The dishes are huge, the prices low and the food authentic at this popular East London Italian.
You can’t miss this huge restaurant a few minutes walk from Bethnal Green tube. There’s a large neon light spelling La Forchetta outside, as well as four huge red yellow and green arches on the front, which stand out from the much less glitzy shops that neighbour it. Inside, you’ll be taken aback by both the size of the place – there are two floors (downstairs is good to book out for big groups) - and the general 1980s feel that comes from somewhere that's genuinely dated, rather than anything more fashionable. The massive dining area is covered in tables with chequered cloths parked between big white pillars with plants, lit by outdoor lights and brightened up by retro pastel artwork on the walls. And when you enter the white-tiled toilets, you’ll really feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. One particularly good feature is the big boat, hanging from the wall at the back. There’s also a television at the rear of the restaurant, which flips between sports channels and whatever the staff fancy putting on while it’s quiet.
Young East London hipsters and budget-conscious East End natives are attracted by the low menu prices and unpretentious feel. Love ballads from the '80s play in the background and this adds to the dated atmosphere. Staff are attentive, friendly and willing to chat, which the locals love.
It's authentic and unbelievably good value for money, as the portions are huge. Staff are also honest about the sizes of their dishes and refuse to let you over order so you’re not wasting food. Starters are priced from £3.50, pizza and pasta dishes start at £5.70, and main courses start at just over a tenner. There's also a variety of deals, including lunchtime ones where you can buy a main course and get a soft drink for free.
The pane di pizza all’agilo (garlic bread – £3.50) either comes as it is, or you can have a topping of tomatoes or mozzarella for the same price. It’s the size of a small to medium pizza – so ideal to share. The dough is well cooked, so it’s soft and easy to tear away, while also being slighty browned underneath. It’s well favoured with garlic, but not over pungent to the point of being anti-social. If you choose mozzarella, you get a delicious, generous bubbling coat of melted cheese on top of the garlic. The insalata tricolore (£5.20) is one of the pricier starters, but still excellent value, and is also an ideal sharing starter or side. Served on a large plate, you get three strips of a sliced, soft and creamy avacado, fresh and juicy beef tomato and milky buffalo mozzarella, all generously drizzled with basil-infused olive oil, which works perfectly.
Pizzas make the ideal main course and are massive, so great to share, especially if you team them with a salad or a couple of sides. The Fiorentina pizza (£6.50) is delicious. Like the garlic bread, the dough base is soft, yet nicely browned underneath. The egg in the centre is slightly runny and this gently flavours the fresh and plentiful spinach, evenly-spread tomato sauce and the generous sprinkling of grated mozzarella cheese. The vibrant-tasting olives are a great addition too.
When it comes to the nineteen desserts on offer, British favourites such as chocolate profiteroles, fudge cake and banoffee pie, sit alongside Italian classics, including panacotta, casata and cheesecake, so there’s something to please everyone.
These are reasonably priced. House wine is £9.80 (£2.70 for a small glass, £5.50 for large) or for a better-quality Italian bottle, such as Valpolicella, you’re looking at paying no more than £20. The house red is easy to drink though, and goes well with most dishes. Imported beers include Italian favourites like Peroni, and they start at just under £3 a bottle. There’s also a good selection of liquors, priced from £2.50 a shot.
The Last Word
If you care less about the surroundings and more about the food, this place is somewhere you have to try.