For the northern Italian owners of Buona Forchetta in the South Park neighborhood of San Diego, eating is not simply something you do to live, but rather something you passionately live to do. Here, food preparation is an art form, and Anthony Rubino is the master culinary artist. Trained at NYC’s famed Keste Pizzeria, and mentored by three-time World Pizza Champion Marcello Avitabile, Rubino skillfully creates iconic Neapolitan pizza in the Da Vinci of pizza ovens. The Stefano Ferrara handmade wood-fired pizza oven is lovingly named Sofia, after the restaurant owners’ first-born daughter, and is the heartbeat of Buona Forchetta.
Buona Forchetta is nestled among the shade trees at the corner of Beech and 30th Streets in the modest South Park neighborhood of San Diego. The concrete, brick, wood, and glass architecture gives the classic bistro a sleek, modern industrial feel. Two banks of floor to ceiling windows separate indoor dining from the expansive outdoor patio that is draped in decorative lights. The mosaic Ferrara pizza oven shimmers like a massive golden dome in the open kitchen. The 1920s art deco style marble table tops, sourced from the United Artists building in the historic Broadway Theater District of Los Angeles, add to the pizzeria’s overall charm. Owners Matteo Cattaneo, who grew up in Bergamo, Italy where his family makes world-famous Farchioni olive oil, and his wife, New Yorker Alexa Kollmeier, strive to bring the authentic flavors of Old World Italy to San Diego guests in an unpretentious and modern space.
When you start with a traditional, authentic Neapolitan menu, add a renowned chef in consultation with a world pizza champion, and bake that pizza in a top-of-the-line wood fired pizza oven, could you expect anything less than perfection? At Buona Forchetta, that is exactly what you get. Before the main event, try one of the artisan appetizers such as the Polpettine – house-made beef and pork meatballs with tomato sauce and parmesan, or Arancino – a tasty fried ball of cheesy rice with Bolognese sauce. Either next or as an alternative, both the Sardine Salad with baby arugula, white anchovies, artichokes and parmesan, and the Rustica Salad with mixed greens, prosciutto di parma, artichokes, and gaeta olives are customer favorites.
When you come to Buona Forchetta, it is for the pizza, and one of the favorites here is the Sergio. It’s topped with prosciutto di parma (one of the two best kinds of prosciutto), mozzarella di bufala (a healthier cheese made from water buffalo milk), arugula, and parmesan. Another pizza that gets rave reviews is the Alexa, a no sauce pizza with rapini, house-made fennel sausage, and scamorza (an Italian cheese similar to mozzarella). Though every pizza here is an artisan pizza, let’s face it, it’s still pizza and the kids will love it too. The Margherita pizza with mozzarella and basil may be just the right choice for a youthful palate.
All pizzas are available gluten-free upon request, and several menu items in every category are vegetarian and noted on the menu with a small green plant icon. If pizza isn’t your thing, there are eleven pasta dishes, of which two are vegetarian. There are craft beers, Italian wines, and Italian sangrias for adult beverages, along with coffees and teas. Children can enjoy limonata, iced tea, or sodas. You’ll definitely want to try one of their nine mouth-watering desserts like their sensational Tiramisu or deep-fried Zeppole.
Don’t let the sophisticated pizzas fool you; this restaurant is definitely family friendly. Both high-chairs and booster seats are available to accommodate the little ones, and at Buona Forchetta everyone is family. There are heaters spaced throughout the outdoor patio area for cool nights and during winter, part of the outdoor patio is covered. Prices are more than reasonable, especially considering the talent and quality ingredients (including the family olive oil) that go into the preparation. Expect to pay $5 – $13 for appetizers, $10 for salads, $7 – $15 for pizzas, and $6 for desserts. The restaurant is wildly popular and they don’t take reservations, so you’ll want to get there early or be prepared for up to an hour wait. Buona Forchetta opens for dinner at 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, but also serves lunch from noon to 3:00 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. On the weekends, they’re open at noon. Closing times are 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. There is ample street parking near the restaurant.
At three minutes from the entrance to Balboa Park Golf Course, a Buona Forchetta pizza and a craft brew would be a perfect ending to an 18-hole round of golf. Have lunch with the kids before spending the day exploring one of the many museums at Balboa Park, just a six minute drive away. Another nearby family attraction is the San Diego Zoo right next door to Balboa Park where you can visit everyone’s favorite, the Giant Panda exhibit. No matter how you spend your day in South Park, you’ll want pizza at Buona Forchetta to be a part of it.