- Photo by Marie Tran-McCaslin
Generally, inviting yourself to dinner is considered rude. Somehow, Twitter makes such a thing seem OK. I was eavesdropping on some of my favorite food-lovers and -writers, who were planning to go to Buona Forchetta (3001 Beech St.), the new Neapolitan-style pizza place in South Park. I asked if I could join them. If this were in person, it would be awkward. If this were 15 years ago, it might be a dinner date with axe murderers. Today, it's a meal with people who love food and can appreciate dining al fresco on a February evening.
North Park's Pizzeria Bruno was my introduction to pizza Napoletano, and I've written about how the perfect crusts with well-developed gluten and distinctive flavor turned me into a fan of pizza crust. Buona Forchetta's pizza is no different, with the crust crisp from a golden wood-burning stove and flavor that can only come from leaving the dough alone to do its thing.
The pizzas are named for people, not toppings, and my dining companions heartily debated which pizzas to order. Each was seduced by a different ingredient: buffalo mozzarella on the Regina Margherita, house-made fennel sausage on the Alexa, the fried crust of the Rebecca, the artichoke and prosciutto of the Sofia and the egg and speck of the Thomas. We ordered them all, and Alexa turned out to be the winner with her hearty and flavorful sausage. Meanwhile, the sunny-side-up egg on Thomas' traditional molten middle made the pizza nearly soupy. No matter what I thought of the pizza, however, it was quickly outweighed by the pasta.
That's right. Come for the pizza; stay for the pasta.
Everyone made a convincing argument for the pizza selection, so I had no objections, but I did want one other thing: dumplings. Maybe it's because we were still early in the Lunar New Year and dumplings felt appropriate. Perhaps it was the name "scarpinocc" (the "ìcc" is pronounced with a hard "ch" sound). One way or another, I really wanted scarpinocc, and Buona Forchetta did not disappoint.
Scarpinocc are dumplings shaped like Chinese jiaozi—a filling is encased in a pasta wrapper and boiled. These, however, came drenched in a sage butter sauce. The wrapper neatly balanced tenderness and chewiness, while the filling was full of herbs and cheese (vegetarians should double-check that the filling is meatless, as traditional scarpinocc are).
The focaccia made an excellent appetizer. It was topped simply with rosemary and paired well with the house red wine. That night, the house red was a Chianti, and sharing a carafe on the patio made it seem like we were briefly in Italy.
Those who believe in carbohydrate moderation have a selection of salads, while those who don't should finish their meal with tiramisu. I was a teenager in the 1990s when tiramisu was a tired trend, so I've had enough to know a good one. Buona Forchetta's classic version is as perfect as they come.
Pizza, pasta, tiramisu. Remember those three the next time you invite yourself to dinner.