People all over the country may be crying about business slowdowns and rising gasoline prices, but chef Marc Forgione hasn’t let that deter him from plunging into a new business. Forge, his restaurant in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, opened June 17.
“I can’t control the economy, and I wasn’t going to put my dream on hold,” Forgione says, “so we’re going in head-first and we’re going to see what happens.”
Since opening, Forge has been serving about 100 guests a night.
“We’re controlling the book right now,” says Forgione, son of renowned chef Larry Forgione. “We’ll see what happens down the line, because you know, with a new restaurant, you have to learn to crawl before you can sprint.”
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be a rock star,” Forgione says. “But I’m not really that good at singing, and I can’t play the guitar, so I started cooking.”
He was 16 when he began his culinary career at An American Place, his father’s restaurant. Now, at age 29, as he introduces his restaurant designed to offer fine-dining food and fine-dining service in a casual, relaxed atmosphere, the young chef can draw upon a wealth of experience that also includes work with Laurent Tourondel, Michel Guérard and other culinary luminaries.
After mulling over the possibility of creating his own place for a couple of years, Forgione says that concrete plans for Forge started to come together almost exactly a year before opening when he met his business partner and co-owner, Christopher Blumlo. Larry Forgione helped “greatly with fatherly and business advice”—about matters from food to placement of shelves to choice of dishware.
The restaurant features a bar area with communal wooden tables and a more formal dining room as well as a private dining area scheduled to open in the fall. Custom-made lanterns with candles hang overhead; walls are exposed brick. A lot of the restaurant’s decorations came from the Forgione home, including furniture, cookbooks from James Beard’s personal collection, and cookware used by Forgione’s grandparents and great-grandparents.
AT A GLANCE Opened: June 17, 2008Location: 134 Reade St.Website:
Opened: June 17, 2008Location: 134 Reade St.Website:
Forge’s opening menu comprises six appetizers, seven entrées, a cheese course plus several desserts. Selections will change seasonally. The current best-selling appetizer, chicken “nuggets,” consists of free-range chicken legs and thighs cured overnight with salt, sugar and spices, and then confited in duck fat. The meat is shredded, mixed with poblano chiles, cilantro and parsley and bound together with a roux-like mixture—“a technique that I picked up from my old man.” The mixture is rolled, breaded and deep-fried. Forgione serves the nuggets with smoked-onion rémoulade and a local wax bean slaw.
“I can’t make them fast enough,” Forgione says of the nuggets’ popularity, joking that he has “kind of created a monster.”
Leg of suckling pig for two, which Forgione predicts will become a signature dish based on the number of customers coming in specifically for it, cures overnight in salt, sugar, spices and citrus, and then gets confited in duck fat. When the meat is pretty much falling off the bone, it’s pulled off in chunks and served with a crispy pig skin “cracker” along with a changing array of three side dishes, such as sugar snap pea and asparagus sautéed with bacon, mustard crushed fingerling potatoes and garlic porcini mushrooms.
Several dishes at Forge incorporate fresh mint.
“I’m kind of obsessed with mint,” Forgione says. “There’s not too many dishes I taste that I don’t think need mint.”
The herb finds its way into a bell pepper confit and chickpea salad that accompanies red snapper en croute, a sauté of sugar snap peas and asparagus served with the pig, and the halibut entrée’s tomatoes.
Forgione says subtle use of mint brings up the flavor and freshness of a dish without overwhelming it.
to start… Crispy Soft Shell Crab, Squash Blossoms, Pickled Ramps 15 Free Range Chicken “Nuggets,” Smoked Onion Rémoulade, Local Wax Beans 14 Wild Kampachi Tartare, Avocado, Micro Cilantro, American Caviar 18to follow…Basil Crusted Halibut, Marinated Cherry Tomatoes, Sorrento Oil Emulsion 26Colorado Lamb, Cocoa Beans, Preserved Lemon, Morels 36Honey Glazed Duck Breast, Organic Carrot Purée, Rainbow Chard 34Honey-glazed duck breastto share…Leg of Suckling Pig, Mustard Crushed Fingerling Potatoes, Sugar Snap Pea and Asparagus Sauté, Porcini Mushrooms 68Basil-crusted halibutto continue… Murray’s Domestic Farmstead Cheeses12to finish…Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnut, Sauternes Poached Peaches, Toasted Almond Ice Cream 9Local Strawberry Consommé, Yogurt Sorbet, Lemon Verbena Cotton Candy 9Taste of American Classics Root Beer Float, Ginger Ice Cream Butterscotch Pudding, Pignoli Cookie Granny Lu’s Chocolate Cake, Cocoa Nib Tuile11“You could eat the halibut, and you have no idea there’s mint in there,” he says. “It just makes the tomato taste better.” Desserts, prepared by pastry chef Jennifer McCoy, formerly of Emeril’s Delmonico in New Orleans as well as Blackbird in Chicago, highlight seasonal ingredients. The best seller on the opening menu is a cinnamon-sugar doughnut that’s served with Sauternes poached peaches and toasted-almond ice cream. “I’m not trying to do anything fancy,” Forgione says. “I think desserts should try to make you think of your childhood a little bit.”