First Taste: Fortina in Armonk
Oh, we’ve been hearing the rumblings for a while. The rumor was that Chef Christian Petroni—multi-appearance Chopped cheftestant, lately of Barcelona and, before that, of Peniche—would be striking out on his own with a brash, new restaurant. But wait! There was that curveball that Petroni threw when he opened Scarsdale’s Cooked and Co. last year with three other Westchester cooks. We were thinking: is Cooked and Co. Petroni’s big venture? I mean, Cooked and Co. is great—especially its motto: “Food cooked so good, you wanna fork it”—but it’s not really a real (as in, nighttime) restaurant.
Then it was announced that Petroni’s new venture was to be called Fortina; it was slated to be a large wood-fired pizza restaurant in a brand new development at the center of Armonk. Nerves calmed, we settled in for the epic build out that would eventually become Petroni’s New Restaurant. On Facebook, we followed the pouring of concrete floors, the delivery of wood burning ovens, and the installation of scorched board paneling. There were rumors that those über-beer geek DeCicco boys had struck a deal with Petroni so that Fortina would sling food at their in-store café. The newest DeCicco Market is conveniently located right door.
Finally, after the long tease of construction, Fortina is open. Expect a dramatic space with soaring ceilings, two blasting wood ovens, and loads of buzz. We stopped into Fortina last night and, it turns out, there is a lot to be buzzy about. PS: EDP’s First Tastes aren’t critical reviews. When we visited, Fortina had only been open for ten days and that’s way too soon to judge.
I’d say run don’t walk if I didn’t believe that you’d already done that. The place was hopping even though all of Fortina’s tables have not yet been loaded in. Petroni mentioned that they’d like to work up to fever pitch slowly. (As he said this, I looked at the crowd and thought, Fat chance there.) When all of Fortina’s seating is in place, the restaurant will accommodate 130 diners, plus more at the bar. Additionally, Fortina will be offering several sidewalk tables.
Look for an arm-long list of Italian wines organized by flavor profiles (with headings that include “light, crisp, clean, and aromatic whites” and “medium to full bodied, rich, spicy, sumptuous reds”). In addition, Fortina offers more than 40 craft beers and a taut list of six specialty cocktails. We snagged a Headwaters IPA from Victory Brewing Company ($8) and a glass of NV Nove Cento Dieci Spumante Rose Brut ($8), because, yes: I sometimes enjoy a sparkly pink wine. What about it?
Anyway, anyone who has ever met Chef Petroni knows that he is something of a character. Look for flashes of humor on the menu—for instance, amid the perfectly normal foodstuffs listed under Salumi e Formaggi ($11/1; $19/3; $29/5), Petroni busts out with “gabagool,” the Sicilian-American slang for capicola ham. In that same, fashionably kitshy, Italo-American vein, Petroni celebrates bastone bread. You know bastones, those soft, torpedo-shaped loaves of sesame seed-studded bread that you always find in Italian-American delis (and almost never in swank restaurants)? At Fortina, we caught a divine slab of that soft, nostalgic bastone under the sweet, dairy richness of house-made burrata with raw English peas, brown butter, and sweet vin cotto ($17). Oh, and there it was again under slippery chunks suckling pig with sparkling-hot Calabrese chili oil ($16). Let’s face it: bastone never had it so good.
Another smart bit of kitschy branding comes with the #10 cans of tomatoes that Petroni has emptied and repurposed as pizza stands. If you’ve grown up in an Italian-American household, you’re familiar with the graphic labels on these giant, boldly colored cans. It’s touching to see them resurrected as functional décor. As with the “gabagool,” I couldn’t help but smile.
There are some challenges at Fortina. Currently, the restaurant is very loud. Also, a west-facing bank of windows leaves some diners squinting as the sun dips and blasts the room with low-angled glare. Still, you’ll get over it when your tender, lightly charred pizzas arrive. We loved our “Fungi” ($18), a very funky round of Taleggio and roasted mushrooms laced with the carnal fat of bone marrow. Also good, the “Tenderoni” ($15) which is named for a Chromeo song (its video is about a pizza delivery man). The Tenderoni combines tomatoes, spicy sopressata, mozzarella, honey, and that delicious chili oil to make one hot, sweet, rich, and acid bite.
To end, there is the nostalgic charm of tortoni, a fixture in my own childhood. This is a frozen whip of cream, almonds, and brandied cherries served in pleated paper cups. Also, don’t miss the bitter/sweet, hot/cold charms of Fortina’s delicious affogato where sweet fiore de latte gelato and crunchy hazelnut brittle get doused with a shot of hot espresso. Book your tables now, and check out the DeCicco’s Marketplace next door—turns out that Fortina is handling the supermarket’s bar menu. Pounce.
Peekskill Brewery’s Fourth Annual Pig Out
June 30, 1-6 pm
$25 per person
Look for a cash bar and an AYCE buffet of every type of porcine deliciousness you can imagine (and that means sucking pig! Sausage! Lardons! And BBQ ribs!). From the site, “For only $25, enjoy locally raised pig, fixins and dessert! Cash bar will also be available. Evan Watson will be there to rock out as well as DJ Dan. This is one our most anticipated parties of the year so get your tickets today! Walk-in spots are limited.”
Here’s the menu, courtesy of Chef Sean Corcoran:
2 Hemlock Hills pigs
Grafton and Swiss chard sausage
oysters on the half shell
fingerling potato and lardon salad with crème fraîche and pickled ramps
Napa cabbage slaw with sour cherries
spicy baked beans
corn on the cob with chili lime butter
broccoli salad, golden raisins, lemon, garlic, poppy vinaigrette
pasta salad with grilled veggies, balsamic, and house made mozzarella
watermelon sliced/ salad with mint, lime, blue berries
Wood-Roasted Garbanzos “Edamame Style” at Fortina
These pretty green pods are an all-out thrill for anyone with an oral fixation. You pop the salty, wood scented skins in your mouth and then slide the soft, silky pod from the interior. Discard the skins and repeat scores more times. Mmm.