Forchetta/Bastoni is exactly the right kind of restaurant for tough economic times. Housed in the cavernous space that has seen its share of big ego chefs come and go, Jamilah Nixon (formerly of Lucy’s Table) and Steven Peyer (formerly of Peter Lowell’s) have split the space into two halves — a casual, lunchy noodle bar and a rustic Italian trattoria that (at least for now) only opens for dinner. It’s a smart ying-yang of flavors, concepts and price-points that at first blush seems like a solid concept as restaurants shutter left and right for lack of patrons.
With a minimal cosmetic rehab — bringing in funky wine glass chandeliers, remodeling the upstairs into a sort of cozy, flop-down on the sofa noodle house, repurposing the stately raw bar into an open lunch kitchen — the space immediately feels like a place you want to be.
Hitting the lunch crowd and wallet-watchers, the noodle bar, Bastoni, opened for lunch 11.11.11 to a packed house of curious locals. Encompassing the former bar area, it’s a constantly moving tableau of servers, kitchen staff and patrons pulling up seats and pondering the simple menu. Color bursts from every corner, with bright pillows, saraongs, Asian movie posters and straw rice cookers hanging from the light fixtures.
On the menu: Pickled vegetables, rustic banh mi, noodles, curry, and fried rice. Christened “Bastoni”, the Italian word for “sticks”, chopsticks are de riguer (forks are by request only) — this is casual finger food with prices to match. Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) are filled with chicken liver and ground pork pate on a square Ciabbata roll ($10-12) which works with the Asia-meets-Italy theme. Order it “spicy” for an extra jolt of jalapeno added to the watermelon radish and carrots.
Wet noodles are a veritable bathtub of broth and meat (or tofu) with the seasoned broth similar to pho ($10-$12). But the Southern Thai Style Curry, heavy with coconut milk, kaffir lime, ginger and fresh pumpkin is the stand-out winner ($10-$12). Served with jasmine rice, it’s enough for two light eaters.
Larb, a Thai chopped salad with either chicken or tofu) is hand cut with a prickle of red chilies, cilantro, fish sauce and lime. It’s still a work in progress (a first order was too salty, the second lacked the citrus punch), but has layers of flavor that are sure to come together in the coming days.
The bar offers up stronger-than-average cocktails like the Thai-Garita with tequila, kaffir lime and cucumber for $9 along with a variety of other tipplers. The wine list is small, but well-thought with chards, sparklers and rieslings to match the spicy Asian menu. (Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee, Copain Vigonier, Dr. Loosen Dry Riesling, all available by the glass or bottle).
The Forchetta space opens for dinner this weekend, with reclaimed wood panels separating out the space, rustic window panes overhanging the cinema kitchen and a Martha-worthy centerpiece piled with dishes and topped by a shimmering chandelier. Wine bottles and Mason jars double as light fixtures and the table coverings are shabby-chic canvas with unraveled edges. It’s warm and inviting, and the kind of dinner spot that feels immediately accessible without being cheap.
So what’s on the menu? The pizza oven from West County Grill is still a centerpiece, so expect pizza. But aside from that, we can’t say exactly. At 2pm, the dinner menu was still in development. “It’s going to be really fresh, whatever we come up with,” said Nixon, wheeling out of the kitchen with another steaming bowl of noodles.
Stay tuned for more details…
Forchetta/Bastoni: 6948 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, 829-9500. Bastoni open daily from 11 am to 10 p.m. for lunch, dinner and late night snacks and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Forchetta opens for dinner Thursday through Monday from 5 to 9pm and until 10pm on Friday and Saturday. forchettabastoni.com.