The menu starts with a page of specials of the day, which may include an aged grass-fed sirloin (cross cut with fat on) in either 200g or 300g options.
Starters include fresh oysters, tuna carpaccio, Sicilian orange and fennel salad with radishes, olives and mint. It’s utterly delicious. A vegan section follows, then a pasta section with great frutti di mare made from hand-made egg-based pasta.
Various lovely sides accompany the main items, such as creamy mash, potato chips in duck fat, an Italian side salad or fried polenta. Sauces are served separately and can be ordered with any of the mains or even the filet Ritrovo for two.
The dessert section includes delicious profiteroles with watermelon sorbet, a lovely warm rooibos rice pudding, Italian nougat, and a delicious orange bavarois tart.
The wine list is a very luxurious A3 leather folder (food menus to follow the same size), offering wonderful examples of South African and international wines. One can of course also dip into a great selection of wines by the carafe or half bottle. The wine list runs over numerous pages, is beautifully laid out and ends with some apéritifs, liqueurs and digestifs. They serve an Aperol as a complimentary welcome drink.
Forti Mazzone brought his team of well-trained and extremely professional waiting staff from Ritrovo, and they appear to enjoy their new environment as much as he does, looking light and young as they ‘dance’ between the tables. Two barmen behind their wide and inviting bar counter as well as a permanent receptionist welcome one at the door on arrival, and Forti may also be amenable to giving a guided tour.
Out on the patio there are three modern gazebos with funky lighting at night. This is an exceptionally beautiful space with views all over Pretoria East. The restaurant is probably as big outside as inside. The inside is an eclectic mix of art, functionality and business. Adjacent to the entrance is a small glass-enclosed butcher shop where they process whole carcasses, dry-age whole rib-eye on the bone and pre-pack meat to customers’ requests. There is a fantastic walk-in humidor for cigar aficionados, housing around R500 000 worth of exceptional cigars. The large open kitchen is separated from the restaurant by massive glass panels, allowing one to see steam rise from the built-in pasta boiler. Beautiful handcraft luminaires by Stephen Pikus and many other bespoke art, furniture, crockery and tableware create the right ambience. Two private rooms, one of which doubles as the cellar, may also be booked for private functions.
As part of the newly opened Times Square Casino, it is lovely to know that one can pop into Forti Grill and Bar every day of the week – they are always open for lunch and dinner. Sandwiched between other restaurants and a club, the entire strip creates a great atmosphere for dining and enjoyment.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
Diane de Beer
Much-loved Pretoria chef, the gregarious Fortunato Mazzone (or Forti, as he is fondly known), has opened Forti Grill & Bar at Sun International’s newest casino, Time Square in Menlyn, Pretoria. Even though there were tears at the closure of his former restaurant Ritrovo, a landmark for fine Italian fare, it was time for Forti to spread his wings and take flight with new dreams.
The adventurous can have loads of fun with Forti’s new menu. Groups of carnivores, for example, can order a meat platter that will deliver a wooden board with cuts to match the number of diners. You’ll get sirloin, rump, T-bone, fillet and rib eye, all from the same animal, which means you can really compare the cuts. It’s not only presented stylishly, but introduces stunning taste sensations, with five sauces on the side.
Ritrovo regulars will find much familiarity here, but in slightly different form. To start, there’s the classic Caesar salad; Sicilian orange salad delivering simplicity and freshness with fresh fruit, fennel, mint, black olives, Spanish onion and a citrus dressing; and the very popular rich and creamy lamb kidneys with marsala wine, double cream, mustard and black pepper. You probably won’t have space for more than a pasta following that.
As for the pasta, there’s the lip-smacking fettuccine frutti di mare with baby clams, prawns, mussels, calamari, tomato and white wine, or the subtler spaghetti carbonara with egg yolk, olive oil, crispy imported pancetta and parmesan. You could saunter across to watch your pasta being prepared in a space that Forti views as theatre rather than kitchen.
If meat or fish is your preference, there’s a choice between juicy and tender lemon chicken or the crisp pork belly served smartly with pickled ginger, sweet potato mash, curried cabbage and caramelised baby onions (for some, more familiar as slap hakskeentjies). For another route, give a nod to an old favourite of prawns inspired by Forti’s dad, Giovanni.
Rounding off the meal with a touch of sweetness, there’s no better way than the light and airy bignè with crema pasticcera (also known as a profiterole), a cleansing watermelon sorbet, or the comforting arborio rice pudding with rooibos syrup.
How can you fail at Forti’s, with three Springbok chefs showing their stuff as well as a sweeter-than-sweet patisserie chef that hopes to have your tongue tingling?
And then there’s still the butcher with his outstanding butcher’s block, the cigar nook tucked away in a corner with its overwhelming stash, and the many types of dining experiences, tasting menus and the like.
The offering is impressive, from the wine list, which has an imaginative individual flair, to the visible storage display that’s part of the dining experience. The grape is another of the owner’s passions, as evidenced by the Nick & Forti’s range of wines and his special suggestions of pairings with food. He wants people to drink great wines and you won’t easily find a better selection than what is offered here. There’s also a serious list of whisky or, if you’re in a lighter mood, some chic cocktails or exotic beers to add colour to the meal.
Forti’s always-impressive staff members have simply moved from one spot to another without missing a beat. They will guide you through a meal as sweetly as they know how. This is the kind of place where you ask for advice, the special dish of the day or a specific wine you should sip with your specific meal.
It is the comfort infused into this elegant fine-dining experience that turns Forti’s from simply chic into charming. The setting expands into some of the best views in the city and a deck area that will hum in summer, and the interiors are cleverly designed to be both chic and comfortable, with eye-catching Stephen Pikus chandeliers, gorgeous specially crafted crockery, old-fashioned napkins, and bright art that lights up the place. Forti’s is an impressive venue that’s been daringly yet subtly orchestrated.
The double-volume floor-to-ceiling height offers many special spaces, including the dining area, two private rooms, and a kitchen visible from all angles. This is an occasion and should be treated as such. There’s no need to dress up, but you can. If you come to play with the passion they demand, you will be rewarded.
When entering the world of Time Square Casino, take the escalator up two floors and the people at Forti’s will welcome you with a smile.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.