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La Forchetta restaurant review: a casual and celebratory Italian classic

La Forchetta’s large and cozy restaurant has withstood the test of time on Bethnal Green Road, thanks to its perennial charm and menu that caters to everyone.

There is nothing more cheering than La Forchetta on a wintery evening, with it’s festively appropriate green exterior and red glowing signage. The moment you step inside you’re met by  warmth and cozy low lighting, and the smell of yeast hugs you in an intoxicating embrace.

La Forchetta manages to strike the balance of relaxed and celebratory, which is perhaps the key formula to its success and enduring loyalty of its patrons. It also sure knows how to have a party, making it a birthday ‘go to’: more of this later.

It has a 70’s charm, with vintage posters of Italian glamour and suited mafia members slurping spaghetti on the wall (I enquire as to whether the photograph of a man over the doorway is the owner – to my embarrassment I’m met with a bemused, ‘no, that’s Al Pacino’). 

The owner of La Forchetta is Sicilian (repped by the retired boat precariously hanging at the back of the restaurant, with a banner embossed with ‘Palermo’), but the menu caters to an all encompassing Italian cuisine, without much regional specificity. 

The menu is split between primis, pasta, secondi piatti (mains), pizzas as well as desserts. However, encouraged by the generosity of my glass of very decent red wine, I decided to dive straight into a capricciosa pizza. Capriocosa means ‘unpredictable’, and so is often translated to the colloquial name ‘fridge pizza’, due to its assortment of toppings. 

Mine had tomato, mozzarella, mixed peppers, ham, olives, artichokes and egg. The dough of the crust was soft and spongy – perhaps more on the Neapolitan side of the pizza spectrum (the OG of pizzas). I was thankful for it’s dinghy like encasing, which fortified the abundance of fillings, which was liberal in cheese. Oozing in creaminess, this was a tasty force to be reckoned with.

Had I had more room, I would have been very tempted by their bianchetti fritti, deep fried white bait served with tartar sauce, and the cozze fresche, fresh mussels in garlic and tomato sauce or onion and cream sauce, served with toasted crostini.

My friends had a carbonara and a tuna nicoise, which were both fresh, hearty and reliable takes on the classics, without any frills or surprises. Their menu is a reasonable price point, with mains ranging from £6 to £18. 

As we brought our own birthday cake, it was a great disappointment not to try their torta della nonna desert, an Italian classic of short pastry filled with Italian pastry cream with a hint of lemon, topped with sprinkles of toasted pine kernels. 

However, the piece de resistance at any visit to La Forchetta has to be the pomp and grandeur of their birthday celebrations. Having snuck my cake into the trusted hands of Daniel the cheery manager, it was brought back out with light candles to the soundscape of a very loud, flamboyant and retro ‘happy birthday’ track. The first track rolled onto the next, eeking out the celebratory mood as fervently as possible.

The theme of the night was bigness and boldness. From the endless physical space, to the abundance of my pizza cheese toppings, to the goblets of wine, there is nothing understated about La Forchetta.

There is a literal space here for everyone. We sat amongst (although physically far away from in the vast room) an Italian family, a couple dressed in matching dazzlingly white suits, and two drunk friends who waltzed in near the end of the night screeching, ‘La Forchetta is the best! We LOVE this place’. Despite it being past serving time, the staff kindly obliged and brought out their requests. This is the kind of welcoming service you can expect here.

La Forchetta is a casual and dependable restaurant where you can celebrate unabashedly, and we left punchdrunk on carbohydrate and merriment.

Pizza, carbonara, tuna nicoise at La Forchetta, Bethnal Green Road

If you enjoyed this review, you may enjoy our piece on the three generations of E Pellicci cafe.

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