In 2009, Frank Bruni interviewed pizzaioli Michael Ayoub for The New York Times, discussing that period’s culinary boom and craving for artisanal pizza. A decade later, Ayoub and his Italian restaurant Fornino (849 Manhattan Avenue) are still at the forefront of this movement.
Neo-Neapolitan, as Ayoub describes its culinrary style, Fornino has been a Greenpoint mainstay since 2013 but has also enjoyed some sibling locations: the waterfront gem in DUMBO (which on a busy night can go through a thousand pies) and an older, now-closed spot in the heart of Williamsburg. The Greenpoint location may not have a sweeping view of the East River, but it easily charms with its twinkly backyard during the warmer moths and its cozy interior warmed by the fire of the wood-burning oven. While the restaurant is often busy packing up to-go pies, half the fun is eating in person and seeing the crackling oven at work.
Everything is cooked in and around this hearth: the soft but filling meatballs, the wood-roasted brussel sprouts, and (naturally) the nearly 30 pizzas on the eclectic menu. Some varieties are more traditional faire (your margherita, your marinara), and others are more daring: the gorgonzola (comprised of the namesake cheese, rosemary, mozzarella, caramelized onions, and not a bit salty) or the copa e kale (spicy copa, stracciatella, truffle honey, pecorino). All delight and come out bubbling, served by an attentive staff.
Casual, family-friendly, and neat, Fornino also offers a wide variety of drinks from local beers to Italian wines. All this makes for a fine (and affordably priced) meal, but the main course may be more a feast for the eyes: an immense collection of hanging red orbs designed and crafted by Ayoub, who studied under the iconic glassblower Dale Chihuly. Glowing and magical, they are just another delicious creation of Ayoub’s — sadly, not edible.
Celebrate National Pizza and Beer Day on Wednesday, October 9 — enjoy any small pizza and a Brooklyn Brewery beer on draft for just $20 (dine-in guests only).