The line for dinner. It has piqued customers’ interest. Gives excuse to get out
Buona Forchetta couldn’t have picked a worse moment to open their new place at 10th and C in Coronado. But in a way, they’re having the best opening you could imagine.
1000 C Avenue, San Diego
I know, because I happen to pass by where Buona Forchetta has been gearing up to open for the longest time. But instead of the usual papered-over windows, today, they have napkin settings and silverware on tables outside on the sidewalk. And hey, a crowd.: it’s formed a raggedy line around the corner onto Tenth. People are extra careful to remember the six-foot separation rule, at least until they start talking. Two separate tables have become the counter, and a gal is taking orders from behind her green mask. Every now and then, she goes inside, comes back with a paper bag and shouts “Jeremy Haden?” Or, “Schneider family?”
This is in the building that housed the El Cordova Garage, a 114-year-old car repair place that was brutally kicked out a couple of years ago. Buona Forchetta was handed the keys.
“We’re open for take-out,” says the gal, Evelyn, when I ask.
Oh, man. I know it won’t be cheap, but I have to see what’s on offer. It’s almost like we’re at a speakeasy during Prohibition, even though this is a sidewalk operation and completely legal. I hover in the line. There’s a camaraderie.
Only problem is gonna be, where to eat it?
Whatever, it’s nice just to be allowed to congregate, two yards apart, sort of together, just being able to nod and joke about, well, what else? I can only remember two right now: “Q. What’s the difference between Covid-19 and Romeo and Juliet? A. One’s the coronavirus, the other’s a Verona crisis.” Or “I’ll tell you a coronavirus joke now, but you’ll have to wait two weeks to see if you got it.” I tell you, it’s a pundemic!
So Buona Forchetta here has transformed a garage into a combo bar, restaurant and a deli. They were just stocking the shelves when the you-know-what hit the fan.
“But Matteo (Cattaneo, the owner) is smart. He decided, ‘Hey, we’re paying the rent, we may as well open anyway.’ And he was right,” says Evelyn, the gal whose eyes look huge with the mask covering the rest of her face. “This will be a memorable time, for all of us. And people are coming.”
She hands me the one-page limited menu. “Pizzas are our main thing,” she says. “Our pizzaiolos — pizza chefs — are all from Italy. They’re Napolitano, from Naples. We have 42 different pizzas, but right now we’re making just a few.”
Hmm. Most of them are around $15. They start at $9 (Marinara) and go to $25 (for the Marcello, a “millefoglie-style pizza, 2010 world pizza champion.” Or even $39, for a two-foot long pizza with up to three flavors of your choice.
Most are named after women. Like Isabella (mozzarella di bufala, goat cheese), Alexa (fennel sausage), and Andrea, (roasted potatoes, sausage, a white pizza with no sauce). They’re all $15.
I’m thinking seriously of appetizers. Smaller, but smaller price too. Okay, I go for a spaghetti with Buona Forchetta sauce, which seems to be cream, egg, parmigiano cheese, spicy marinara, and black pepper. Costs $15, but a big chunk of pasta. I know this’ll end in the fridge.
For now, though, an eggplant tortino (with marinara sauce and stracciata — “tattered” — cheese). Costs $12.
But where to eat it? They have chairs, but signs say they’re only for you to wait in. So trying to figure where, when every public place seems to be off-limits? It’s a challenge. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.
“Ed!” calls Evelyn. I head to the table. She gives me a bag with the two boxes inside, plus a little box of Parmesan cheese flakes.
“Sure I can’t just sit here on the sidewalk and eat this?” I ask.
“Sorry. Police make regular visits,” says Evelyn. And then, hey! An idea. I take my lunch up to Orange, cross over to Park Place, then cut down Isabela. Isabela snakes down to the sea, stretching away towards Hawaii. A huge carrier looks tiny on the horizon.
Hmm. I know they’ve banned the beach, but here on Ocean, there’s all these rocks among sea grasses. This ain’t beach. I find one the right size and with a kinda flat top, lay out a napkin I brought just in case, splot the spaghetti and the tortino onto cardboard plates and voila! We’ve got ourselves a picnic with a view! Sun’s shining, gulls and choppers cruise past, nice breeze provides the air conditioning, and suddenly, life is good.
I start off with the tortino, a nice layer-cake of baked eggplant and layers of stracciata cheese, and all over it, the garlicky marinara sauce. I always love eggplant, but forget how filling it can be. I don’t even get into the spaghetti. It sits surrounded by sea grass, with people walking by, looking oddly for a moment, then getting back into their hour’s exercise before they have to resume coronavirus house arrest.
Me too. Better skedaddle before people start asking questions.
But it was so good, next day, same time, I’m back outside Buona Forchetta, picking up a box of polenta ($11), another appetizer. It’s all cornmeal, mushrooms, gorgonzola, and cream. Dee-lish! Ain’t no tomato in it. And all the creamy mushroom gunk has soaked into the triangles of cornbread. So good.
So this is a discovery. And hey, we’re not breaking any social distancing rules.
Only problem left? Still got to tackle that spaghetti.
- The Place: Garage Buona Forchetta, 1000 C Avenue (at 10th), Coronado, 619-675-0079
- Hours (take-out only): 11:30am-9pm, daily
- Prices: Marinara pizza, $9; Isabella pizza (mozzarella di bufala, goat cheese), $15; Alexa (fennel sausage), $15; Andrea, (roasted potatoes, sausage, a white pizza with no sauce), $15; the Marcello, a “millefoglie-style pizza, 2010 world pizza champion,” $25; 2-foot long pizza up to three flavors, $39; spaghetti with Buona Forchetta sauce, $15; eggplant tortino, $12, with marinara sauce, stracciata cheese.
- Buses: 901, 904
- Nearest Bus Stop: Orange and C