Who doesn’t love a good brunch with its comfort-focused, accessible menus, cocktail accompaniments, and leisurely vibes? For those who typically don’t eat breakfast during the week, it’s a way to sate breakfast food cravings. Yet others love the meal as it’s also an excellent excuse to sleep in and idle about mid-day with a few cocktails. Given the built-in popularity, it’s almost a too easy effort for a restaurant to come up with a menu: pancakes, Hollandaise and omelets, smoked salmon, quiche, avocado toast, bacon everywhere.
Chef Paul Failla, who ultimately took the helm at Fortina’s kitchens in early 2021 after Christian Petroni left to pursue a burgeoning television career as a celebrity chef, admits the brunch menu was in need of a makeover.
“Not much was put into it,” says Failla, a CIA grad who was previously at the now defunct Bar Sugo in Norwalk. “People were not coming here for our brunch, and we wanted to give it its due.”
The relaunched brunch menu carries on the concept of Fortina’s main menu: family-style sharing of feel-like-at-home (mostly) Italian comfort fare made with simple yet high quality ingredients.
There are approximately 10 starters, from the high-class burrata toast on crisp crusted filone topped with smoked trout roe (the burrata hails from Liuzzi Gourmet Foods in North Haven, CT) that Failla says is a play on lox and a schmear, to an almost dessert-like Greek yogurt parfait to bacon cured in-house, cold smoked and slow roasted before finishing in the wood oven and topped with Calabrian chili and maple syrup. The addictive disco fries, topped with Taleggio and black truffle, and in a veal demi-glace, are an upmarket take on a classic comfort item.
The wood oven is put to many superb uses for selections in the Pasta, Pizza, and Mains sections of the menu. The baked paccheri, made by Dante’s Pasta Shop in Yonkers, is in a delicious béchamel “a la vodka” sauce with mini meatballs nestled inside the pasta ribbons. The dish is finished in the wood-fired oven to give it a slight char. A breakfast gnocchi is another must-try pasta (though no wood oven here) with egg, crispy salty guanciale, and poppy seeds mostly for the visual.
The wood oven is also a great tool for veggies, according to Failla, and it is showcased in his flavorful brunch bowl main via an assortment of charred veggies plus avocado and a poached egg on an heirloom grains base.
There are five pizzas, all of the thin-crust New Haven style; the speck and eggs with burrata, arugula, and smoked EVOO is a righteous choice.
Among the other main dishes are a wood-fired strata, branzino with seasonal panzanella, and a deep-fried French toast stuffed with Nutella and banana and topped with a dreamy house-made fluff that is more dessert than savory and a sweet end to sweet brunch experience.
Armonk, Rye Brook, Yonkers, Stamford
Brunch is served Sat and Sun 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.