food and drink 24.10.2017 10:36 am

Forti Grill and Bar: Italian made in Menlyn

A rooftop-like terrace, Italian comfort food and a deft wine list makes this a Pretoria hotspot.

A fifth-generation Italian restaurateur needs to know a few things – good wine, good food and good company.

These three things make or break a restaurant, and Fortunato Mazzone seems to have struck gold. Apart from providing the essential trio, his restaurant Forti Grill and Bar in the brand new Menlyn Maine also adds a great view with a touch of family.

Mazzone, fondly known as Forti, has made his new venture his home. Lunch or dinner, there’s a good chance he’ll come over and chat about why he’s here, what dishes he recommends and what wine you should have.

fortunato-mazzone

Owner Fortunato Mazzone.

Forti’s not new to the restaurant game, but he is new to the Menlyn Maine, and what could be a gamble in opening a non-franchised restaurant in a casino, he seems to have hit the jackpot in many aspects.

According to him, hotel guests are even ordering from Forti Grill and Bar. Some of that has to do with his relationship with suppliers.

From meat to cheese, everything is high quality. The pasta is made fresh and he even stocks Italian wine you will struggle to find anywhere else. But while this might sound daunting, Mazzone believes in simplicity, using as few ingredients per dish as possible to really bring out select flavours.

forti-grill-and-bar-cheese-board

Charcuterie and cheese board.

While there is a definite sense of fine dining in the way every dish is plated, the environment is relaxed – which means that you have the opportunity to enjoy your food the way you want to.

A terrific introduction into Forti Grill and Bar’s menu is its five-course gastronomic tasting menu with the option of a wine pairing. The menu provides you with varied flavours, and moves away from the idea that if it has pasta, it’s Italian.

Starting with a delectable Buffalo Mozzarella served with seared spinach, and black truffle and anchovy butter dressing, it’s a seasoned start to a great meal. The starter is followed by a rich and familiar cannelloni stuffed with ricotta and spinach.

But its the trio of prawns served with creamy risotto that really proves the kitchen’s flair. Tender prawns are sometimes hard to find and here there’s a perfect marriage of Mediterranean and comfort.

forti-grill-and-bar-prawns

Prawns of my father Giovanni

The next hearty dish is a Wagyu beef cut with bearnaise and roasted vegetables. Simple, but meat dishes at Forti will impress not only because of quality, but because they are perfectly seasoned and rested.

forti-grill-and-bar-beef-and-potatoes

Waygu beef sirloin

For dessert, the kitchen serves a selection of profiterole and watermelon sorbet. Playing with sweetness and creaminess, the dessert is surprisingly light. Their range of vegan dishes is also highly recommended.

If you’re a fan of al fresco dining, the restaurant terrace with its marvellous roof-like atmosphere features a 180-degree view over Pretoria East.

If you don’t plan on visiting for a full meal, Forti doesn’t disappoint.

Generous cheese boards and a wide variety of cocktails are on offer, but it’s their impressive wine list that really shows off how much planning went into the restaurant to ensure it provides something extra. A surprising find on the wine list is Nick and Forti’s Wines produced by Saronsberg. The label is something Mazzone is not only proud of, but passionate about.

The collaboration with Saronsberg owner Nick van Huyssteen and talented winemaker Dewaldt Heyns began as a bit of light-hearted fun with only 900 bottles produced.

Not surprisingly, the Nick and Forti Epicentre 2005 won the Old Mutual Trophy. Today they produce 22 000 bottles. The range consists of a white blend, Shiraz and Bordeaux-style blend.

Forti Grill & Bar has an extensive wine list, which has something for every budget, sourced from eight different countries.

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