meats.
By the end of the entree, my mom and I were holding our bellies and groaning. But, Karen enticed us into ordering the tiramisu. (It was dark outside by the time we ate dessert, so my apologies, no pictures.) Let's just say that it comes with warm chocolate sauce, and you are supposed to dig a hole in the tiramisu and pour the chocolate in the hole, volcanic-mountain-style. YUM, but we literally staggered to the car, our bodies bending over with the weight of our stomachs.
La Forchetta is a generously portioned Italian kitchen. The service is friendly and attentive, and the food, well, you just read how much we ate and enjoyed it. La Forchetta is located on New Mexico Avenue, a short distance from American University.
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