La Forchetta: Roberto Donna Returns to the Kitchen at New Italian Trattoria

By Adele Chapin April 30, 2012, 12:37 PM EDT

A screen of orange wall panels divides the exhibition kitchen from the main dining room.

Photo: Stacy Zarin Goldberg

La Forchetta, a new modern Italian trattoria showcasing chef Roberta Donna’s skills in the kitchen and Neapolitan pizza from a massive wood-burning oven, opened last month. Housed in the former Balducci’s space near American University, the 3,150-square-foot restaurant from entrepreneur Hakan Ilhan specializes in Italian classics such as house-made pasta, risotto, pizza, calzones, and sweet pizzas for dessert.

The restaurant can provide catering, and the entire space can be booked for private events, incorporating entrees from the standard menu. Donna and his team also can create a unique meal for private events. Ilhan hopes to host special events at La Forchetta in the future, like wine-centered dinners and evenings hosted by Italian chefs.

With 116 seats inside and 30 seats outside, the restaurant’s design mixes modern, industrial decor with old-world accents. Concrete countertops and rustic steel wine racks are accented by vibrant orange seating and wall panels, with an orange fork as wall art, since la forchetta means “fork” in Italian. A wall of stacked wood for the mosaic-tiled, 800-pound pizza oven serves as a visual divider between the open kitchen and the restaurant’s entrance. Atlanta artist Caara Stoney’s Renaissance-style 11-foot portraits of Mona Lisa and Leonardo da Vinci are another focal point, flanking opposite walls in the restaurant.

In addition to the 100 mostly Italian wines available, the cocktail list from James Beard award-winning wine and spirits writer Eric Felten specializes in Italian favorites and original cocktails with Italian ingredients. An example is The Fanciulli, a version of the Manhattan that uses Italian Amaro Fernet Branca instead of Angostura bitters.

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