Forchetta Bastoni: First Look

Forchetta Bastoni
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.

Bastoni Thai Curry

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 spiForchetta Centerpiececy 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

 

Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, BiteClubEats.com is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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25 Comments

  1. Mediocre service, except the water boy who was amazing, must have refilled our glasses fifteen times! Pizza was bland, prices were insanely high, $20 for a dinner plate sized thin crust pizza with three tomato slices, two teaspoons of pesto and six or seven teaspoons of sausage. A place that touts street food should understand one of the key components of “street food” is an affordable price and nothing on that menu is worth what you have to pay.

    Eat at home, save your money.

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  2. When I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the identical comment. Is there any method you possibly can remove me from that service? Thanks!

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  3. I have been to both restaurants in the past week and enjoyed myself both times. The chicken curry at lunch today was delicious – nicely flavored, perfectly cooked chicken and vegetables, and served with a bowl of rice. I had dinner at the Italian restaurant last week with three other people. The mixed appetizer plate was excellent as was the pizza I had. My companions were also happy with the food. The service on both occasions was very good. If anything, they are super solicitous and very eager to make sure you’re happy – perhaps a bit more than necessary. The room is dressed up from before and looks more warm, but still gets quite loud, sort of like a hip place in SF or NY.

    I don’t know where the criticism is coming from. I think they do a great job.

    The two restaurants are a great addition to the local dining scene. Long may they prosper.

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  4. I fear this place may ultimately number among West County’s most tragic closings. The Italian side is spot-on, albeit a bit uninspiring. The service and food are both more than passable for Sebastopol’s standard and the environment is top notch. In essence, this is a fun place to eat an organic meal sure to satisfy most palates at a semi-reasonable price. Should be a winner in Sebastopol, right?

    Unfortunately, it’s the noodle bar that will kill this place. Service was unbearably slow (and the waitstaff knows we are friendly with the owners, I can’t imagine the ‘off the street’ service). I waited 20 minutes for a vodka tonic (actually only 5, but it took 15 for the order to be taken at all!) The chicken wings and curry that followed were both passable, but definitely out of place in this setting and price range. My curry, with nearly 0 chicken, was comprised primarily of starchy filler vegetables and the chicken wings were just OK. I tasted some fish sauce notes, but no complexity that would have justified $12 for 5 plain chicken wings.

    In short: Improve the noodle bar or allow the Italian to take over the entire space. Hate to see this one disappear.

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  5. For whatever reason, I am not compelled to try another new restaurant in Sebastopol. I was sad that Pizzavino closed — nice family-friendly with excellent food restaurant. I don’t see myself getting over my Peter Lowell’s infatuation anytime soon — they walk the walk and have amazing food.

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    • Agreed — How ironic that Peter Lowell’s has become Sebastopol’s favorite for local, sustainable food — a place Steven started at — and which improved greatly when he left (actually was asked to leave). There’s some bad karma with those two and it will come back to haunt them.

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      • Okay, I’m letting this stand, only because there is a lot of really childish sniping going on. Yes, most of us are aware of the bad blood between Steven and Lowell. But i find it really silly that folks are using my comment section to throw rotten tomatoes before the restaurant has really gotten going. If you have a gripe about the food, fine…gripe. But name-calling and accusations are kind of boring to the rest of us who don’t really care about anything but how the food tastes. Name-calling usually only makes the name-caller look dumb. Trust me.

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        • Isn’t this called Bite Club? And there is no shame in the truth. The fact is, a person’s character and integrity (or lack of) defines not only their person, but their endeavors. I think your comment Heather is rather like the pot calling the kettle black.

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          • I have no idea what that is supposed to mean, but I don’t hide behind fake names. There is no shame in truth, and I’ve let those stand. The ones I’m deleting make all sorts of wild accusations regarding the owners and i find them suspect.

      • I was not asked to leave btw it was a mutual and constructive decision. Sp

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  6. Went there with a friend on tuesday. Very mediocre food – green chicken curry had only one tiny piece of chicken in it. The tofu noodle soup was pleasant, but bland. We asked for green tea but it wasn’t available yet. The service was very slow, 45 minutes from sitting down to receiving the entree. It’s a shame but I think they opened before being ready. I hope they get their act together because I’d like to see them succeed, but I won’t be going back anytime soon.

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  7. Lunch on a Tuesday totally disappointing. The curry an unsuccessful dish of
    tough chicken pieces swimming in an acrid bath of overseasoned broth. Not
    acceptable. At peak of lunch hour I realized we were the ONLY patrons in the
    entire place. Ordered iced tea but told “we don’t have that yet” – No wonder the
    lack of customers. I give this place 3 months, if not sooner….

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  8. Not only is the food amazing but so is the atmosphere. Good vibes, great service and awesome bar. Great job! :)

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  9. Another hoity-toity west county over priced hip go to restaurant. Love the Noodle House and other true ‘cheap and cheerful’ go to restaurants, but avoid the come hither over priced restaurants. I am sure the food is good but I have no reason to try it. Shame, west county needs to get out of its chic ghetto rut.

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    • Bitter much? You haven’t even tried it and you’re trashing it? Way to support the local economy.

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      • I have been in the county almost 30 years, supporting locally from day one. Be honest, with all the basic elements about this resturant and with only so many calories to consume, and only so many meals I can afford to eat out, why would I try this place with sooooo manyyyyy amazing small locally owned resturants? Enough said.

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  10. Went there for lunch. Food was good (& expensive), but the service needs serious help. If they don’t fix the service issues they will not survive. I suspect we wont be returning.

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  11. Ate there on Sun. We started with the wings, they were excellent. I had the bahn mi and my husband had the noodle bowl. All of it was superb and the service was excellent. We can’t wait to go back. In response to the high price comments, it cost more to have quality, local, fresh ingredients in your food. I love that most everything is organic and local, its the price you pay for a higher quality of food! We hope that both the new restaurants are here to stay!

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    • So how do you know other restaurants aren’t using local ingredients? Higher prices don’t necessarily mean better quality…..

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    • $5 banh mi are great, and I LOVE the one at Noodle House. Probably my favorite. However, I don’t think $9 or so is that outrageous. I usually spend about $9.75 at the corner deli for a turkey sandwich, chips and a soda — nothing special, but good. Subway is about $6.50 or so for the same thing, and the quality is pretty crappy.

      As for local ingredients — yes, it makes a huge difference, and I doubt most people outside the restaurant industry would know for sure who’s using local stuff and who’s just talking the talk.

      Local produce does cost more, and most decent restaurants try to do a mix of local and sustainable food when they can afford it mixed with some less-expensive products to keep prices from going absolutely through the roof. You can gauge things pretty quickly by doing an early lunch and seeing the deliveries come in. You can see what kind of boxes are stacked up by the dumpster. You can look at what kind of sugar they serve with coffee. You can ask about where they get their bread.

      Good restaurants will do as much in house as is reasonable. They’ll use good meat purveyors like Golden Gate. They’ll either have personal relationships with the farmers or use purveyors like Veritable Vegetable. The bread will be from Franco American, Della Fattoria, Artisan or baked in house. They’ll use local cream (I saw Clover at Forchetta Bastoni — a good sign).

      I’d give them a little time, and definitely not start throwing stones if you haven’t even been there?

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      • Interesting that you throw some vendor names around – and there’s a local restaurant in Sebastopol who uses those vendors, and can still make delicious meals for under $10/person.

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  12. $10-12 for the banh mi? The Noodle Bowl in SR. banh mi is only $4.99 and is the best. Soup that is similar to pho for $10-12 when any veitnamese in SR is $6-8. Too expensive in comparason.
    That doesn’t sound like a place to go in “tough economic times”.

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  13. Our lunch experience was similar to Marlo’s, and our opinion was shared by the neighboring tables. Well-meaning staff; I hope they get it together quickly.

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  14. Larb is actually Thai. :)

    Great article.

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    • Larb is Thai — and I had it at Bastoni and all I can say is they need to go back to Thailand to see how it’s really made. A rather sad presentation of salty unbalanced flavors competing for attention (the Ying had no Yang) . Same for most of the items I had yesterday. Ambitious yet no substance. The Pickled Vegetables were embarrassingly meager and out of balance all I tasted with cheap white vinegar and the carrots weren’t even pickled. – The Banh Mi again disappoints with one-flavor notes and a dull pate that was garnished with the same tired pickled vegetables. Continuing through the menu, the Wet Noodles swam in a weak lack-luster broth that needed some serious help. The only saving grace of the entire menu was the excellent Southern Thai Curry. The space it’s self was interesting and I’m sure it will draw the usual crowd of curious drinkers and diners. To be sustainable, they need to step up their game and really nail the Southeast Asian foods they are featuring on their menu. As a world traveler who has spent many years in that region of the world, I know great from mediocre.

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