Dining Out: Forninos plays for keeps
At only a year and a half old, Fornino Park Slope still exudesyouthful energy and enthusiasm, yet also carries a charm borne ofexperience – in other restaurants and in the kitchens of itsowner’s childhoods – that blend to create a dining experience atonce upscale and casual – a cross between an airy salon and thecomfort of a pub.
Fornino’s was designed to be a neighborhood restaurant that’s alittle better than the typical, said Chris Walsh, who, along withco-owners Frank Ayoub and David Kearns, manage the Fifth Avenueeatery that returned them to their Brooklyn roots – Walsh and Ayoubare Bay Ridge natives and alums of Bishop Ford High School; Kearnshas lived in Park Slope for years.
The food, prepared by chefs Kersten Eggers and Ayoub, is asfresh as the room it is served in, as are the drinks, prepared bybeverage director James Menite.
Enjoy appetizers such as Bocconcini, a delectably soft,creamy-on-the-inside marinated buffalo mozzarella ($9), the GrilledShrimp and White Beans -tender yet crisp ingredients served in atart radicchio leaf ($9) – and the adorable saffron risotto ballsfilled with mozzarella and prosciutto called Arancine ($9) thatcomes with a roasted pepper dip that goes with everything,including the complimentary Focaccia bread basket.
Complete the meal with one of the light yet filling salads ($9)or try one of the entrees that dress to impress. The Braised ShortRib Ravioli ($19) is a standout, with succulent ground beefswimming inside house made ravioli and topped with parmigianoreggiano. So is the tangy-savory Bucatini pasta dish tossed withmushrooms, spinach, kalamata olives, garlic, homemade ricotta andolive oil ($15).
A great stand-alone dish is the Grilled Hanger Steak ($21),cooked to order, sliced and served with homemade balsamic marinade,kid-friendly Polenta Fries and gorgonzola sauce ($7 a la carte).Another one comes from the sea – the Friday seasonal special ofCioppino ($24) an Italian-American style stew of succulent redsnapper, shrimp, calamari, mussels and clams, all in a tomato brothand a sea-kissed focaccia crouton.
For the kids and kids-at-heart, there are grilled pizzas (from$11-$17). New Yorkers might scoff at the idea, but the grillinglends a smoky taste that works well with toppings, whether that’sclams, basil or the mix of cheeses and roast pepper aioli on thePizza Vinny Scotto, named after the famous chef.
On the dessert ($8) end, everything is homemade, including theKahlua and espresso dipped Tiramisu and vanilla Panna Cotta. Allmenu items are, where possible, organic and sourced regionally, andpasta can be made gluten-free upon request.
Don’t forget to wash each bite down with a specialty cocktail(between $8-$10) such as the refreshing Lost Horizon – Crop organiccucumber vodka mixed with Earl Grey Tea, lime juice and gingersyrup. Or, for the kids, a bottle of root bear, Shirley Temple ororganic peach iced tea.
Next up for the trio is a take-out meatball store calledPolpette, located adjacent to Fornino’s, and referred to asFornino’s-At-Home. The name is apropos, as several of the itemson the menu are tweaked family recipes from Walsh and Ayoub’smothers.
Our favorite thing is coming back to Brooklyn, knowing ourclientele personally and reconnecting with people, said Walsh.The challenges are the economy, but our philosophy’s always been,when your back is against the wall, you attack it. So we’re goingto try new things and see what works.
Fornino Park Slope
254 Fifth Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Delivery to Atlantic Avenue to the north, the east side ofProspect Park and 21st Street to the south.
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