4/11/2012 10:26:00 AM

What's Cooking at La Forchetta in Wesley Heights

Meringata with chocolate ice-cream
Last week the Wesley Heights Italian La Forchetta opened, giving the area a chance to sample the authentic cooking of Roberto Donna. We had scoped out its sleek, industrial modern design in a sneak preview, and recently we went by to check out the scene.

The Food
Sitting at the counter fronting the kitchen, we watched Donna and his crew in action. Small tastes, like herbed ricotta and whipped proscuitto dips can be ordered to accompany the fragrant focaccia and pies he bakes in the wood-burning pizza oven. Donna says the pizza recipe is one he perfected at a former venue, Bebo, while the dips are based on childhood favorite foods in his native Piedmont.

An array of small plates, including an individual eggplant parmesan casserole and pork belly bedded on apple compote proved popular. A hearty multi-grain and bean soup, Sfarrata, seemed fitting for a chilly evening. Donna noted that when he served that dish to Oprah at a private dinner party during the past inauguration (it was bitterly cold), she came into the kitchen to give him a thank you hug.

Pastas like seafood with calamarata (a flat macaroni) are made-to-order. Agnolotti filled with three meats in a butter and sage sauce is a perennial fave. Following hearty main dishes like braised pork shank or beef ribs, desserts like meringata with chocolate ice-cream and orange sauce or tiramisu seem like appropriate endings. Serious dessert fanatics can opt for housemade bombolini (fried dough).

The Drink
Italian classics like the negroni and the Americano keep company with some interesting tipples like the Fanciulli (a Manhattan with Amaro Fernat Branca instead of angostura bitters) named for a composer/Marine Band official whose refusal to play a Sousa march provoked a scandal in the late 19th century. Well-priced Italian wines are offered by the glass and bottle.

The Crowd
When it comes to who's there, expect a lively and eclectic mix of people, ranging from neighborhood residents stopping by for a drink and bite, to families on a pizza outing, to bec fins and interested eaters seeking out Donna's cooking.

3201 New Mexico Ave. NW; 202-244-2233


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