Late this summer, Fortina’s Chef/Owner Christian Petroni teased a major announcement for the restaurant. Then he trolled us with odd pictures of LEGOs, a baby, and a Fisher-Price basketball hoop, him getting a massage, and then a POV shot from above the sneakers. People wondered, they guessed, and failed miserably with their predictions. Some were sensible; Fortina drive-thru, curbside pickup, maybe a location where he grew up in the Bronx, or a branch in one of America’s other food towns. Others wondered if there was a baby Petroni on the way, or if he was opening a spot in Madison Square Garden. At this point it could have been anything.
The big reveal was that after two years of testing recipes, Fortina would now serve chicken parm, a dish that Petroni grew up eating and that holds a soft spot in his heart. If you read the Instagram post, it all makes perfect sense. Chicken parm and steak fries. What kid wouldn’t love that? What adult wouldn’t?!
This parm would be different, in a way. Instead of using a chicken breast, Fortina put their own spin on a classic by using thigh meat, that are brined, put into a sausage grinder, and then formed into a cylindrical or torchon-style patty. It’s then breaded, fried, and baked with red sauce and cheese.
I couldn’t wait to try it. But then they broke out two better known Italian chicken dishes: Marsala and scarpiello. I decided to try them all. Each is fork tender, so ditch the knife, and they’re all fried to perfection so even with the sauces, that crispy coating stands up.
The wine-butter scarp sauce was on-point. It was tangy, and wasn’t watery like you might experience elsewhere, and it was slightly spicy but not so much that it conquered the dish.
Regarding the Marsala, it was more like thick Southern gravy rather than a sauce and it was packed with the deep mushroom flavor I was looking for. Either of these are more than suitable for fans of Marsala or scarp, and are a definite step-up from your go-to Italian joint.
Ahhh, yes. The parm. I had high expectations and they were most definitely exceeded. The red sauce was plentiful, acidic, bright, and perfect for forking a piece of chicken off and lathering it up with more marinara. The entire piece of chicken was covered in a layer of bubbling mozzarella and covered in a generous dusting of Parmesan. The use-a-fork rule still applies but you’ll need to twist it, spaghetti-style, to gather up the mozzarella that’ll inevitably string off. Accompanying the chicken parm is a fast food-like basket of crispy and equally potato-ey steak fries. You could just eat them as they come, but I swirled my salty steak fries in the sauce and to grab those bits of fried breading and cheese that were left stranded on my plate.
No issues here, folks. The only thing is, if you have Fortina’s updated classics once, you’ll develop a serious craving. As for the chicken parm, I can’t think of a better one in this area.
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