07 Feb Chef of The Month – Forti Mazzone from Forti Grill and Bar
The name Forti’s is synonymous with great food, amazing wines and a general ambience that makes any visit here, be it lunch or dinner, one to remember.
Surrounded by beautiful artworks and décor, on occasion well known opera singers (or even Forti himself) will burst in to song, and this out of the ordinary experience makes the occasion even more memorable. A passionate chef indeed, we caught up with Forti Mazzone to find out more…
Where did you grow up, and how did you wind up in the restaurant industry?
I grew up in Johannesburg where my father was a very well-known chef in several famous restaurants. He founded the dynasty of Giovanni’s restaurants in 1976 in Sunnyside in Pretoria and when we moved to Pretoria, I obviously worked in the restaurant all through my school and varsity career.
I went to Wits and then taught at Wits and at a Pretoria High School before joining the family business full time in 1993 at Giovanni’s at the Carousel. My father and I opened Ritrovo Ristorante in March 1996 and the rest as they say is history.
Ritrovo became SA’s most award-winning restaurant over 23 years earning over 60 local and international restaurant awards in the period. I opened Forti Grill and Bar and sold Ritrovo in April 2017, and my father retired. It has been a most phenomenal move for me.
How would you describe the dining experience at Forti’s – what can people expect when they come to dine with you?
Our dining experience I would characterise as Italian Fine dining. We have gone to great lengths to create the most beautiful Italian dining room and wine cellar in South Africa. Everything in the restaurant is completely bespoke and created especially for us.
We have a multiple diamond award winning wine list and have been awarded the Amex Fine dining award for 2018 – 2019.
We are not a traditional pizza and pasta trattoria, we’re a restaurant focussed on creating experiences using the very finest ingredients money can buy and using them in ways that are classic, authentic and real. We do not disguise our ingredients under heavy sauces and we do not over-handle the food and prefer to let the ingredients talk for themselves.
Our pasta is all handmade and served a-la-minute for the most genuine pasta experience in South Africa. Everything we serve is produced in house, and we roast our own coffee blend with Tribeca. We make our own olive oil, the finest extra virgin cold pressed at prestige wine estate Saronsberg that also collaborates with me on the Nick and Fortis wine range.
We make outstanding bread in-house and even our toilets are the sexiest in town. We tried to think of everything to make the experience the most special you have ever had.
You have some incredible art and décor pieces in the restaurant – how did you select them, where did they come from?
I adore art, and I collect it quite passionately. Carinda Appelgryn and Dumisani did the main pieces. Stephen Pikus was responsible for the artistic lighting created from recycled glass. The restaurant is very green in following with the ethos of Times Square being SA’s first amazing green campus hotel.
Wine of course is an important addition to any menu, and you love your wine. How big is your wine cellar, and which of the wines is your favourite?
Our wine cellar runs to 2500 bottles. My favourite wine is unsurprisingly my own, but I love the great Italian and French wines especially Barolo, growthed Bordeaux and fantastic Burgundy. My favourite local producers are Saronsberg, Eben Sadie and Paul Cluver.
What is your favourite dish on the menu, and why?
I love our Fillet Ritrovo which became the signature dish of our previous restaurant. It is our own interpretation of a classic whole Chateaubriand Fillet. I love my father’s recipe prawns in the oven and my very special Matriciana pasta.
Bucket list travel destination?
I would have to say Italy – it sounds so boring, but I do also love Portugal!
Where would we find you on your day off – if you have one?
Eating out at a good restaurant with my friends of course. Or racing cars which is my passion … I love speed.
What do you cook at home, what is your favourite dish to make for friends or family, when you are not at the restaurant?
I love making a proper Italian Ragu. The sauce must be brown with rich meat and red wine and slow, slow cooking, and served with a delicious Paccheri pasta. I also make a mean Curry, if I do say so myself.
We are quite partial to the gnocchi and do try to pop in and visit at Forti’s when we are out and about in Pretoria. Booking is suggested due to popularity, and the restaurant can fill up really quickly, especially on the weekends. See you there!
A: Top Floor, Sun Time Square Casino, Corner Aramist and Corobay Streets, Pretoria
T: 012 003 6180