Here’s an idea: how about a decent, family-friendly restaurant that you don’t have to trek all the way into the centre of town to visit – a place on the door- steps of Krakow’s growing suburban middle class that offers something a bit more sophisticated than Zywiec-branded deck chairs and doughy pizza. It’s a damn good idea, and new eatery La Forchetta is the first to have grabbed it with both hands.
Krakow’s dining scene has come on in leaps and bounds over the past five years, but it remains tied to the golden tourist circuits of the Old Town and Kazimierz. Almost the only eateries in the areas where the vast majority of Cracovians actually live are ramshackle pizza places and Disneyesque karczma huts serving kotlets the size of your head. La Forchetta is trying something different.
Situated a short distance from the vast and popular Zakopianka shopping and business park, and, more importantly, a few minutes drive from an awful lot of offices and comfortable suburban homes, La Forchetta represents a bold move in Krakow dining.
It’s not a move that has been made half-heartedly either. The restaurant occupies the ground floor of a spanking new building designed by hot, young architects Karpiel and Steindel. It looks like an expensive Belgian chocolate still in the wrapper. The interior design is top notch and the food is as good as any you’ll find in a restaurant on the Rynek. The staff are smart, the chefs are properly trained and floor manager Urszula is the most delightful host I’ve encountered in a Krakow restaurant for a long time.
Visiting La Forchetta provides a fascinating insight into the forces that are re- shaping Poland. The sleek building, which wouldn’t look out of place in Berlin or Tokyo, sits next to traditional rural cottages, complete with head-scarf wearing grand- mothers sitting in their doorways. SUVs and shiny new family cars stream past on the evening commute, several of them turning into La Forchetta’s car park for a bite to eat on the way home. The tables are occupied by families with young kids and business types entertaining clients.
La Forchetta stands out from its surroundings, but it’s no foreign import. The restaurant was established by a family who have lived in the area all their lives. Young- est son and co-owner Artur Krzeszowiak manages the place full time, while older brother Robert and mum and dad are always on hand to meet and greet friends and neighbours.
The restaurant’s offer is savvy and carefully thought out. The kids’ corner, for example, is actually big enough for kids to play in and features a miniature kitchen and dining table – so much smarter than the usual chalkboard and box of battered toys that other restaurants provide. Nearby is a notice board advertising pets in need of adoption (the owners are active supporters of animal rescue centres) so little Julia and Paweł can develop dreams of ponies and puppies as their unwitting parents sample the excellent wine list.
Despite the Italian name, the food is broadly ‘continental’ with Italian leanings rather than exclusively Latin. The dishes are reassuringly few and assuredly top notch, with mains weighing in at between 20 and 50 złoty. There is a breakfast menu (served from 9 am), a weekly lunch menu for 25 złoty (including a drink), and seasonal specials. Live music is provided on the third Thursday of each month and further entertainment and promotions are in the pipeline.
It will be fascinating to see how well La Forchetta fares. The surefootedness with which the restaurant has established itself in little more than a month – regular, local customers were already clearly evident – bodes well. I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more following where La Forchetta has bravely led.
ul. Józefa Marcika 27
Photos: David McGirr