It’s not the best time when the opening of your restaurant coincides with a virus outbreak, but Matteo Cattaneo is still offering an opportunity for customers to try his food.
Last Friday, March 20, Cattaneo was wearing an apron and with a smile on his face, was running from the kitchen to a table set up at the front of the restaurant, helping his employees fill the orders customers were calling in for pick up. The eatery was open only for a couple of days before Governor Gavin Newsom ordered restaurants to only be open for take out orders.
Cattaneo jumped at the opportunity to provide take out and his customers were happy to have a chance to order and try Buona Forchetta’s dishes of pastas and pizzas to feed their families.
This is Cattaneo’s fourth Buona Forchetta restaurant. The other locations are in South Park, Liberty Station and Encinitas. Cattaneo came to San Diego from Bergamo, Italy in 2006 to earn a Master’s degree in Business Law. But his plans changed somewhat when he met and later married his now wife Alexa.
While finishing his Master’s degree Cattaneo worked at Osteria Romantica, and found he liked the restaurant business. Then he noticed an empty restaurant spot near his home in South Park and he called the landlord to find out more. In 2013 he opened his first Buona Forchetta in that location. “I wanted to do pizza, then I added other dishes to enlarge the menu and then it exploded,” is how he described his first restaurant.
Cattaneo believes the restaurant is widely popular because he and the employees create a relationship with customers. “That’s what’s special about us. We are like a family. Even now we created a situation where people feel comfortable,” he said pointing to the customers waiting in line to pick up their orders.
Cattaneo said he had to quickly reinvent the restaurant once the order came from the governor to close restaurants. “I thought of family dinners for $39 to help customers and for us to survive,” he explained.
Cattaneo first signed the lease for the space of the former El Cordova Garage, where Garage Buona Forchetta is located, three years ago but because the space was a garage it took a lot longer for permits and construction.
Cattaneo has divided the space of the restaurant and created a market where customers can buy wines and Italian products like pastas and deli items.
From the beginning his intention was to create a restaurant for families, especially local families, to have dinner and feel at ease having their kids run around, see their friends and overall have a good time.
The decor of Buona Forchetta focuses on brightness with light colors; the bar itself has white brick wall and black and white chairs. Garage doors have been placed in different spots and are kept open for fresh air and to create an open feel. Lots of vintage signs hang on the walls everywhere, including old garage signs. The floor is stamped concrete and the ceilings have an industrial feel. One area still in the works has games for kids. Part of the dining space opens up to a green area outside and the parking lot. Cattaneo said originally he had been shown the Costa Azul location for his restaurant but when he saw the El Cordova Garage spot he loved it immediately, and knew that was the right place. “It’s a building that attracts attention,” he said.
For the past three years Cattaneo has made Coronado his home with his wife, who is a physician, and their two daughters ages 7 and 10.
Currently the restaurant is not offering the full menu as originally planned but a reduced version. Cattaneo has spread the word through social media of what’s available every day as well as the special of the day.
Gordon Law and his daughter were among the customers picking up their food to go. “This is an amazing place. It’s my first time here. I look forward to hanging out here,” he said.
Moira Zerbini who is originally from Verona loves her job at the combination deli/coffee shop at the entrance of the restaurant. Customers can stop by for a coffee drink and a croissant or Krapfen (a type of dessert that can be compared to a doughnut with no hole but very soft with chocolate cream inside) and cakes to chose from. Her husband Giancarlo is the baker who makes all the wonderful breads for Buona Forchetta. Her desire is for the little store to be like an Alimentari in Italy, a sort of corner store where you can find a few choice items.
The Buona Forchetta store offers ready made sauces, fresh and dry pastas, cheeses, and deli meats like mortadella and prosciuttos, artisanal gelato and much more, “a place where you can touch and feel the products.” Another of the offerings at the store are grilled vegetables that are prepared fresh everyday with just salt and pepper and olive oil.
“We’ve the best products from every region,” she said. “I’ll explain to the customers how to utilize the cheeses,” she said.
Prices are reasonable and that’s the goal of Buona Forchetta, who wants its products accessible to everyone. In the future Zerbini plans to have other ready made dishes like meatloaf so that customers can buy a meal to take home.
The full menu when the restaurant will be fully open offers antipasti, salads, pastas with many choice of sauces and a large variety of pizzas.
Right now that the menu is limited. Customers can chose from appetizers including Minestrone soup and Polpettine (meatballs). A variety of pizzas like “Angela,” made with spicy salame calabrese; “Levi,” with mozzarella di Bufala and prosciutto; and “Nicola,” made with mushrooms, truffle oil and prosciutto. The current menu includes lasagna, and pasta with a choice of four sauces. For dessert, cannoli are available. Specials of the day are also available. Garage Buona Forchetta offers gluten free pizzas and pastas.
Garage Buona Forchetta, 1000 C Avenue, (619) 675-0079. For more information log on buonaforchettasd.com