Welcome to Marc Forgione’s house. Well, not literally, but the chef and restaurateur’s newest spot, One Fifth, is meant to be an approximation of what someone might experience when visiting the Forgione household.
“The whole concept was kind of based on … the way that we eat when we’re at home when we get the family together,” he told me while sitting in the restaurant’s bar area on a pre-opening night meant for friends and family. “We don’t really hang out in the living room and watch the game. We’re all kind of cooks and chefs, and we hang out in the kitchen/dining room. And we just keep making food.”
To that end, One Fifth’s menu of Italian fare is meant to be shared, featuring a selection of cicchetti and antipasti, homemade pastas, Roman-style pinsas and a few larger meat and fish dishes. Many plates source their ingredients from the nearby Union Square Greenmarket, such as the slightly tangy Tonjes mozzarella that accompanies an eggplant caponata. The pasta, while delicious, also serves as a bit of a show: Forgione had the pasta-making station set up in the front room, so diners can watch chefs prepare both the fresh extruded pasta (like red pepper rigatoni, in which pepper juice gives the pasta a beautiful reddish hue) and the hand-rolled pasta (like the silky pork-belly ravioli with bottarga, one of my personal favorites).
The pinsa, an ancient-grain flatbread similar to pizza, is a particular highlight. Forgione worked on the recipe with his dad, the legendary chef Larry Forgione (An American Place), and it’s been in the works for about six years, the younger Forgione said. At One Fifth, their pinsa takes on classic toppings such as garlic, parmesan, pecorino and ricotta or cherry tomatoes, burrata and basil. But it also stands up to more elaborate accoutrements, with a clam, ‘nduja, potato and gremolata version remaining crispy yet surprisingly creamy in flavor.
The food is accompanied by a robust beverage program headed up by Scott Woltz, who works with Forgione at his other two restaurants, Peasant and Restaurant Marc Forgione. Here, American and Italian producers make up the bulk of the wine list, and each week the restaurant features one-off reserve bottles, which it displays in a beautiful wooden case behind the host stand. The cocktails lean toward the lighter side, with a number of gin options, and to emphasize the restaurant’s Italian bent, amaro is offered from all 20 of the country’s distinct regions.
One Fifth is a family affair in more ways than one, and Forgione wanted that feeling to translate to the restaurant’s vibe. It’s a very cozy and welcoming space, and walking through the dining rooms really does feel like walking through someone’s home, with deep wood paneling and photographs lining the walls.
Those photos and other artworks, by the way, all mean something: The One Fifth location is quite historic, and Forgione and his team wanted to be a “steward of the space,” as one of his partners, Sabato Sagaria, put it to me. In its past lives, the restaurant was frequented by New York stars such as Robert Mapplethorpe and the old Saturday Night Live crew, and chefs like Anthony Bourdain spent time in the kitchen. The new restaurant’s décor helps tell that tale, with a lot of the vintage finds coming from the building’s longtime superintendent.
Now, with One Fifth open as of Tuesday, Forgione and his team are hoping to add to that story, making new memories to mix in with those of the restaurant’s iconic setting. “I’m the luckiest chef in the city,” Forgione said. “It’s like a dream.”
Click here to see all the photos of One Fifth.