The most difficult part about enjoying Italian cuisine is the fact that you cannot possibly savour a variety at one go and totally enjoy your meal. This means you need to try out various dishes on different occasions, and keep coming back for more as Italian food has a tendency to grow on you.
And if you thought Italian food is just about pastas and pizzas, you can now take your blinkers off. From a range of salads and risottos to lasagnes and gnocchis, and a host of lip-smacking desserts to die for, you can savour dishes from an exhaustive menu, prepared by chefs skilled in genuine Italian cuisine, at Forchetta Cafe. Located on the ground floor of the same building as Shatti Cinema at Shatti al Qurm, this restaurant gives you a glimpse of Italy through its food.
The small flight of stairs that lead you to the main door, presents the feel of entering a pub while the ambience within is warm and beckoning, promising a feast for the senses. The comfortable seating arrangements, the mocktail bar at one end and the courteous staff all make your apprehensions disappear in a few seconds until its time to place your order and wait for the culinary magic to unfurl into your lap.
Staff at the restaurant reveal that all preparations of Italian cuisine are made by sourcing best local ingredients (which includes vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood and spices) while certain cheeses and sauces are imported to keep the culinary experience hundred per cent authentic.
They also reveal the key mantra sounded out to them by their CEO Amer Abdullah al Siyabi who calls it the ‘butterfly effect’ – if you give out a good vibe, it always returns with a good vibe; if you give out a bad vibe, it returns with a bad vibe. And so, the team within the kitchen and behind the scenes all focus on giving a good vibe to their patrons.
“I want all my customers to get a genuine experience of Italian food. When they come here, it is our job to ensure that they are totally comfortable and satisfied, and leave with a smile,” says Siyabi who heads the operations of the establishment belonging to the Mazin al Julandani group.
Hailing from a village in Ibra, Siyabi discloses that he was never exposed to any international cuisine, except for a type of ‘Super Supreme Pizza’ which an American teacher during his high school days often treated his students to. So much in love with pizzas after that, he kept frequenting different pizza outlets in the US during his university studies, and though he works as a skilled engineer in oil exploration in Oman, he chose to realise his dream of setting up an Italian food outlet – something that had be on the back burner of his mind for years.
Forchetta opened around 2016 and has been enjoying a mixed clientele for Italian cuisine ever since. The menu is changed frequently with new dishes being churned out in the kitchen every now and then, while a few live performances are also held within the cafe, from time to time, to keep diners entertained. Just two days ago, the restaurant saw a full house turnout which came to enjoy a spirited performance by a local stand-up comedian.
Siyabi, who had chased his quest for a dream pizza while in the US, as well as in different outlets in Oman, admits that he found most of them to be quite greasy – leaving behind a not-so-good feeling after a meal. Hence, the pizzas at Forchetta are customised keeping this factor in mind, and many patrons who said they weren’t fond of pizzas, have now taken a liking for pizzas after trying them out at this restaurant, he said.
Forchetta (pronounced ‘for-ket-a’) is the Italian word for ‘fork’ and it was used in the name as well as an icon in the restaurant to symbolise Italian food which is mostly consumed using a fork. The name also reminds him of his many experiences with Italian food in the US and he wants diners in Oman to establish a similar relationship in their own minds after enjoying Italian food at this restaurant.
He also disclosed that the seating in the restaurant has been kept quite comfortable as he wants diners to relax and slowly enjoy their food, not eat and rush out as in many other restaurants. Regular feedback is also taken from patrons in a bid to improve and enhance the experience, he said, also disclosing that he plans to introduce a few new dishes that are purely Italian but with an Omani twist.
Having dined in other Italian restaurants in Oman, Siyabi emphasises that he has consciously attempted to keep the pricing of dishes reasonably affordable, while not compromising on quality. “My food is priced at around 50 per cent below what you see in other outlets but the quality is 100 per cent pure Italian. You need to dine her just once to know the difference…and then, you’ll keep coming back,” he assured.