You have a choice of about 30 eateries at Liberty Public Market, but if you’re taking a quick workday lunch break you’d do well to check out neighboring Officine Buona Forchetta, a recent expansion of South Park’s beloved Northern Italian hub, Buona Forchetta. The 2622-square-foot, 200-seat restaurant debuted in March as a joint project of Buona Forchetta owner Matteo Cattaneo and Mario Cassineri of Gaslamp’s BiCE Ristorante.
Despite a $600,000 build-out that elicits an Italian garage (complete with a table for two inside a vintage red Fiat), the restaurant has a casual ambiance that doesn’t demand fine dining apparel or attitude. The menu was recently renovated to include a $14 lunch special from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, which includes beverage (bottled soda, iced tea, or American coffee), an appetizer (two choices of salad or soup of the day), and an entrée (grilled chicken, pasta, grilled salmon, or Neapolitan pizza), all designed to be prepared and eaten in under 30 minutes or taken to go.
It’s 1 p.m. on a Friday, and Officine Buona Forchetta’s interior and two patios are humming with conversion and the clink of glasses as airplanes aim for cruising altitude overhead. Our server, Remy, details the menu with vicarious delight, seeming to relish every ingredient as if it were the still-warm recollection of an absconded lover.
“My favorite on a hot summer day is the Italian Spritzer,” Remy says in a pronounced Italian accent. “It's very light, and the soda water keeps you from getting a headache."
The $8 cocktail of Aperol and Prosecco comes at an additional cost to the lunch. True to Remy’s testimony, it fizzles on the palette as an add-on order of artichokes ($11) arrives in four delicate hearts and a few inches of stem sprinkled with Parmesan and herbs. They yield under a fork as if they’re gelato.
The salmon arrives on a dash of mashed potato, topped with thin-sliced garlic, capers, and herbs and served with roasted cherry tomatoes, zukes, and carrot. It’s fresh, it’s flavorful.
2865 Sims Road, Liberty Station
The Sofia Pizza has a slightly bubbled crust encircling tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushroom, prosciutto cotto, and bits of those supernatural artichokes. The dough is soft but crisp.
The verdict: I’ll be returning for lunch.