Fairfield county residents will be soon crossing the border (passports not required)-- into Upper Westchester County's suburb of Armonk, after this week's opening of Fortina. Chef Christian Petroni, recently Executive Chef of Greenwich's Barcelona Restaurant, is joined by John Nealon, ex-GM of the same provenance and Nealon's childhood friend, Rob Krauss as business partners. Both Nealon and Krauss originally hail from Westport. Petroni, a local himself, is also co-owner of Cooked & Co., in Scarsdale.
Recalling the many memorable meals he had eaten during his time spent in Italy, Petroni's vision was to bring Italy's simple authentic flavors, cooking methods and presentation to the dishes he serves at Fortina. This vision is executed with the help of 2 wood burning ovens imported straight from Naples, Italy which serve as a focal point in the main dining room. In fact with the exception of just a few menu items, everything is cooked in these fiery hearths...even a pasta dish or two! (And you should hear Petroni when he speaks of his ovens...like a proud new Papa )
With one oven designated specifically for pizza, Petroni has recruited an impeccably trained Pizzaiolo (professional pizza chef) who was himself trained by none other than the affable, orange croc wearing, Mario Batali. Fortina's Pizzaiolo also helped to open both The Westport and Port Chester locations of Tarrytown Lodge. At Fortina, crispy, lighhtly charred, beautiful crust can be expected on everything from your Margherita mainstay to the unique Roasted Mushroom, Tallegio, and Bone Marrow pie. We are looking forward to this one.
What's important for Petroni is that the food speaks for itself, with clean flavors highlighted by accompaniments, served on the side. The very accomplished Chef Jodi Bernhard (also from Barcelona Restaurant) will be assisting him in this endeavor. His menu will include a very thoughtfully selected short list of cheese and cured meats as well as antipasti that will feature grilled or roasted veggies and wonderful salads. Succulent steaks, Roasted Chicken and Porchetta, are a few proteins that will come to you straight from the wood burning oven a la carte. Showcasing what he can do with a wood burning oven, there will be a wood fired pacheri "a la vodka", which he is very excited about as well as house made cavatelli all'amatriciana, with red onion, garlic, chile and guanciale. Petroni's hope is that guests will share dishes enabling them to experience more of the menu...plus, isn't that just more fun?
The space, located at Armonk Sqare, is expansive yet comfortable with ceiling heights reaching 30 feet. The walls are completely adorned in planks of rough milled Cyprus wood that have been intentionally burned to give it a look of antiquity, and the ceilings are adorned with circular wrought iron chandeliers hung high. The decor is barn like and urban at the same time. It's downtown NY meets Wyoming , without the attitude or cowboys. With two large spaces separated by sliding barn doors, one side displays the open concept kitchen and bar area, which boasts a whopping 50 foot long bar. A seat atop one of their many tall bar chairs, affords you the opportunity to watch one of two, large flatscreen tv's which will live-stream the Pizzaiolo action. A wall of white subway tile surrounds the bar and pendant lights made from chicken feeders that are hung upside down add urban whimsy.
My guess is that Fortina will break out of the gates making major strides in the food community. On the day we visited, the buzz was positive and contagious, as the 3 partners signed off on deliveries and answered questions for inquiring passers by. And as we witnessed Petroni putting pen to paper after his successful health inspection, it's green light go for Fortina!
A full food review is soon to follow!
Fortina 17 Maple Avenue, Armonk, NY. 914.273.0900